CW: Homophobia, Sexuality, Straight People, America, ‘Love, Simon’, misogyny.
SPOILERS AHEAD, IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE FILM DO NOT READ
Hype, hype, hype.
Films get a lot of hype; edgy or nuanced films get even more hype. Films that speak to an audience that have historically been deprived of representation, also get a lot of hype, rightly fucking so. Look at Black Panther, finally ruining Titanic’s 20-year reign. Suck that, Leo.
So, I’m not going to completely shit on ‘Love, Simon’. It was for the most part a watchable film. In terms of script, story and cinematography – it isn’t the best picture I’ve ever seen, but that isn’t important because 90% of all straight-male-centric movies are utter shite, and people love ‘em. It had some nice characters, some laughable moments and a couple of tear-jerking quick minutes. However, for a gay coming of age, high-school romance/drama/comedy, it was incredibly straight-orientated.
So, the bad guy – Logan Miller. He plays the awkward but determined straight cis-hetero guy, that would normally be the joke in say, American Pie. He plays the rather insidious part of black-mail plot twist, where Simon’s secret email affair is found and used against him to aid Martin’s attempts of pursuing unrequited love with new friend on the scene, Abby [played by the lovely Alexandra Shipp]. What grinds my gears about this part of the film is how it takes away from every other moment, positive or negative.
There are two instances where Martin’s character makes a huge, manipulative, calculated, oh-so-straight grand gesture attempting to win Abby over. It made my skin crawl, just as it does when you see those kiss-o-grams or public proposals. Straight men love trying to get women into a position where they won’t or can’t, say no. Father-fucking consent. It’s as if straight people don’t have personalities or social skills adept enough to, ya know, talk to people and ask them if they’re interested. Fuck you, Martin.
Secondly, still on Martin. He gets off the hook. Completely and utterly, no issue whatsoever. He’s even given the accolade of uniting Simon and his secret love at the end of the movie ‘No worries, Si, eh? I only blackmailed you, outed you on the internet but here’s $4 to go on the Ferris wheel! Take it! No worries, I messed up. But I’m cool now! Right? Go do you! Psssst, my big brother’s gay! I get it!”. Seriously.
I’m not a fan of Martin. Clearly.
Then there’s Clark Moore, who plays Ethan; the openly out, femme-gay-black young man [which coincides with the fact he is literally that person irl]. He’s a mesmerising, brilliant actor but unfortunately, he was in only four scenes. When himself and Nick Robinson’s character, Simon, were subjected to a beautiful jock-attack in the cafeteria, they are rung together in the principal’s office where they share a tentative moment, both acknowledging their similar but ultimately different fate in this high-school rabbit-hole. Clark brought more emotion to that scene when he lowered his voice and softly said ‘you could have told me, you know?’ more so than any character did throughout the whole film. That was a bullet to my heart. That wasn’t a dig at Simon, questioning his inability to come out. That was Ethan wanting not to be alone. Wanting to have his own kin around him. Anyone queer knows that feeling all too well. That’s your movie.
Yet, what upset me the most about these two characters was ultimately how they were used as a binary representation of what gay men look like. Simon, the supposedly ‘good-looking’, closeted, masculine thoroughbred who typically, in any other film, would have been a jock. Then we have Ethan, from the short glimpses we get into his life, he’s the fatally femme ‘other’, only fitting in with a group of middle class white girls and used as a prop to demonstrate homophobia – which, in actuality, was internalised misogyny, something the gay community does not often address.
This film, like many, wasn’t an LGBTQIA2+ breakthrough. It’s a needed film, but that doesn’t mean we should set the bar low. We need to be producing 5, 10, 15 of these films a year. They need to be directed by queer folx, acted by queer folx, written by queer folx, for queer folx. They need to represent all of us under the rainbow flag and they need to not only be valid when they fit the cis-hetero model. The whole film was about Simon coming out, and it got a lot right. It was chaotic, confusing and scary. The times I felt it was rushed, actually kind of felt okay, coming out can be rushed, you can feel compelled to do it in a moment, overnight, over breakfast.
And what I assume was an accidental saving grace to the critical eye, was how it portrayed most straight people. Simon’s homophobic Dad, the two asshole jocks, the joke of a principal, the friends that were more upset about their little love triangle mess rather than the fact their best-bud was just black mailed and outed to the whole school. It allowed straight people to apologise for being shit but not for them to adjust, to rethink and learn and then make amends. It fitted the straight narrative that your homophobia is okay, say sorry and move on.
We shouldn’t be striving to produce movies that validate someone’s already real and precarious existence in a homophobic society. We should not have to come out to straight people. Straight people, just like white people and racism, should not be allowed to be bigoted and problematic without having to learn and put in some emotional labour afterwards and have expectations of their behaviour thereafter.
So yes, this film is needed in many ways.
Yes, it is a story about a gay kid coming out.
But we can and should do better, these films are not only representing our little queer babies, but they are showing their straight counterparts a role too. A role we want to break. A role that is underhanded, internalised and dangerous as hell.