To quote a friend: “I’m gay so I’m contractually obligated to talk about Love, Simon.”
Even if that’s true, I want to talk about it anyway. For all the reasons you might expect and several you might not.
Allow me to take us back to June of 2016: when I first picked up the book entitled Simon Vs The Homosapien Agenda. (Which is an amazing title I’m still bitter they changed in the movie adaptation.) I’d heard good things about this book, I was supposed to be meeting the author at Geekycon in a few months time, so I bought, read, and loved it. You can read my review here.
I did not know when I read the book that it would be picked up by a major film studio like Fox. I read a lot of queer lit. A lot of it is cute and relatable and fun. None of them, so far, had been made into major motion pictures. Into blockbusters. The gays had been sidelined into Indie films and that was the world we lived in.
Then came the announcement: this book was going to be a movie.
I was happy! I liked the book, I trusted the author. I thought it would be a good movie.
I did not realize at the time the scale this movie was going to be released.
I saw promos for this movie. On TV. On commercial breaks on the CW and VH1 and even professional wrestling. There were billboards and posters and signs in Time Square. This was a movie. About gays. And you were going to know about it.
This was honestly groundbreaking to me. Sure, there had been Glee which had reached a certain amount of mainstream commercial success but this was a film. This was a romcom. This wasn’t a tragic Brokeback Mountain deal where they’re gay but it’s sad the whole time. This was a normal, teen, coming of age movie where the MAIN CHARACTER is GAY and GETS A HAPPY ENDING. In Hollywood?! Unheard of.
I’m being 100% serious here: there is a theme in Hollywood referred to as “Bury your gays.” Where you can have gay characters but they must be a) nuetered, meaning they’re not allowed to be Actively Gay on screen (Think Eleven from House or Dr. Wong on Law and Order: SVU) and/or b) get a tragic ending. Look at Tara in season 7 of Buffy The Vampire Slayer back in 2003. Or poor Poussey in season 4 of Orange is the New Black. Literally right when Poussey gets a girlfriend she gets fridged. Typical.
We don’t get silly movies. We don’t get campy teen comedies. We never have.
But now we do.
Love, Simon (I still hate that title) was not like the book. It strayed so far from the book’s original plot, I sat in the theater hands fully covering my face because I did not know what was going to happen next. And I’d read the book twice. So I guess I can forgive the title change if there were changing the source material so much.
Some of them were good changes (I liked the addition of Ethan who was another gay kid in school Simon could be platonic friends with) some of them were neutral changes (I don’t know why Nora needed the hobby of cooking but okay no big) and some of the changes made me legitimately angry (there was no reason to write out Simon’s big sister Alice and Simon’s friends should have been groveling after abandoning him like that.) But, changes or not, this movie did what it meant to. It told a teen gay love story in mainstream Hollywood. Which is insane.
Sitting in that theater, I got emotional. Not because of what was happening on the screen (I liked the book better, I’m sorry.) but because of the full theater’s reaction to what was happening on screen.
I see movies by myself a lot. I don’t mind it – you don’t really need someone to sit quietly in a dark room with, right? And I mostly see movies with mostly empty theaters, which I actually prefer because I don’t want people near me. But on Friday, March 16th, I went with my sister to a crowded theater to see Love, Simon and the gasps and shrieks and laughter and clapping in the theater – from my sister, sitting next to me – were so…
It’s one thing to know people are excited for the stories and narratives that you like. I obviously know people like the same kinds of stuff I do. I have friends and people on tumblr who are all roughly excited about the same things as me. But it’s different when you’re surrounded by strangers who all lose their entire minds when the big gay kiss happens before their very eyes.
I’ve been told a lot growing up, and even now, that I can be A Bit Much. I get very excited, very passionate, about the things I like. The things I care about. The narratives and characters and stories I see myself in. I have been told more than once to shut up and stop talking about this thing because no one cares or wants to listen to me. Seeing people react to this movie was like validation. People do care. People get excited about things I’m excited about too.
But more than that: it wasn’t just gay white boys in that audience. Hollywood has been telling us since the beginning of motion picture that if it doesn’t star a straight white man, people can’t relate to it. The backlash against Ghostbuster (2016) underscores that. Pushback against Get Out and Black Panther pushes the point further. We’ve always been taught to view the world through the lens of a straight white man, and if we don’t fit into that mold, try and fit yourself in, because you just can’t get general audience to relate to a not-straight, not-white, not-male protagonist.
Which is crap and has always been crap.
But this movie had audiences of all ages, genders, sexual orientations, skin colors, religions, whatever stoked out of their skulls when this gay white teenage boy got his happy ending. People were so happy to see the gay kid happy. And I teared up because that’s not a response gay kids usually get. That’s not an ending gay kids usually get.
And I’m thinking about all the gay children and preteens and teenagers who are going to grow up into this world with this mainstream piece of media as a shining light – as an example – of the story they can have. They don’t have to settle for a couple high-altitude f***s a year. They don’t have to lose their lover to a zombie or prison guard. They can get a kiss on the ferris wheel. They can have movies written for them.
Hayley Kiyoko, singer and queer icon, coined the moniker in a tweet on January first of this year.
— Hayley Kiyoko (@HayleyKiyoko) January 1, 2018
And you know what? It is. It really is.