There was no shortage of big-name LGBTQ movies in 2018. However, no gay film got heterosexual people more excited to see two men kissing each other than “Love, Simon.”
One could really spend a good seven hours picking apart and dissecting the various flaws in the Greg Berlanti film. Besides the fact that Simon has virtually no character traits other than being gay and delves into all the stereotypes associated with coming out (including a cringey Google search on “how to dress like a gay guy”), the worst part about this movie is how Simon, from the very beginning, tries to appease all of the straight people in his life and how they treat him in response.
When I saw this movie for the first time, I asked my partner his thoughts on it.
“It’s a good gay movie for straight people,” he said, a statement that perfectly sums up everything wrong with the story.
Ultimately, “Love, Simon” falls into the same trap “Alex Strangelove” and other millennial coming-out movies often land in — gay characters can be happy with who they are only after the straight people in their life have given approval first. (Spoilers ahead)
For what seems like the whole film, Simon is trying desperately to not ruin the relationships in his life, which is understandable. As an LGBTQ person, there’s always a fear that coming out will cause everyone in your life to turn against you. It is a visceral and very real fear.
When a blackmailer reveals to the school that Simon is gay and that he has lied to his friends multiple times in order to keep his secret under wraps, how do his friends react to the news? Well, they completely leave him in his time of need, only concerned with the fact that he lied to them out of fear and almost offended that he felt scared coming out to them (which, by the way, is one of worst reactions you can have to someone coming out).
This situation is resolved by all of Simon’s terrible friends forgiving him, meanwhile offering no apologies for abandoning him during one of the most trying times in his life, when he needed friends the most. The movie ends with a disappointedly meek kiss between Simon and the boy he has a crush on, as a sea of straight people applaud in response, one giant nod of approval.
Simon starts off the movie by telling the audience what a normal and typical life he has, which makes it even sadder how far he will go to preserve this “normal” life he craves so dearly. He can be gay as long it doesn’t affect anybody else’s life — as long as he doesn’t shove it down their throats.
This raises the question. What does a good representation of gay people in film look like? Look no further than Andrew Haigh’s 2011 masterpiece “Weekend.”
While there are more diverse movies that depict queer people of color and transgender people as well, “Weekend” does what “Love, Simon” tries so hard to achieve but fails — show gay people in their normal everyday lives.
The two main characters, Russell and Glen, meet one Friday night in Nottingham, England and hit it off. It is then revealed that Glen is leaving for the United States on Sunday, and the two have to reconcile their feelings for each other with the situation at hand. During this tense and romantic journey, the viewer gets a feel for Russell’s daily life as he moves around a fiercely heterosexual world, while largely hiding his identity.
The strongest attribute of “Weekend” is that it’s not a coming-out story. The characters do not dive into a sea of cliches, wondering if being gay means they have to love 1980s pop and Sunday brunch. In fact, the characters more often rebuke these cliches as something not even worth discussing.
Living as an LGBTQ person is less about watching RuPaul’s Drag Race and more about not being able to hold your partner’s hand in public, remaining silent as straight people talk about their sexual exploits and shaking in fear as you come out to your friends and family. “Weekend” explores all of these themes and more.
This is where I should step in and say that “Love, Simon” is not a completely terrible movie. It does have its quality moments. However, it spends so much effort trying to convince gay people that straight people love them that it goes from accepting to patronizing.
“Love, Simon” and “Weekend” may be completely different types of movies, but the former commits the heinous act of forgetting who it is for, and in doing so serves nobody at all.
Kyle Land is the editor in chief of the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kyleoftheland.