In years past, representation of anything non-hetero in television and film has been pretty dismal. Of course, there are exceptions to that statement — Blue is the Warmest Colour, Milk, Moonlight — but for the most part, on-screen homosexuality isn’t typically captured or portrayed in a way that represents real life.
This is problematic for a profusion of reasons.
A lot of people realize their own sexual awakenings from a steamy scene on their favorite show. For me personally, I remember watching a K.D. Lang music video and having attraction to another person who was ALSO a female for the first time. Years later, I had a crush on Kyle MacLachlan.
If you know what both of these people look like, you’re probably drawing a line from point A to point B that isn’t quite straight, but definitely makes sense.
Right around that time, somewhere in the 90s, MacLachlan played Lang on Saturday Night Live and my life came full circle.
This digressed farther than I meant it to.
Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) is, as he will tell you, a pretty happy teen. His dad, Jack (Josh Duhamel) was the high school quarterback and married the “hot valedictorian”, Emily (Jennifer Garner). He has a sister he actually likes, Nora (Talitha Bateman), who spends her days cooking and baking in the family’s fabulous granite countertop kitchen.
When he’s not at home in his impossibly cool bedroom that is literally covered in stickers and posters that represent his extensive love of music that a 17-year-old in 2018 wouldn’t probably know about, Simon spends time with his BFFs, Leah, Abby, and Nick (Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, and Jorge Lendeborg Jr., respectively).
He’s in drama, loves iced coffee, and is practically connected via IV to his phone — like any other teenager.
But, as he’ll tell you himself, he’s got one huge ass secret. Thinking he’s the only one feeling this way, Simon is surprised when another student at school posts to an anonymous message board about being gay and not knowing what to do about it.
Simon takes it upon himself to reach out to his classmate to relate and the two wind up finding a safe space inside the anonymity bubble of the internet. Unfortunately, nothing gold can stay, and these intimate emails fall into the wrong hands.
Simon will have to potentially compromise his sacred friendships to keep his secret safe.
But why? Why would someone have to keep from their loved ones a detail of paramount importance to who they are?
Because the world is full of evil.
Simon suggests the idea that straight is the default and wonders why straight kids don’t have to come out to their parents as well. It’s worth taking a moment to truly consider that.
The message this movie sends across is that we should be able to love who we love and be who we are. I was there for it, too. I am 1000% on board with love is love. Love, Simon is charming, heartfelt, and quite well-written.
It was not lost on me that there was a montage set to “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” by Whitney Houston featuring Jennifer Garner’s movie son. If you’ll recall, Garner had her own colorful montage set to that very song in 13 Going On 30. Yes, I remember that well. And daily.
I’m saying all of this because — while I enjoyed Love, Simon very much — I couldn’t help but think about the fact that real coming out stories don’t often follow the same path as this one. I know plenty of people who’ve come out to families who no longer speak to them.
Love, Simon paints a picture of an idyllic family in this sort of utopia where the family is happy all the time and everything is beautiful. The kids at school all get along and there’s a cheeky Vice Principal (Tony Hale) who doesn’t quite get the kids but tries way too hard and it’s comedic relief in all the right places.
I’m not trying to rain on this movie’s parade at all. I thoroughly enjoyed myself — to the point of tears. However, I do worry that kids who are struggling with their own identities might see this film and gain the hope that their stories might play out the way this one does.
Most of them won’t. It’s a travesty, but it’s the reality of the situation. This movie is an escape from the world. Which is exactly what movies are supposed to be sometimes. Maybe someday, everyone who tells the world who they really are will be celebrated and a rainbow will appear out of nowhere and a fun 80s song will play while two people of the same sex kiss to the cheers of a crowd.
For now, we’ve got a movie that wants to lead us in that direction and has its heart in the right place. It’s a pure delight in a time shrouded in abysmal grey fog. Love, Simon hits theaters this weekend. See it and then check out the equally playful and sweet soundtrack (available on Spotify) for some extra good vibes!