Pop Culture Reference and The Fault in Our Stars - A Question!

The Fault in Our Stars - John Green The Lady of the Camellias (Penguin Classics) - Alexandre Dumas fils, Liesl Schillinger

First, it's thanks to Three R's post about the book that I remembered that this question has been in my brain, pounding on the windows like a bee inside a jar. (That's an 80s reference just because I'm now having an 80s flashback session. Answer via youtube.)


So I keep reading reviews here and there about The Fault in Our Stars, the book and the movie. But I keep wondering about this obscure pop culture reference that is only in my brain because I'm a film and lit junkie, and that sorta relates. I think, maybe. Which means it's time for some background linkage before I can ask my question!


Once upon a time there was a somewhat internationally famous book/play and then a film that made for the go-to pop culture reference for any Sad Story of a Girl Dying Tragically Young, especially when there was a love story involved. Except in this case the young girl is a courtesan.


Published in 1848: The Lady of the Camellias, by Alexandre Dumas, fils

Play of the novel first produced in France: 1852

Opera based on the play opens in 1853: Verdi's La traviata

In English countries both the play and novel became Camille

1936 film: Camille (starring Greta Garbo)

1984 film: Camille (starring Colin Firth)

2001 film: Moulin Rouge


If you read contemporary books in the late 1800s and in the 1930s references to Camille were all over the place, used as shorthand for Tragic Love Story When Girl With Illness Dies. It's also still referenced in many histories of tuberculosis (once called consumption), especially in discussions about romanticizing an illness.


Off tangent: a similar kind of name reference in the late 1700s/early 1800s was to call a man a "Lovelace" - the male villain in Richardson's Clarissa, who ruins Clarissa in all sense of the word. This is probably something you only get into discussions about as an English major - that men acting like cads could be jokingly called Lovelaces, when Lovelace in the story is a rapist. (Seriously, read the wikipedia plot summary. This was one of those "everyone is talking about it" novels of its time. It's also insanely long, which is why few people bother to read the whole thing now. And only just this week I was reading a book published in 1910 that referred to someone as a Lovelace. Which is why I suddenly feel compelled to share this, even though I've now gone totally off topic. Except only a bit off topic, because Clarissa dies of what seems like tuberculosis in one of those Noble Death scenes.)




My question: Has anyone read any film or book reviews mentioning Camille in comparison to The Fault in Our Stars? I've done some googling, and so far nada. But suddenly I do miss Roger Ebert, because I feel sure he'd have made this reference. Maybe I just haven't googled into the right film-nerd internet neighborhoods.


Camille's not the only film with the loved one dying of a fatal illness, it's just one with a long history. In the 1970s Love Story was referenced ad nauseum, and another example of a book becoming a movie. If you've never heard of Love Story, you might at least recognize this quote since it was mocked in so often for years afterwards: "Love means never having to say you're sorry." (Wikipedia notes that Love Story has almost the same plot as Camille.)


Again, I haven't seen the film or read the book of TFIOS, and don't have much of an opinion on either. (Just the immediate reaction of not wanting to read about illness and death, I have some experience of that in real life, so...not really interested.) I just caught that they both deal with the tragedy of being young and having a fatal illness when you're in love - and I immediately thought of Camille.


It does strike me as odd that I haven't found reviews discussing romanticizing an illness (only a mention or two). But then maybe the book/film are both careful not to do that? (Someone that's read the book clue me in?)


Er, I should also confess here that I have both a paper copy of Camille and a digital one on my ereader because it has been on my TBR list since I was an undergrad (translation, more than two decades ago). Sad, huh? It's only on that list because I kept bumping into it in random film books and in period literature and felt I should read it. (When it's the 9,999th time you bump into a reference, it's time to say "ok fine, books, I give in, I'll read this one book!")


Here are the Gutenberg links, in case you want to read it yourself:


Camille (English version)


La dame aux camélias (French version)


If you do please feel free to flounce back and say you have finished the book, and thus motivate me to read it!


Or alternately feel free to cite any 80s songs via youtube links that will earworm me, since I'm already doing that to myself tonight! (Note that I do not fear Rick Astley since I actually owned multiple songs by him in the 80s. It was kind of a joke a group of friends had about liking him back then - one had a jacket with Worship Rick Astley or Die on it - you can imagine how wildly amused I was when Rickrolling became a thing!)


Some vaguely on topic links:


At the Deathbed of Consumptive Art

Emerg Infect Dis. Nov 2002; 8(11): 1353–1358. 11 July 2012

Long, but a good read. Example:

"In succeeding decades, Keats’ illness came to exemplify spes phthisica, a condition believed peculiar to consumptives in which physical wasting led to euphoric flowering of the passionate and creative aspects of the soul. The prosaic human, it was said, became poetic as the body expired from consumption, genius bursting forth from the fevered combustion of ordinary talent, the body burning so that the creative soul could be released. Keats’ great poetic output during his last year was considered a direct consequence of consumption."


Katherine Byrne, Tuberculosis and the Victorian Literary Imagination
Book review, British Society for Literature and Science

(Some books mentioned: Dickens’s Dombey and Son, Gaskell’s North and South, Mrs Humphry Ward’s Eleanor, James’s The Wings of the Dove and Portrait of a Lady, Bram Stoker’s Dracula)


Clark Lawlor, Consumption and Literature

Book review, British Society for Literature and Science


The changing tastes in disease: From consumption to Gulf War Syndrome, how sicknesses fall in and out of fashion

Daily Mail, 11 July 2012
Yes, it's the Mail, but I'm adding it for comparison to....


How romantics and poets can help medicine
The Journal, Jul 25, 2012

Same researcher (Lawlor) as the Mail quoted, different write up.