Looking for Alaska
Original Run: October 18, 2019
Genres: Drama, Romance, Teen
Run Time: 48-57 minutes
Created By: Josh Schwartz
Starring: Charlie Plummer, Kristine Froseth, Denny Love, Jay Lee, Sofia Vassilieva, Landry Bender, Uriah Shelton, Jordan Connor, Timothy Simons, Ron Cephas Jones
Teenager Miles enrolls in boarding school to try to gain a deeper perspective on life; after an unexpected tragedy, Miles and his friends try to make sense of what they have been through.
I watched this series straight after reading the book for the first time, and I fell head over heels in love with John Green’s book. I was so excited to watch the series after watching the trailers, they did a phenomenal casting job and the characters all looked and had the attitudes that I envisioned while reading. Most of the story points remained true to the original, and I was laughing and sobbing like a baby just as much as I did when reading the book. I wanted so badly to love this series, my husband and I both being huge fans of the book, but we were a little disappointed. We expected there to be some changes in the adaptation naturally, that is the nature of adaptations. The story needs to be crafted in a way to appeal to a wide audience, I get that. However, I had very mixed feelings about some of the changes to the plot and characters.
I couldn’t stand that they made Chip pettier, his fight with Alaska lasted entirely too long, the book made me sob because they felt like true best friends, but this is lost in the show. He was one of my favorite characters in the book, but he was unlikeable in the show, and there was so much more drama about him and his girlfriend which I did not care for. I especially did not like the changes to the tentative romance between Miles and Alaska, and the annoying catfighting between her and basically every other female character.
The show was advertised to expand more on Alaska’s character and see things more from her perspective, but in a way, I feel that the writers did not fully understand her character. Part of what made Alaska who she was is that she was a proud feminist, very much in love with her boyfriend and conflicted about Miles, and ultimately kept him guessing the true nature of their relationship. It was never really about him, not really, and that was the point.
One of the strong aspects about Alaska in the book is that she is very aware of the way that the people around her view her, stating very directly to Miles that he only likes her because she’s the “fun” girl, but that he doesn’t actually like her for her true self. This was a very clear criticism of the male gaze and the way that women are idealized and stripped down of their personalities in the eyes of male desire. In the show this does not come through, instead, we are given an Alaska that is jealous out of nowhere over her boyfriend, and jealous over Lara who she set up to date Miles which made no sense. The plot devolved into petty melodrama and takes a strong feminist character and watered her down so much that she couldn’t pass the Bechdel test in the show.
But I digress, it is a decent adaptation overall that stays true to the core plot and the character development that is experienced by Miles, Takumi, and the Colonel. I loved that Dr. Hyde’s character was expanded upon, and he played a stronger role as a mentor for the main cast of characters. He was one of my favorite characters in the book and I loved him even more in the show. Each of the actors also did a phenomenal job in the parts that they were given, they really made the characters from the book come to life.
Warnings: drug use, sexually explicit content