Thursday 22 March 2018

Love Simon is so much more than just a rom-com; it’s a catalyst for queer joy

I was lucky enough to attend a special screening of Love Simon recently; there’s something exciting from this being the first gay teen rom-com from a major film studio (I KNOW. Whilst independent media does keep up with changing times, the mainstream is decades behind). Hushed tones, glancing eyes. For many queer people, this will be the first un-nuanced queer representation they will see, especially with straight friends and family around. We shouldn’t all just bow down however; as queer people, we all gag when we see queer representation; it’s so rare. Is this movie actually special, or just so because it’s the first?

Oh yeah, Pixie Lott was there? No biggie.

Simon is a closeted gay-teenager in Atlanta, with a great life; liberal wealthy family, a gaggle of close friends, and a simple joyous life. Following a weird social network which is like Curious Cat except seemingly the whole town has access to everything all the time (including his younger sibling and the principal), he meets another anonymous gay kid, where the narrative unravels into an emotional who-dunnit with a beautiful and simple ending.

[The soundtrack is so FUN!]

Simon falls in love with a stranger online, and that’s that, together forever. Similarly, many queer people of this generation will find their first queer experiences, online. I remember being on Shelfari (think Facebook with books) and becoming ‘boyfriends’ with someone on a fantasy comment thread. And this is where the beautiful, ironic cracks appear in this film; queer people in reality, find this online representation and realise it is not perfect. You do not fly away in the Car in Grease. And so starts a narrative where the complexity of queer realisation is brushed aside.

We lose the moment when Simon tells his Dad that them doing macho things in the past wasn’t a mistake. We lose the moment where Simon becomes a big brother for his youngerr sister, and shows he will always be here for her. And most damingly, we lose the moment where Simon’s friends take responsibility for the months that Simon has been an outcast and alone. So many random jumps. This loss in understanding clearly shows when the straight cast cannot offer the deep, emotional answers that queer people need to hear in their interviews.

This movies hero’s are not the youth; they are the teachers. Whilst sometimes lacking and sometimes awkward, making yourself here for queer kids is a lifeline. You’ll know what I mean when watching. Adults need to see this film as a starting point to understand how to handle queer oppression; to stop it, instantly. Thankyou; Teachers made me blossom, too. 

The most worrying and frustrating part of this movie for me, was a scary and damaging new trope that I feel will flourish in mainstream cinema. One kid is already out in school, and is stereotypical, and bullied. But don’t worry because Simon is a (patent pending)...

Conventionally attractive, you can have a record player, drink iced coffee and lovveee those limited edition oreos! The stereotypical gays have to just come out with no fanfare, but when YOU come out it inspires a whole movement of everyone being honest with themselves! All the fun of the straight fair, just with a dash of gay! The movie may be gay, but it is still normative.

There was meant to be a Snapchat filter in the venue....but this is what we got, lol
Yes, this film is utterly simplistic and truly problematic. But, news flash – that’s what all rom coms are! This is a fun, HAPPY movie which gives hope that everything will be ok in the end; queer films so far, have not had happy endings. Yes, this movie isn’t one I imagine picking once we have many; but for now, this is groundbreaking. How about next time we get a actual queer to tell it though? (two minor characters are queer in real-life btw). You come out; then what? Tell me that, queer cinema. I can’t wait. 7/10

Love Simon is in cinemas NOW; find tickets here.
Thankyou to great friends Jayne, Tom and Layla for coming with me and being open with your discussion on queerness which inspired me to write this piece.

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