Questioning the Default
by Hailey Hart-Thompson
Photography courtesy of LoveSimonTickets.com
Love, Simon revels in its teenage simplicity for a happy ending. Since the 1980s surge of teen cinema, from middle school to high school, teens have been treated with the idea of the shy guy getting the pretty girl and running off together. This fairytale-feeling gifted to most teenagers has now been gifted to young LGBT teens.
Across Boston University’s campus, many now out-and-proud college students wished something like this was available while they were struggling to come out of the closet. Without any spoilers, Love, Simon is the same archetype as any enjoyably bad rom-com, but the shy guy just happens to end up with another shy guy.
Not only is Love, Simon a movie that champions for young LGBT people, but it also has themes and stories that are relevant to any teenager. The film deftly forms drama quintessential for any friend group, where unsaid feelings build secrets and late-night conversations reveal them. Memories from car rides in your first crappy car, sneaking home after parties and falling in love with just a glance.
There was not a dry eye in the theatre when Simon and his mother discussed his coming out. She claimed that he had been so free his entire childhood, but in his teenage years, he had been so on edge, as if expecting for something to go wrong. This is a very real fear for young LGBT people. Acceptance is not a wide spread as we claim it to be. Suburbs, such as those depicted in Love, Simon, are often filled with silent people who, at face value, support human rights.
However, when the word “gay” is said in their neighborhood, this outward support is quelled. Simon’s fear is valid and often normal for many, as nobody wants to feel like their love is valued less than those around them.
The movie itself is no Oscar winner, but the charm is in the lack of its artistic focus. As most rom-coms, sets are simple and commonly appear exactly as they would in a real suburban environment. The writing itself is sweet, purposeful and realistic. All of the actors are great and speak with conviction, as if this is their story to tell as well. The characters are diverse, interesting people who each carry different burdens that enlighten us to their motivations without making audiences translate metaphors and symbols. Simon’s own double-life is centered around messages he receives and later sends to this other boy he is affectionate for, who is nicknamed “Blue” and is also a closeted gay. We follow Simon as he suspects who “Blue” is and tries to do everything in his power not to be outed. Much to his dismay, he must toy with his friends’ emotions in order to keep his sexuality a secret and to keep falling in love with the boy on the other end of the emails.
Love, Simon adequately depicts the wistfulness of falling in love with anyone who is kind to you and hoping that they don’t end up being straight. This is an aspect expressly unique to LGBT culture that closeted and “out” people alike both experience. Being LGBT in a community that only has a few people who are out can be isolating and horrifying, as you are essentially alone in your quest to fall in love and make mistakes early in life. As the movie questioned, “it doesn’t seem fair that only gay people have to come out, why is straight the default?”
The movie then mocks coming out as it has a string of straight people admit to their parents that they are in fact heterosexual. We would never expect something like this because we have normalized heterosexual as default. In high school, guessing who’s gay or talking about who’s come out is always popular gossip. Rather than having the protagonist Simon challenge that idea in his physical space, the audience is introduced into the life of your average teenage LGBT person. However, this time, we are given a happy ending that is often not allowed to LGBT people in artistic cinema.
The cheesy, wholesome nature of the teen-targeted rom-com allows for LGBT teenagers to experience the giddiness many felt when watching The Notebook or 10 Things I Hate About You. Love, Simon has called on Hollywood to recognize that there are so many people who desire a love story, and that so many of these stories are left untold.