“Love, Simon” is the straightest queer film I’ve ever seen.
The first time I saw the trailer in an actual movie theater, I was pleasantly surprised to see a mainstream movie with a queer protagonist. I remember wishing that this film had come out when I was in high school; young Becina could have used this.
But then I listened more closely and heard Simon say, "I'm just like you, except I have one huge ass secret: nobody knows I'm gay." That’s when the proverbial record scratched and the camera panned to Simon, an upper-class white male teenager. He’s not like me at all, except that he’s gay. Even beyond that, the “you” that Simon addresses in the trailer is a straight audience whom he’s desperate to convince that he’s just like them, except for this one tiny detail. The key identity that Simon and I share is a marginal blip to be overlooked, while the identities we don’t share are proof of his normalcy.
Before watching the movie, I felt torn. Now, having finally seen it, I'm still torn.
“Love, Simon” thrives on palatability. It fits the Hollywood mold of every other YA film with the typical Hollywood protagonist—white, cis, straight, wealthy male—except he’s gay. Then they threw in some light-skinned people of color for a dash of diversity.
The film also gives far too much screen-time to straight characters. I understand that it's a plot point, but I don't care that Leah liked Simon or that Nick and Martin liked Abby but she only liked Nick back. If I wanted these types of plot lines, I'd watch a CW show. None of this was relevant to Simon's personal coming out journey; they all felt shoehorned in to give straight viewers a stake in the plot.
Additionally, there’s not enough focus on Simon's journey of self-acceptance. The film conflates coming out with being comfortable with oneself. The end assumes that now that everyone at school knows his secret and he has a boyfriend, it'll all be okay. Yes, YA movies are known for their unrealistic plot lines and nice, wrapped-up-in-a-bow endings. But to pretend that coming out once equates to a lifetime of reclaiming your identity is misleading and even dangerous to any closeted queer viewers.
Ultimately, “Love, Simon” wanted to be a feel-good love story that also touched on complex topics like coming out, identity, homophobia, and social isolation. But it missed that mark. A good coming out story must dig deeper into the emotional complexity and lived experiences of actual queer people—not a sanitized, Hollywood-approved wealthy white man.
While "Love, Simon" lacks depth and nuance, it succeeds in simplistic nostalgia. This was the movie I needed in high school. Before I experienced racism in the BGLTQ community, before I was aware of the toll internalized homophobia takes on my life, before I learned to question the typical American ideal of white suburban upper-middle-class families, before I'd read the term "heteronormativity" on feminist blogs, before I realized the importance of intersectionality in media representation—well, I was just a terrified teen with a “huge ass secret” that no one could know about. And sometimes I forget what that's like to lie in bed at night tossing and turning because you're worried that your classmates know an inkling of your secret. What it's like to awkwardly come out to your friends while driving home from school, completely unprepared for anything they might say. What it's like to wish for queer friends while not wanting to downplay the attempted allyship of your straight friends.
This movie transported me back to a different time in my life, a time where it seemed like my entire existence was consumed by fear over this one thing. I cried when Simon’s mom told him how she felt he’d been “holding his breath” for the last few years. I cheered during the college dream sequence, fondly remembering my excitement at the prospect of living openly on a campus far from home. For two hours, I honestly felt 15 again.
But, I’m not 15 anymore, and I’m past the point in my journey when I thought that simply coming out would solve all my problems.
And, the fact of the matter is, I’m not just like Simon. And every queer person is not just like me. Differences in race, class, gender, gender expression, body shape, immigration status, ability, and more mean that the experience of queerness can be vastly different between people.
I left that theater and returned to my reality. I walked out surrounded by queer friends, most of whom were women and non-binary people of color from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. We shared our experiences with coming out in conservative religious homes, and the stark contrast to Simon’s ultra-progressive parents. We talked about how the ridiculous size of Simon’s bedroom represented the freedom and privacy he had to explore his sexuality—most of us shared bedrooms with siblings while growing up. We discussed how Simon, as a popular white person, already fit in well at school and did not experience the added “otherness” of being a visible minority that most of us faced.
So, while I love Simon and the youthful innocence he represents, he does not represent me or the majority of queer experiences.
But I’ll tell my high school self that you say “Hi.” She’d love to meet you.
Becina J. Ganther ’20, a Crimson editorial editor, is a History and Science concentrator in Leverett House. Her column appears on alternate Tuesdays.