“To come home, to be brave” those were just a few words from Wild Heart by the Bleachers—one of the songs from Love, Simon’s official soundtrack. Today’s generation, though benefitting from the recent surge of LGBTQ++ movies—if you can call it such a surge, are often presented with films which are highly divorced from the realities that people from the community face every single day. Love, Simon, however, offers a fresh take on an LGBTQIA++ inspired narrative—tackling the use of social media and the phenomenon of coming out in today’s society.
A fresh take on coming out
The issue of coming out has always been a delicate topic. A western idea which has been popularized even in some non-western countries nowadays including the Philippines, coming out and awakening has been explored and used by film producers as subjects for their works. Love, Simon offers a fresh take—from how social media now greatly affects the idea of coming out, to trying its best to delve away from sexualizing an LGBTQIA++ film. The movie offers things in the narrative that audience do not usually see in such types of films—a happy ending (in all aspects of life including romantic) and an absence of oversexualization as the physical aspect, including sexual pleasure, was not highlighted as the reason of someone’s awakening nor coming out. However, one cannot turn a blind-eye and not notice the continuous bad habits film producers have been making in regards to the treatment of LGBTQIA++ films—and Love, Simon was not an exemption.
Hollywood does not have a lack of queer people in its industry. Hence, casting would not have been such a huge problem if they tried finding someone who relates to the character of Simon more than Nick Robinson. Robinson, who plays the character of Simon, is a white cisgender straight male in real life. Although Robinson’s acting met expectations, the issue still lingers—with the pool of actors who identify as a member of the LGBTQIA++ community, production companies still cast cisgender straights to play a gay role.
Love, Simon does not really extract itself from the idea of any another film marketed for and by white men who see things through a window instead of a mirror. Moreover, although a little less divorced from the realities of coming out, the ones who benefit from the film are usually those who are not a member of the LGBTQIA++ community. The film still looked like it was marketed for the cisgender straights, and not for a community that is hungry for proper representation.
Moreover, marginalization was also subtly present in the film—especially with the character of Ethan; an openly gay man who is also a person of color. Ethan’s character was only set as a minimal role that no one really remembers until the time Simon was also outed. His character was not explored and was limited to being a gay person of color instead of something else in his life that may define him better. Hence, Ethan becomes a perfect example of a character with so much potential, but was set aside instead. It is also worth noting the fact that the film was set in Atlanta, Georgia—a population with a greater diversity of people of color over a white people. But the producers still chose to centralize the story on a white gay man.
Still a nice start
It is not to say, though, that all the negative things we tend to overlook in this film negates the good aspects of it. For one, Simon’s love interest is a person of color who is played by Australian actor Keiynan Lonsdale—a man who identifies himself as Queer in real life. The film also tackled coming out to parents without paying for a hefty price such as death, disownment, and alienation—an occurrence that is the norm in some LGBTQIA++ films. Love, Simon also showed that happy endings do exist for people from the LGBTQIA++ community with things falling into place by the end of the film.
In the end, the film tackled a coming out story without the need to oversexualize things. It tackled self-identity with love in its purest form—a rare feat for films in the same genre. It is then safe to say that maybe Love, Simon is the coming out of a generation which seeks to see films that will reflect them more than any films had in the past. As it says in the song, it takes bravery to come out, but only when you do can you allow yourself to be safely home in the arms of the people you love. And that is what the film’s idea is—an idea shared by many in our generation.
Grade: 3.5/4.0. Nice try and a good start for a change in the Queer Cinema to say the least.