‘Paper Towns’ gives us a refreshing new kind of female lead

We’ve all seen movies that paint female characters as secondhand accessories, whittling down their complexities so that they’re nothing more than a sexual object, or an over-simplified plot device. 

Paper Towns, in theaters this weekend, is not one of those movies.  The film, based on John Green’s book, captures the empowered young women perfectly; shedding light on the dreamer, the rebel; the inner beauty that lies inside all of us. 

Directed by Jake Schreier and starring Cara Delevingne and Nat Wolf  (The Fault In Our Stars), Paper Towns tells the story of magical Margo and Quentin, the non-football-playing sweet boy who is captivated by her. When Margo goes missing, Quentin and friends hit the road to find her.

The casting of Cara Delevingne in the lead role is perfect.  If you know a thing about Cara, her first instinct when she sees a camera is to stick her tongue out—she perfectly embodies the spirit of rebellion in Margo. She is a kickass teenager, an iconoclast with fire, a mash-up of all the strong women who came before her.

She’s not looking to please others. She’s looking to find herself.  People who see the movie might see her and think, “I am so in love with her.” But you know what? That woman doesn’t really care if you love her. She’s looking to learn to love herself first. In the movie Margo, just 18, leads with a great example: stop worrying about what society expects of young people. Ask: what do I want? “You have to get lost before you find yourself,” Margo says. She encourages us to avoid living on society’s timeline. Write your own life. You don’t have to be married with kids or own a home by a certain age. The true definition of an adult is someone with perspective. Someone who is compassionate. Being a grown up is being as kind to others as you are to yourself. Margo escaped her town because it was trapping her. She faced her fears and headed towards her dream of living in New York City. Margo teaches us not to hold ourselves back. “All the things that you want are out there,” she says. Go look for them, however long it takes.

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[Image via 20th Century Fox]

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