“Love, Simon” is The Queer Romcom We’ve All Been Waiting For
by Sophie Lee
When news dropped that there was going to be a new teen romcom about a kid coming out of the closet, the internet immediately broke out in celebration. It seemed long overdue that an lgbt+ teen should take center stage in any sort of mainstream movie. Prior to this, lgbt+ characters were cast off into lower-budget productions, indie films, and arthouse movies like 2016’s “Moonlight.” Now, young kids have the opportunity to see themselves represented in the mainstream media, signaling that they no longer have to find their identity in niche markets or areas only suitable for people who do not fit into the acceptable mold. Recently, there has been a large shift in Hollywood towards casting more diverse leads and breaking down the belief that the only story worth telling is of the a wealthy, straight, white man or woman. From “Black Panther,” to “The Big Sick,” it appears to be the time for marginalized communities to take their rightful place at center stage.
“Love, Simon” is also unique because it is targeted at a younger audience. While “The Big Sick” drew in a predominantly adult audience, “Love, Simon” is bringing in young kids, many of whom likely have yet to explore their own sexuality. It is unprecedented that they should do so after having seen films and tv shows that validate their experience. The film is ultimately a triumph in its ability to show the struggle of so many young people in a way that does not make them victims or an oddity in society. It is like a warm hug to those kids who can relate and a necessary window into their lives for those who can not.
The movie follows its protagonist, Simon (Nick Robinson), through his senior year of high school. He is popular and seemingly very happy outside of the fact that he is closeted. This all changes when another student at his school anonymously comes out and Simon begins an email exchange with him. Viewers watch their messy love story unfold, as Simon tries to figure out who the boy is and navigate revealing his true self to those around him. Although the premise of the film is as dramatic and unrealistic as you would expect any teen romcom to be, the fears Simon faces around coming out are as real as they could be. He grapples with the fear of bullies and the knowledge that those he loves may think differently of him after they figure out what he has been hiding.
The movie starts with Simon explaining that he is “just like you.” The sentiment, in that gay people are no different than anyone else, is sweet, but also slightly ironic considering that the largest criticism of the movie is the fact that its main character does not accurately represent the entire lgbt+ community. Aside from being gay, Simon is exactly like every other leading man that has hit the big screen. He is white, male, stereotypically masculine (there are several jokes about his large collection of hoodies), and wealthy. The “just like you” sequence even features a clip of him receiving a car on his birthday, complete with giant red bow. Unfortunately, that does not look anything like a lot of people. Even for those who are fortunate enough to be privileged in the race, class, and gender categories, another big element that is missing from this film is the acute danger that can often accompany coming out of the closet. Many people are not fortunate enough to live in communities where being gay will not end up with threats of serious violence or social ostracization. Simon has friends and family who support him, and although he faces roadblocks, he begins the film in essentially the ideal position to come out.
This is not to say that the film is not diverse as a whole, though. Even if that diversity does not reach its lead, there is still a very positive representation in other areas. Several of the main supporting roles are people of color, and there are mixed race and mixed religion couples galore. The best part of this film is that it does not feel the need to justify any of it. The characters of color hardly feel the need to bring it up and no part of their character stems from their race. It is a big step forward when diversity can exist simply because it is an accurate representation of society.
Despite its shortcomings, “Love, Simon” is worth seeing. It is as good as any teen romcom and on top of that, it is a victory for kids who have never been able to see themselves reflected positively on the main stage. In the wake of its success, hopefully more films will be made that can take their representation even further, until there is not any child who grows up without seeing their story get told.