Film Friday: Love, Simon
Note: let me start by saying that while I have been academically trained to critique film and television, and while I am a queer ally, I am a cisgendered heterosexual female, and my opinion of this film is derived from my own privileged point of view.
Love, Simon is groundbreaking because it’s not.
I went to see it the other day with a friend of mine. I found myself misty-eyed through most of it. And I LOVE films that make me cry. I’m all about that expressive, affecting artistry. But this one was different.
People have been comparing Love, Simon to Call Me By Your Name. And I thoroughly enjoyed Call Me By Your Name. That’s because beyond the intense emotion, the cinematography and the sensuality was unlike anything I’d seen before.
Love, Simon is different because its plot is tamer, its running time shorter, and its intended age range more palatable. But it’s different mostly because unlike the former film’s dreamlike aesthetic and elements of fantasy, Love, Simon renders queerness (what some still consider an idiosyncrasy) as wholly normal even while taking special care to address the specific difficulties queer kids may face in their relationships with themselves and with other people.
It’s your typical coming-of-age film – high schooler struggles with and comes to terms with insecurity, bullies, friends, family – with one massive twist: our hero is gay. The character is specifically designed as a guy who, by all visible appearances, passes as straight (in contrast to the only other openly gay guy at the school, who is largely effeminate in appearance and in voice). As Simon navigates a whirlwind of issues with bullying and friendship and self-love, and as he tries to figure out the identity of his anonymous pen pal, the film makes abundantly and simply clear that most people have no trouble accepting that their friend or brother or son is gay; what matters to them is the kindness their friend or brother or son exhibits towards others.
In a way, the film’s nostalgic charm and emotional maturity makes it feel as though it is intended for the generation who is no longer teenagers, as if it is hoping to act as a comfort, a reassurance to those adults that things are changing, that today’s kids are so much more socially present and forward-thinking than they used to be. I counted myself among the teenage ranks just five years ago, and from a slightly removed (and very proud) standpoint, I, too, am noticing a marked positive shift in the attitude surrounding activism and acceptance.
Love, Simon is special because while it has proven stunning and poignant for the adults who never got this kind of public affirmation in their own adolescence, to its ‘intended’ audience (teenagers, young adults), it is ultimately just a film about two people falling in love.
Film is one of the most powerful mediums in the world, and it gives me a massive amount of hope for the future to see this film, this rom-com, billed as the new normal. It’s the kind of art I hope we are able to start consuming so often it becomes boring. The movie is undoubtedly a step in the right direction; it’s heartening to see that gayness is, to the kids currently coming-of-age, not nearly so remarkable or newsworthy as it once was. It’s just a fact of life.
That’s not to say, of course, that there isn’t a whole heapload of emotional and social work to still be done for the queer community. And hey – boy-meets-girl has been overplayed; give us all the boy-meets-boy, and all the girl-meets-girl. And then take it a step further, and further, until we can let all the fluidities and intricacies of gender become irrelevant in our lives and in our representations of them. Let love just be love.