While it's got its strong qualities, "Love, Simon" skips over some hard-hitting realities of high school LGBTQ life.
Sage Cannady | October 9, 2018
With pop alternative beats dancing around the film and a yellow-tinted filter, Love, Simon is the depiction of one high-schooler’s experience through finding his sexuality. Focused particularly on the troubles of high school, Simon has to battle through two conflicts: the outing of his sexuality by another high-schooler, Martin, and finding out the identity of his anonymous, flirtatious pen pal.
Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 92 percent positive rating, with a slightly lower audience score of 89 percent — giving off the sense of high approval for the film. Yet, after watching Love, Simon, I was left disappointed and frustrated. Love, Simon is another white-centered film in which the main character, an adolescent gay boy, is attacked multiple times for his sexuality and left isolated by seemingly supportive friends to his own troubles.
This film pushes interesting norms that do not quite match up with reality. Simon has a loving and accepting family, as well as a group of all-cishet (cisgender and heterosexual) friends. These two things are not common in the LGBTQ+ community, as families do not tend to accept gay children in the majority of the U.S., and most gay youth tend to find their community with other gay or LGBTQ+ youth. A common theme amongst the LGBTQ+ community is that, once you have come out of the closet, your friends slowly follow, coming out as an LGBTQ+ identity as well.
I believe that Love, Simon has some strong qualities. It has a happy ending, a happy family, and the very real, very awkward struggles of an adolescent gay person. Yet the happy factors of Love, Simon is something uncommon in a majority of Hollywood’s LGBTQ+ narratives. There is no struggle for Simon, or for his friends, in the reality that Simon is now in a minority category. He does begin to face homophobia in school, and will likely face homophobia when visiting his cishet friends’ houses.
The awkward elements added to Love, Simon are the best parts of the film. They demonstrate how uncomfortable it is for gay people to live in a heteronormative society. One essential scene that reflects this outlook is Simon’s dinner with his parents, followed by a late night conversation with his best friend, Leah. The people around him are obsessing over the sexual orientations of strangers in a social environment that simply accepts this phenomenon. Yet, as the screen pans to Simon’s various facial expressions and physical reactions, it is obvious to the audience that this is wrong. The environment that Simon lives in does not guarantee his safety. And this is what leads into Simon’s assumptions about those around him.
People can only make conclusions of the people around them based on judgements. Simon does just this about his friends and family, taking the negative, pessimistic route over the positive, hopeful route. He makes the assumption that his friends and family will not help him, but more especially that his friends will oppress him.
I believe this is a fair assumption that gets judgement in itself by the filmmakers. Simon is navigating a tough, oppressive world as he lives in a minority category. He is forced to make safe choices so that he can live a preferably safe life. Yet the filmmakers exploit this by isolating Simon’s character from his friends. I believe that this is the crucial factor of Love, Simon that misrepresents and does harm to the LGBTQ+ community.
I believe that Simon made the right choice in hiding his sexuality from his friends for so long, even if he ended up doing harm onto them. Simon has already had much harm done to him and will continue to have harm done to him through homophobia, especially as he is still in high school. Even with a boyfriend, even with a supportive family, and even with supportive friends, Simon is still at risk of facing homophobia and even trauma from homophobia. As someone who came out as gay at the age of 13, I know that Simon would undergo trauma at a high school such as his, where people like Martin out people like Simon to the entire school. A place where an already-out gay kid faces harassment every day.
Love, Simon is far from perfect and far from an authentic gay experience. Simon gets punished for acting in a way common amongst the gay community. Yet, it still gets particular points across that ring true for the gay experience. Overall, this film leaves an overall feeling of misunderstanding the gay community.