Love, Simon is the Love Story Gay Kids Deserve to See Onscreen

“Everyone deserves a great love story.”

This tagline manages to succinctly explain just what’s great about the new movie Love, Simon. Who exactly does our culture believe deserves a great love story? What love stories deserve to be on screen?

Gay love stories do not get attention or recognition, especially from straight audiences. It’s still a huge struggle to make a large-budget, Hollywood-standard movie that even features a gay character, let alone focuses explicitly on a gay person’s experience. Love, Simon is certainly the first “gay romcom” I’ve ever seen.

And yes, it’s absolutely a romcom - the movie has its cheesiness, its little jokes, its emphasis on love and friendship, but that doesn’t mean that Love, Simon oversimplifies a gay person’s story. Simon Spier’s story is, in fact, one of the only gay stories I’ve seen in mainstream Hollywood that actually focuses on the multiplicities of gay identity, even in its cheesy romcom setting.

Here’s an obligatory spoiler warning for the rest of the article for anyone who hasn’t the movie or likes being surprised.

Nick Robinson is absolutely stellar as Simon. The rest of the actors all carry their own weight even if they’re underutilized at some points, but Robinson always steals the stage. And why shouldn’t he? This is Simon Spier’s story, not anyone else’s.

All too often, gay characters are relegated to the sidelines, but in this movie, we’re experiencing Simon’s life right along with him. Every annoyed face he makes, every silent breakdown he has in his bedroom, every twitch of his eyebrows, the constant barrage of low-level anxiety that he’s feeling at all times because he’s always scared that someone is going to figure it out - we’re there with him through all of it.

Greg Berlanti, the director, really takes you on this journey with Simon whether you can relate to his experience or not. I could always tell what Simon was thinking because I have also experienced being closeted in high school. This story lets straight people in on a reality that they’ll never have to face.

One thing that works exceptionally well in the storytelling is the difference between being outed versus coming out. When Simon is outed by a vindictive classmate, it destroys him. He’s terrified. Because when he’s outed, he isn’t in control of his own story anymore. Coming out was supposed to be something that he did on his own terms, and that was taken away from him in a brutal fashion.

 

His friends, though not angry at him for being gay, are angry at what he did to hide it from them. He experiences homophobic bullying at school. He distances himself from his family. It’s painful to watch.

The movie both remembers that it’s a romcom and also that Simon can still have a say in his coming out. He can make his own decisions and can give himself the final word and tell his own story. A story that shows that even if there is pain inherent in the gay experience, there is also healing. His reconciliations with his parents and friends are beautiful and cathartic, especially for those of us who have never had those moments. The movie simultaneously realizes the pain and the joy that comes from being out.

Everything changes when Simon is out, which is terrifying to him. Because even when you know that you’ll still be loved and supported, no one is ever going to look at you the same way. Simon experiences the initial pain in his outing, but then realizes that even though everything has changed, it’s better now - because he is no longer carrying that weight.

 

 

In the end, this is a high school romantic comedy. Of course there’s going to be a kiss on top of a ferris wheel and everyone is going to cheer and it's going to be very cheesy. But what other movie has ever let two boys kiss on top of a ferris wheel? What other movie greets two boys kissing with cheers?

If there is anything that Love, Simon succeeds at, it’s combating the notion that to be gay is to be dead. That’s how most movies with gay characters go - relegated to the sidelines or brutally killed before the credits roll.

LGBTQ high school and middle school kids watching this movie today can see that that’s not all the world has for them. Even though it’s painful to change, some things stay the same and a lot of things get better. They’re allowed to live. They’re allowed to be happy.

And all of you straight people out there wondering but what about me? need to realize that a movie does not need to be for you for it to be good. This is a movie for people who have been told that all their lives that they don’t deserve a great love story finally getting to see one play out on the big screen.

You can sit, enjoy your popcorn, laugh at the appropriate times, and I really hope you enjoy the movie. But make no mistake - this is not a movie made for you. This is a movie for the closeted high school kids who don’t know if they’re going to be okay someday. And Love, Simon tells them that yes, it’s possible, you can be. You can be okay.