Love, Simon. A false promise of a big Hollywood movie that could give us something to relate with rather than something that was made for entertaining the masses instead of what it should have been, representation, expression of the LGBT community and our struggles.
The premise is simple, a high school boy with a picture-perfect life that holds an oh, so tragic secret.
What Love, Simon is and how it’s seen, is a movie that portrays the gay community just as the media thinks it is, adding no real depth to the narrative.
Another failed attempt at gay representation
The niche for the movie was set from the beginning, people that were used to early 2000’s rom coms. I dreaded for too long to watch a movie that I knew would disappoint me and I wasn’t wrong.
In the first few scenes, introducing wall the character, we are met with the only openly gay person in the movie by then, Ethan. And from that moment on, it’s clear that they have been a victim of bullying by the hand of other students, yet nothing does anything about it, rather, the main character makes a remark about ‘ How easy he makes it ‘, alluding that due to the way he looks, how he acts, it’s his fault to be harassed at school for being openly himself. But spoilers! When Simon is outed, these two bullies decide to mock him with Ethan and it’s the first time I see faculty going over to stop them and create some sort of consequences for their actions. Now, why was it that the more feminine character was subject to such harassment, and no one did anything and when a straight passing student was, there was some sort of punishment? In my point of view, it sets the image of Feminine gays = bad, straight passing gays = good. In the end, Simon does say that he might have been jealous of the other being out and proud, yet it doesn’t excuse the movie behavior towards this character who, in my opinion, would have had a much interesting storyline.
From many aspects, we see that this movie is aimed towards a broader or in other words, a heterosexual audience. There’s no real issues or threat to the main character rather than his fear of coming out. He lives in a safe privileged environment, and everyone is supportive of it. Now, it is supposed to be a coming-of-age film, but the only struggles we see are a fight with friends and the little to no repercussions to the protagonist’s sexuality being exposed. This is a great segue to my next point, how the movie contradicted itself when it came to coming out. At one point, Simon snaps at the character who had been blackmailing him, holding his sexuality hostage and tells him how coming out was his thing and he was supposed to be the one who decided who knew and when. Yet, later, for the sake of the story, he calls out the guy he had been messaging online on a public blog which most of his high school peers are on. Calling him to join him at the Ferris wheel so they could meet for the first time, yet by doing this, Simon was setting an ultimatum to this anonymous character, which, in a quite uncomfortable scene, seemed to work for them. How there was a crowd cheering for Simon as he waited for his secret anonymous lover to show up. For their entertainment, many stayed and even a woman was shown recording the scene but was stopped shortly after. A cute scene for their entertainment it seemed, rather than the own personal discovery of Simon and the others.
So much potential is lost, even by hiring a heterosexual actor to play the protagonist, failing to truly create a good image of representation for the community.
Romanticizing the wrong things.
From coming out being nice, welcoming, and safe, to talking to a complete stranger on the internet who ends up being a love interest, to creating a domino effect on coming out online.
For those that are growing up as their gay movie, their representation, these subjects could taint their mind and cause consequences that will be harder to fix later on in life.
Not everyone has a safe environment to come out in, not everyone can afford to be forced to come out. Every action has a consequence, and, in this movie, there weren’t any. We can see it from the beginning, picture-perfect life, perfect friends, perfect life. Now, I would have cut some slack to this movie if the concept of mental illnesses which come along with self-struggle were portrayed but… It failed to do that as well.
Growing up I felt like I had no true representation in the media and as I grew older, my need to find something to relate to only grew stronger. Perhaps in the movie Perks of being a wallflower, we had a small taste of a gay character who suffered, loved, cried and enjoyed things in his own way but then again, he wasn’t the protagonist, so his storyline wasn’t explored any further.
In this movie, however, the side characters are so much more likable than the protagonist, I found myself interested in their storylines, their backgrounds and even wanting to know more about them rather than focus on the bland background of the protagonist.
But, if this movie is the first big step to the way of proper representation, I’ll take it as there is not much we can compare it to that is as big and popular as this movie was.
If you search, you’ll find. And so, it has been a tricky journey to find something relatable and not overly cringe to watch.
It has been shocking to me to find that many people from the queer community didn’t grow up watching the cultural shock that was Skins UK, the original. Characters were given their own episodes to venture into their lives, backgrounds and struggles and this show wasn’t afraid to go into subjects such as self-harm, eating disorders, mental illness, sexuality, abuse, and others.
A modern version of this would be Skam Norway, which is the only one I’ve seen, therefore the only one I’ll be able to talk about. Instead of giving a few episodes to each character, they divided them into seasons. A group of friends who struggle with racism, sexuality, eating disorder, misogyny, slut-shaming. The fear of coming out, the pain of disappointing people, having to live on their own.
Next on the list, I have a few movies which have built my little comfort zone. The first spot goes to Jennifer’s body, a movie that you can’t simply watch once to catch what’s really going on. My own private Idaho, a movie which… May be painful to watch but it truly is able to portray the struggle.
But I’m a Cheerleader which is simply fantastic. It targets a real issue which is conversion therapy and accepting oneself while keeping the movie light by making it a comedy.
There are many other options to find representation and have something to relate to as well as series which venture into the struggle the community has gone through during earlier decades such as Pose, and it’s up to us to bring attention to these sources as others might not be aware of their existence or are too afraid to search something up or even to find themselves in said films.
For generations to come, it’s important to leave a path that is not as rocky as it has been for ones who have fought their way through and representation in the media is a big step that’ll help reach a bigger public and help spread the message of inclusivity and equality.