To be honest with you all, I kind of rolled my eyes at the first trailer I saw for Love, Simon. Then I registered for two preview screenings & blew off both of them. But finally I took my tiny stone heart to see the first Thursday night screening, and Reader? It is adorbs.
Love, Simon is a romcom of the teen fantasy movie variety: the well-off white family with the house straight out of a magazine, the supportive parents, the cute friends, all that jazz, all very palatable. That’s the point; this is a gay movie that kids can see at the mall.
At! The mall! Not just at a queer film festival, not just at an art house in ten markets across the country, not just on Netflix, maybe eventually if they’re lucky, but at the mall! It doesn’t have death or violence or abuse; it’s not saddled with an R rating because the mere idea of two boys kissing gives the MPAA palpitations.
It’s just a fluffy teen movie you can see & then go get fries & milkshakes. A gay movie at the multiplex so if you have to you can tell your mom you’re seeing something else instead. It’s a sweet, funny, comfort food romcom, it was exactly what I needed this week, and I can’t imagine what it would have been like to have a movie like this as a teen.
I grew up in a household that collected brochures for conversion therapy & where my media intake was strictly controlled until I escaped to college. As a kid I knew that being gay was a thing, but I also knew that it was sad & sinful & you’d have to be alone for the rest of your life. I couldn’t help but think of that kid and all the kids like me as I watched this movie where the boys kiss & everyone cheers. It’s a fantasy, but what romcom isn’t?
There are some strong truths in it too. The reason Simon doesn’t want to come out isn’t because he fears not being accepted. It’s because he fears how it might change his lifelong relationships. And it made total sense to me that it was easier for him to come out to a new friend first. Some truths feel too big to share with people who’ve known you forever. They can’t always see – or at least you fear they can’t see – that you’re becoming more yourself. You think they’ll see you as someone different. But what happens if you hide the truth? Everyone gets hurt.
By the end, Love, Simon reminded me a little of my favorite romcom of last year: The Wedding Plan. In both movies, you don’t know who the dream boy is going to be until the end (though, really it’s more accurate to say the lead doesn’t know; the structure of both films make it clear who it is). One of the neat aspects of this is that as Simon considers different possibilities for Blue’s identity, so does the audience, so we get the gift of a film that allows us to imagine that multiple characters might be queer, a little choose-your-own-adventure of queer love (but again, where no one dies.) It’s a delight.
And sure, it’s the cis white guy story that came first. But the door has been opened in 2,400 theaters nationwide. Now everyone else can come out too.