The Many Faces Of Margo Roth Spiegelman

I finished Paper Towns by John Green a good twelve hours after I’d started reading it late one night. I was still deeply immersed in the story. Margo had just utterly shattered the image I’d built up of her over the course of a night of reading, and I was devastated. Time to look at the different Margos that are out there.

Paper Towns by John Green follows the journey Quentin Jacobsen, a high school senior, goes on to find his missing neighbour, and love of his life, Margo Roth Spiegelman. She disappears after spending a night driving around town with Quentin in his mini van, leaving him obsessed with finding out what happened to her, why she left, and most important of all, who she really is.

The book is made into a major motion picture that opens in Swiss cinemas before the end of the month. So of course the next thing I did was go online and start looking for the trailer to the upcoming film. I should really have known better. Once again I was left completely baffled.

This was supposed to be Margo Roth Spiegelman? The mystery of a girl, that ran away from home, the girl held my imagination captivated for so long? When I had thought of Margo, Cara Delevingne, who plays her in the upcoming film, could not have been further from my mind. I was perplexed, so I did the next best thing. I called a friend up that had read the book and made her watch the trailer right then and there. Turns out she didn’t think this new Margo, played by Cara Delevingne, was a good fit for Book-Margo either. But neither was my Margo. This should have been blindingly obvious right from the start, but it took me another half hour spent on all kinds of different online message boards to come to the conclusion that there really are as many different Margos out there as there are readers.

My Very Own Margo

Let’s start with my own very personal Margo. The Margo I spent 282 pages creating in my head, only for my image of her to get thoroughly obliterated on page 283. For starters, she’s got red wavy hair.

Karen Gillan looks like "my" Margo Roth Spiegelman

Karen Gillan looks like “my” Margo Roth Spiegelman

It took me a while to notice that this wasn’t in fact true. Her hair is neither red, nor wavy. It’s straight and chestnut brown. But it’s not mentioned through most of the book. In fact, the book is rather skimpy when it comes to actual facts about Margo’s appearance in general. For the longest time, the only thing that’s certain about Margo is that she’s got blue eyes. She’s described as curvy, neither fat nor thin, larger than other girls her age, with bony fingers.

As far as descriptions go, I’ll go ahead and say that this is rather vague. Her character at least, seemed clearer to me. She’s got a wild streak, but there’s nothing that screams danger about her. You go along with her crazy ideas because she makes them seem more like a fun little adventure, something to tell the grandkids about, rather than a hare brained scheme that could land you in serious trouble. Breaking into SeaWorld in the middle of the night may sound like something that could have serious consequences, but with Margo it’s a walk in the park.

She’s not dangerous, she’s mysterious, and while you may not know her, she makes it easy for you to trust her. Her adventures are great entertainment, but more like something out of a young adult novel than a serious book. It’s what makes her so irresistible. You get the adventure, along with the assurance that nothing bad will happen to you. It’s a roller coaster ride. All the adrenaline you could possibly wish for, with no risk attached.

The Movie Margo

But, the Margo from the trailer for Paper Towns does not seem to be anything like my Margo. She is portrayed by Cara Delevingne, who, I think it is fair enough to say, is absolutely stunning, and fits the description of Margo rather well, even if I think calling her curvy might be stretching things a just a bit. She also plays the drums, and would like to be a fighting princess peach with a steroid injecting angel gun. With wings. On a multicoloured unicorn. It’s hard not to like somebody like that.

But the Margo she portrays feels alien to me. Cara does a wonderful job of showing off Margos wild and mischievous side, but there’s a certain edge to her that I never saw in the book. She looks like trouble, and I don’t trust her Margo one bit. At this point I should probably explain why I don’t trust her. I wish I could do a better job, but trust is not something that’s easy to explain.

Maybe it’s her fleeting smiles. They never seem to linger for longer than a second. There’s no laughter in her voice. When she tells Quentin she’s got nine things she needs to do that night, she’s a girl out for revenge, not a girl on an adventure. He follows her because he’s in love, and she tells him she doesn’t have a boyfriend anymore. The sense of the grand adventure is gone, and along with it the black facepaint she wears in the book.

This Margo is far more serious, more grown up. It’s clear to see that there’s something more to her than she lets on. Something is off, and while the trailer might not tell you what it is, it is undeniably there. In the book I got the feeling that Margo was the perfect illusion, with tiny cracks that begin to appear early on. At first they’re easy to ignore, but after a while they’re impossible to deny, until the illusion shatters and leaves you with the Real Margo.

The elusive Margo Roth Spiegelman gets played by Cara Delevingne and gets a face.

The elusive Margo Roth Spiegelman gets played by Cara Delevingne and gets a face.

The Real Margo

Finding Margo is not an easy task. She may be the central character of the book, but she’s elusive. There’s surprisingly little we truly know about her, and that’s the whole point of the book. She’s made up of a vast number of colourful details, that in the end don’t add up to all that much. Like her giant LP collection, that may seem like a definite characteristic, but in the end, what does it tell you that a girl likes all music, with no preferences? Not all that much. The book plays with this mirage of Margo. This is something the film can’t do, at least not to the same extent. It’s a fundamental difference between the media.

There’s nothing wrong about the Margo I see in the trailer. She may be more serious and mature than I imagined her to be, but she’s just as real, or imaginary, as my mine, or any readers. Every single Margo out there is coloured by the experiences and dreams of her creator. In the end, they will all have to fall apart to make way for the real Margo. The one that doesn’t fit one’s expectations, that may be less perfect, less marvelous, and less extraordinary than any illusions, but at the same time far more human and real. If the film can achieve the same devastating effect as the book remains to be seen, but I’m hopeful.

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