Did I need to see Love, Simon by myself in a theater full of teenage girls to get the full, authentic experience? Probably not, but I think there was some hidden meaning in why this was the way I ended up watching the film. There’s something about me sobbing while watching this movie in my lonesome, knowing that a lot of people in the space we shared don’t know what I’ve been through, that mimicked the way Simon felt in the movie. The metaphor stretched even further, as I didn’t know exactly who else in the theater had been through an experience of being gay in high school, further exemplifying this feeling “loneliness.” The teenage Jeff that still exists within my consciousness, where the loneliness ached the most, needed a movie like this in his life, and I know that’s why I sobbed openly in a theater full of strangers.
Love, Simon follows the story of Simon Spier, who’s been hiding his fairly new realization about being gay from all of his close friends and family. Through a social blogging site for students at the school, he discovers another closeted gay guy, who he starts emailing about being gay, while also developing feelings for him. He then becomes blackmailed by a peer named Martin, a fellow thespian who finds his emails, saying that he won’t reveal Simon’s identity to the whole school as long as Simon helps him get together with his friend, Abby. In order to keep his secret safe, he manipulates his friends’ love lives so that Martin can get what he wants, and so that Simon can keep his identity from being revealed.
Love, Simon seems like your typical teenage rom-com about a high-schooler who’s not quite ready to come out yet, but it offers so much more. While the story focuses on Simon’s experience with learning about his sexuality through emailing another closeted high schooler, there are layers upon layers of social commentary about being a gay person in the modern day.
The most fascinating aspect of it to me was that Simon felt he had no big reason to be afraid to come out, yet the idea of it petrified him. His mom is a hardcore liberal who attends rallies to destroy the patriarchy, his friends are all in theater and have open-minded views, and he witnesses an out gay kid at school continue to have friends (granted, he still gets bullied, but seems to handle it in a confident, healthy manner). Yet, despite how well he can see that his life could go, he just couldn’t do it, because the idea that he has to have some big coming out felt ridiculous. The fact that him merely saying “I’m gay” for the first time being so daunting compared to what straight people have to go through felt unfair, and part of him didn’t want to have to give in to that. Simply the idea of straight being the default for society was enough to feel scared to come out.
It touched on many other profound issues that I felt needed to be featured. The conversations that Simon has separately with both his mom and dad after coming out reflect such a tenderness that parents should be treating their children with after they come out. His mom noted that she felt like he was “holding his breath” for a long time, despite him being so carefree in his childhood, showing how aware she was of what may have been going on with Simon. His dad lamented all of the times he made tone-deaf jokes at Simon’s expense, without knowing he could have been offended, showing that he felt like he should have always considered the possibility that his own child could be gay, rather than just assuming they will be straight.
I think the film also approached Simon’s conflict with his friends in such a human way, because though I feel like he should have been absolved from manipulating his friends after they found out he was being blackmailed, him being gay wasn’t so much of a spectacle that it excused him from messing with their lives. While it’s definitely more mature to forgive him immediately, it implicitly spoke to how accepting they were of Simon’s sexuality to feel like him coming out to them would have been better than manipulating them so that they don’t find out. While it borders the line of insinuating Simon should have come out to his friends earlier than he wanted to, I think that particular conflict spoke to how his friends would have reacted if he had just come out to them instead of manipulating their lives.
I’m so grateful to be able to see a movie like Love, Simon finally arrive on the big screen. Jeff from ten years ago could have used a movie like this, and it’s nice to know that the gay youth of today can now look to a movie like this, and finally see stories like their own reflected in mainstream media. They need to be able to see that not everything is fire and brimstone outside of the closet. They need to be able to see parents, friends, and people the run into on a day-to-day basis recognizing and accepting their sexual orientation for what it is. They need to be able to see characters like Simon live happy lives as an out and proud member of the LGBT+ community. Representation like this is so important, and I think this movie is a beautiful, and powerful testament to just what kind of an impact a story like Simon’s can have.
Have you seen Love, Simon yet? If not, get to a theater right this very moment and SEE THIS MOVIE. It’s too important of a movie to skip out on, so I don’t want to hear your “but I don’t like teenage rom-coms” nonsense.
But if you have seen the movie, what did you think? Let’s talk about it in the comments!