Love, Simon: Let Me Be Perfectly Queer
Friday night got you wanting something to make you cry and a little gay? Well there’s only one answer: Greg Berlanti’s new film, Love, Simon. The film is generous and cruel, and teaches us that even though life tends to not be fair, we should continue to believe in some form of hope. In more simple words, expect to bawl a minimum of three times. Berlanti, who was himself closeted in high school, has certainly earned Fox’s promotional crown for the first mainstream gay teen movie.
Throughout the film, Simon imagines being able to let his gay flag fly once he has made it to college. Love, Simon portrays the fantasy of a teenager who does not even know what to ask for yet — which is so true that it hurts. The film reflects the ways in which teenagers communicate with each other when their parents aren’t watching, and the potential consequences of such interactions.
The movie starts with Simon proclaiming that he is “no different than you” — except for, of course, his “big secret,” his sexuality. This secret causes Simon’s personal life to come to a crisis when he starts having anonymous email conversations with a boy who calls himself “Blue”, while Simon calls himself “Jacques”. Simon’s life begins to unravel after the class clown, Martin, finds his secret emails. Simon, scared of Martin’s threat to expose his big secret, agrees to set Martin up on a date with his friend Abby. After Martin is publicly humiliated, he decides to out Simon online.
Love, Simon marvels with heightened emotions, but it never feels false. Berlanti is smart enough to make these characters real, complicated people, which results in a movie that feels truthful and engaging. When I watched the screening of the movie, it had been awhile since I heard any audience in attendance react with as much laughter, tears, and gasps.
However, there are a few problems with the movie, such as Simon’s upper-class life, which is addressed in the book, but only slightly in the movie. The spiel in which he lists off his upper-middle-class credentials is later repurposed in the movie as his first anonymous email to Blue. Whether Simon thinks he is “just like” us — the audience, you, or his anonymous emailer Blue — there is a limitation of imagination.
The advertising campaign for the movie is mainstream-focused, and leaves me wondering who exactly is Love, Simon trying to make feel comfortable? The post racial upper-middle-class community depicted in the film misses an opportunity to take an approach that is much more intersectional. The reality is that Simon is from a white privileged background and faces low stakes; his family will undoubtedly accept him for who he is, as will his friends. Meanwhile, if the perfect suburban upbringing Simon has ought to make his dilemma easier than most, he makes an instructive means of it. Even when everything is perfect, and the repercussions aren’t that drastic, the pressure Simon faces holding onto a secret makes him feel like it is the end of the world, especially when it all comes out — pun intended. But considering everything else, there is something remarkable and heart-warming about seeing a movie that tells this story.
Love, Simon’s greatest triumph is that it manages to highlight the small ways in which even the most accepting and open-minded people among us can make coming out difficult. It is the absent minded put downs, like when Simon’s father, Jack, casually calls the Bachelor’s behavior “clearly gay” that can de-normalize gay teenagers and minimize the significance of coming out. Love, Simon is a foot through the door for a gay teen in commercial cinema who does not seek to be exceptional — in a film that does not want to be either. Even more importantly, the movie handles Simon’s coming out perfectly, making necessary points to the audience along the way. Including the unfairness that only non-straight individuals have to come out, that many people are forced to come out, and that people have the desire to keep it all a secret until it gets easier, and the intricacies of the possible repercussions that coming out presents.
The movie follows Simon as he starts his mission to find Blue. But, the real romance is between Simon and his own true public identity, showing that his coming out is far greater than his desire. In one poignant scene, Simon’s mother tells him, “you can exhale now, Simon.” That’s exactly what the film is: a long overdue exhale. To conclude, Love, Simon is a movie for audiences who have developed an awareness to the changing social structure of our world. It is a genuine groundbreaker, but it is also about damn time.
Final Score: 8/10