Just Representation Is Not Good Enough: Why Love, Simon Should Not be Hailed as a Great LGBTQ+ Movie
When the movie Love, Simon hit theaters in early 2018, it was immediately praised for its representation of the LGBTQ+ community. The movie was monumental because it was the first big studio production to feature a coming out scene. The plot is relatively simple—high school senior Simon (portrayed by Nick Robinson) is gay but no one knows. Eventually, Martin, Simon’s classmate, outs Simon to the whole school because Simon didn’t set Martin up with the girl he liked.
People, especially members of the LGBTQ+ community, flocked to the movie theater, desperate to see themselves depicted on the big screen and were very happy with the movie. Many people chose to take their parents or friends with them, so their parents or friends could understand them better and understand how difficult it can be to come out.
As a then-closeted fourteen-year-old, I was excited to see the movie, thinking that it would help me feel represented. My immediate reaction to the movie was that it was amazing. I felt seen by the movie and it gave me hope for the future. However, the more I think about it now that I’m older and have come out to some people, I realize that the movie isn’t as amazing as I once thought it was and have three main issues with the movie.
My first problem is the whole idea that Simon is a ‘normal’ teenager, except that he has this huge secret that he’s gay. The idea that gay people aren’t ‘normal’ is an extremely damaging idea that has always existed. Personally, I don’t think that a movie marketed towards gay teenagers should be perpetuating this idea. Furthermore, it pushes the rhetoric that someone's sexual identity is the most interesting thing about them, which is not true.
My second issue is Simon’s friends’ reactions to his being outed to the whole school. Before Simon is outed, the movie spends a good amount of time establishing the fact that Simon’s friends are all amazing and supportive people. Yet, when Simon is very publicly outed, something that has the potential to ruin someone’s life, they abandon Simon because he didn’t tell them he was gay. I think the film was trying to point out that it’s hard to come out to anyone, but the message did not come across that way. Instead, to me, it came across as the film saying that because Simon didn’t tell his friends, he deserves to be ‘punished.’
What makes it worse is the way the problem is resolved; Simon’s so-called friends come up to him at a carnival and tell him they forgive him. They should’ve been apologizing to him, not forgiving him.
My final issue with the movie was the way they handled the reveal of Blue. Throughout the movie, Simon is pen pals with someone nicknamed Blue. They both like each other, but Blue isn’t ready to come out yet. After he’s outed, Simon tells Blue to meet him at the ferris wheel at the carnival, if he’s ready. They meet, they kiss, and it’s adorable. Except that it’s not because it’s in front of a crowd staring at them. This might just be me, but the whole thing rubbed me the wrong way. In my opinion, it just further pushed the stereotype that gay relationships are something to be gawked at. Just like with labelling Simon as ‘normal,’ except that he’s gay, this scenes pushes the narrative that gay people and relationships are something out of the norm and to be made into a spectacle.
Despite my issues with the movie, it is important to acknowledge its positive impact on not only the film industry but LGBTQ+ people as well. More and more movies and tv shows feature coming out scenes and LGBTQ+ people living their lives. The movie also helped many parents understand their children better, and made many people feel comfortable coming out to their parents and or friends.