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Call Me By Your Name and The Stereotypes About Gay Men

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Coastal Carolina chapter.

Call Me by Your Name (2017) takes place in 1983 Italy and gained a lot of traction with its two frontrunners being Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet. It was based on the book by the same name by André Aciman (it is worth noting that he is a straight man) published in early 2007. It claims to be a passionate and fiery summer romance between two men, but it fails to challenge stereotypes the gay community faces. The main love interest, Oliver is 24 years old and working for our protagonist’s (Elio’s) father which is how the two meet. However, Elio is only 17 years old. This film brands itself as a pure whirlwind romance but it is predatory and problematic. Oliver knows what he is doing is wrong, and makes that fact known repeatedly, yet he continues to pursue Elio. Oliver is a doctoral student who’s working as an intern for Elio’s father, so he is highly educated which adds to his appeal. They also physically seem to represent the stereotypes of gay men. One is thinner and lankier (stereotypical ‘twink’) while the other is more wide-framed and muscular (stereotypical ‘bear’). Oliver is clearly Elio’s superior, and the sex scenes make that even more evident as Oliver teaches Elio about his body and sexual exploration. Their relationship alone sends shivers down my spine, but one of the worst parts is at the film’s end. Oliver leaves Elio behind entirely and goes on to marry a woman while Elio is still reeling a decade later. 

Elio is used as Oliver’s final experimental fling before he settles into the ideal heteronormative relationship and Elio is left to deal with the trauma Oliver gave him. Not only does this movie perpetuate harmful stereotypes that label the gay community as predators, but it also perpetuates abuse culture in general. Directors seem to have a fascination with making older men fall for and pursue relationships with younger characters (male or female) and this movie is no different. It is not a cute love story between two men. It is an older man using his status to prey on a minor (granted the Italian age of consent is 14, but legality does not equal morality and most people can agree that 17 and 24 is not a minuscule age gap) and then leaving him behind and having no repercussions to his actions. It has been acclaimed for years and every time it gets added to different streaming services (it is currently on Netflix), it garners more love and fame. 

I watched this movie for the first time with my mom as we were searching for more good queer representation in movies and loved Love, Simon (I have issues with that film as well, seriously why was Simon villainized by his friends and no one saw a problem with it). What we found was gross over-sexualization and intense grooming. All my friends loved it and bought merch for it, and I know I would’ve done the same thing a few years prior. But as a child of the internet, I grew up critical of media, especially queer media, as an openly queer person since high school. The perpetuation of the LGBTQIA+ community as villains and predators is something that desperately needs to end. I’m tired of always having to be the one to point out the flaws in clearly problematic films and narratives and Call Me by Your Name is just one of the most popular examples. 

Avery Griffin

Coastal Carolina '23

Avery is a senior Marine Science major, with an English minor. She is a queer woman interested in social justice, reading (or increasing her TBR), coffee, tea, and exploring nature and whatever else Myrtle Beach can offer. Her writings mostly consist of book reviews and some culture.