6 Reasons Why We Need 'Love, Simon'
Do today’s teens need Love, Simon? This was a question posed in a recent Time article. By the end of the article, the author seemed to conclude that they did not. The reasoning behind this was because “Kids like Simon, in 2018, already have a good shot of fitting in.”
Go on any social media site right now, and the answer to this same question is very different. There are countless tweets from members of the queer community of all ages talking about what having a movie like Love, Simon in the mainstream media has meant to them. There are stories of people talking about having come out because of the movie. So, other than the major fact that this is the first mainstream film with a gay lead character, just why is Love, Simon something not only today’s teens, but society in general, needs?
1. It helps to normalize being gay, or any orientation other than straight.
It doesn’t feel like a ‘gay’ love story, but rather just a YA romantic dramedy that happens to be about a teenager who’s gay. We see Simon going through the motions we’d see any other movie of its nature:
There’s getting up the courage to send the first email, and the constant checking of the phone to see if the person has responded yet or not. There’s the falling for each other over messages without knowing the true identity of the other (A Cinderella Story, anyone?).
There’s the thing that keeps them from just getting together. In most of Love, Simon’s straight counterparts, this reason typically is because they come from two different social circles, while here it’s because neither Simon nor Blue are out.
And then there’s the lead’s antagonist. Typically this would be another, usually more popular, guy who wants the girl or has made some sort of bet with the lead and does what he can to make sure he wins said bet. Here the antagonist doesn’t come in either of those forms, but rather in the awkward and unpopular Martin, who finds the emails sent between Simon and Blue, and blackmails Simon into helping him get with one of his friends, Abby.
2. The movie shows us that gay doesn’t look a certain way.
Simon, our lead, dresses in jeans, a hoodie, and often a jean jacket. He’s in theatre, but isn’t the flamboyant stereotype usually associated with high school guys in theatre, and neither is anyone else in the theatre production for that matter. He listens to The Kinks and Elliott Smith. If you passed Simon on the street, your first thought wouldn’t be that he’s gay, but it doesn’t make him any less so. We then have Ethan, who is pretty much the complete opposite of Simon. He’s a black teen, wears button ups and sweater vests, and is openly and proudly out from the moment we first see him.
Lastly, there’s Blue. From the emails, we learn that Blue is Jewish, watches Game of Thrones, and loves the Halloween oreos. I won’t reveal Blue’s true identity, but even the three potential guys we see Simon think might be Blue over the course of the film are different. There’s Bram, another black teen, who plays on the soccer team and throws a Halloween party; Lyle, who works at the Waffle House and used to have biology with Simon; and Cal, who plays the piano for the school’s production of Cabaret. Love, Simon reminds us that gay comes in all races, interests, and wardrobes.
3. It shows us that not every coming out experience is the same.
Ethan’s coming out is met with fake surprise from his group of friends, and other than two jocks no one in the school seems to care about his being gay. Ethan is that kid everyone knows (or at least suspects) is gay, and is just waiting for them to come out. We later learn that Ethan being accepted isn’t exactly the case at home as he tells Simon that his mother still tells his grandmother about his ‘girlfriends.’ At one point Simon admits that he isn’t sure why he has to come out, even asking “Why is straight the default?”
However, when Simon finally tells someone other than Blue that he’s gay, he isn’t met with any sort of surprise, fake or genuine. Abby even answers “No” to being asked both if she was surprised, or if she knew. Abby is and isn’t surprised because Simon being gay doesn’t change who he is to her. Later on when Simon is outed to the school he’s met with looks from people, the kind where you know you’re the topic of gossip, and, along with Ethan, becomes the victim of a very public display of bullying by the two jocks we’ve seen before. It’s after this that Simon confronts Martin in the school parking lot. “I’m supposed to be the one who decides when and where and who finds out...that’s supposed to be my thing.”
By the end of the movie when Simon is ready to come out on his own terms to the school, he writes a post confirming that he’s gay on the Tumblr page, set up for students to post secrets anonymously, and there’s a new sense of confidence to him. He isn’t greeted with those same kinds of looks, but rather smiles, hellos and fist bumps. Throughout the film we learn that Blue is the most apprehensive about coming out, but by the end he does so in a very public setting with a crowd of people watching.
4. It sends a message of acceptance.
This isn’t simply for the reason that Simon accepts and is okay with the fact that he’s gay, same with Blue and Ethan, but more so the acceptance of those in Simon’s life. Not every person that comes out as anything other than straight to their family is met with the same acceptance that Simon is in the movie, but it’s still important to see it in media. Abby tells him that she loves him after he comes out to her, and his two best friends, Leah and Nick, are even concerned about him after the post outing him is made.
The two individual scenes between Simon and his parents are especially powerful. “I need you to hear this, you are still you.” “You deserve everything you want,” Simon’s mother tells him, and it isn’t just a message for Simon, it’s a message to every member of the queer community watching as well. Coming out doesn’t change who we are, and it doesn’t make us any less worthy of the things we want out of life. Later on, when Simon talks with his dad, his dad tells him “I’m proud of you and I wouldn’t change a thing about you.” Once again this isn’t just a message for Simon, it’s one to the queer community. There is nothing wrong with us, and we don’t need to change ourselves because of our orientation.
5. It paves the way for more films like it.
We get to see more of a variety of films with lead characters of varying orientations. We get more movies with openly queer superheroes. We get more movies with queer POC in lead roles. We get to see more of what’s representative of the real world on screen.
6. The sixth and final reason can simply be summed up in a quote from the movie: “I deserve a good love story.”
Love, Simon is based off the book Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli and stars Nick Robinson, Jennifer Garner, Josh Duhamel, Alexandra Shipp, Katherine Langford, Logan Miller, Keiynan Lonsdale, and Jorge Lendeborg Jr.