Love, Simon & Being Closeted

Love, Simon is just like any other teen movie, except it has one huge ass plot point; the main character is gay. Truth be told, when I first saw the promotional material for Love, Simon (2018) I was a little bit skeptical. To me, it looked like a gay movie made for straight people. I haven’t completely abandoned that description, but I will admit that I connected with the movie a lot more than I expected to, and may have even shed a tear or two (hundred). This article explores my thoughts on how Love, Simon represents the experience of being closeted, and, be warned, I’ve outed some spoilers.

Source: IMDb

To me, Love, Simon is a gay story delicately packaged and slightly watered down in a way that straight people can enjoy. Personally, I am more of a fan of the campy teen media created by screenwriters like the openly gay George Northy, who wrote G.B.F. (2013) and the MTV series Faking It (2014-2016), or Brian Wayne Peterson, who wrote But I’m a Cheerleader (1999). Movies and shows like these are so obviously made for queer audiences first and foremost, while films like Love, Simon use the narrative of a kid who’s almost completely ‘normal’ to try and bring in a more mainstream (read: heterosexual) audience. Though, this is probably why Love, Simon had a budget of 17 million dollars while G.B.F. only had a budget of  $3.2 million.

 

Source: IMDb

This being said, I did notice that a lot of gay icons, such as Tyler Oakley, Billy Eichner, and Matt Bomer, were singing the praises of this film, with some even buying out theaters so kids in their hometowns could go see it. A lot of queer celebrities were saying that they wish they had a film like Love, Simon when they were in high school, so I decided to support my community and see what all the hype was about. Besides, spending money on Love, Simon might encourage Hollywood to make more (and better) gay movies.

 

Source: Twitter

As I was watching Love, Simon, I realized that, despite its flaws, there is something really genuine about the way it portrays being closeted, and I think that’s why it has resonated with so many queer people. This film is full of explanations of what being closeted feels like, and while a lot of them are just cliched statements we’ve heard a million times before, some of the descriptions ring true.

As someone who was closeted in high school, watching Simon (Nick Robinson) try and navigate the world as a muted version of himself was particularly harrowing. One of the most accurate descriptions of being closeted that I’ve heard actually comes from a Cards Against Humanity card,  “Calculating every mannerism so as not to suggest homosexuality,” and I think Love, Simon does a really good job of dramatizing how queer teens feel like they have to suppress themselves, and the toll this can take on their relationships and mental well-being. Love, Simon depicts little but meaningful moments of being closeted, like having to quietly sit through a family member’s homophobic joke, or the need to keep a safe distance from your crush in case they figure out your true feelings, while also delving into the underlying feelings of loneliness and despair.

 

Source: IMDb

Simon and I had the same plan. I was just trying to serve my time in high school until I could make it to university where I could be “super gay.” And like Simon, I didn’t really have a reason not to tell my friends. I went to an arts high school, so there were already a lot of “out” kids at my school, and I had a very supportive group of friends. This is why the scene when Simon’s best friend, Leah (Katherine Langford), asks why he came out to Abby (Alexandra Shipp) first particularly resonated with me. Simon explains that it is because he has known Leah for over a decade, but has only known Abby for a couple of months, and he didn’t want anything to change between them. The fear that your personal relationships will fall apart if you come out can be very overpowering. It is much harder for me to come out to people I have known for a long time as opposed to people I have just met. This is evidenced by the fact that I don’t hide my queerness at York, while I am still closeted to a lot of people in my hometown.

 

Source: IMDb

One of the reasons I became so emotionally entangled in Simon’s story, and why going back to my hometown can be difficult, is because I am basically living half in the closet and half out of the closet. When I am at school I get to be Third-Act Simon, but when I go home I revert to First-Act Simon. After Simon’s mom finds out that he is gay, she says that she could feel him holding his breath over the last couple of years. “You get to exhale now, Simon. You get to be more you than you have been in, in a very long time.” This is a great analogy of the coming out/being closeted dichotomy. Once I got to university, I did feel like I was finally able to exhale and be my true self. Everyday I learn more about myself and get to “be more me” than I ever was in high school. Unfortunately, the more I realize who I am, the harder it is for me to repress these traits when I go home. In spaces where I am closeted, I have to go back to holding my breath, which feels even worse when I know how good being out can feel. 

This feeling is particularly well articulated by Tumblr user ilysoo:

 

Source: Tumblr

I agree with Matt Rogers, one of the hosts of the Las Culturistas podcast, when he compares the relatability of Love, Simon to other gay films, “I felt seen by it. They get iced coffee from a drive-thru and I get that. I don’t fuck peaches and I certainly have never been to Italy. I thank this movie for speaking to me, the Basic Gay, and letting me picture myself kissing the cute boy on top of the Ferris wheel.” While I do have my issues with Love, Simon, I can say that gay films are rarely this universal or relevant, and I strongly connected with the underlying themes of the movie. In the end, I can agree with my gay icons, and say that I too wish that I had a movie like this when I was in high school.

Keep your eyes open for the second part of this article, coming out next week. Sam Goodyear, one of the Campus Correspondents at Her Campus York U, will be writing about Love, Simon with more of a focus on the experience of coming out.