The teenage experience has been documented through overly fantasized movies for decades, from West Side Story to Clueless to Mean Girls. For prepubescent students, these movies stand in as gospel; the films write a set of guidelines that ensure popularity, true love, and a killer hair flip. These films have unprecedented amounts of influence, but often writers aren’t telling the whole story.
As we continue through the 21st century, LGBTQ+ characters are becoming more and more prominent. Still, the majority of films either feature gay characters in supporting roles, like Damian “the gay best friend” from Mean Girls, or are very mature films with extremely oversexualised plots, like Blue is the Warmest Color or The L Word.
The movie Love, Simon has finally given the world a gay love story that follows the classic John Hughes rom-com/teen drama script, but does not live in an unrealistic realm where being gay is a breeze. Based off the book of Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, the film follows Simon Spier, a closeted male high school senior in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia. This setting enables the characters to tackle real issues such as sexuality and race while still being a sweet coming of age story.
If you haven’t seen the movie, here is my fair warning that there are EXTREME spoilers ahead.
The opening scene begins with one of the most classically privileged high school moments: getting your first car. Simon goes through this montage of generic parts of his life, meant to prove just how willing he is to conform to the norm, and then ends with paradoxically checking out of a fit male landscaper across the street. Here, in first person narration, he admits his big secret—he’s gay. He continues this truthful tone in the next scene with “Rollercoaster” by the Bleachers. The song creates a screen image that shows Simon completely content, driving with his friends, who he feels as if he is lying to. The lyrics allude to the fact that there is something else, begging the viewer to “Come a little closer” because there is more story to tell. These lyrics also hint at the fact that he wants to reveal his secrets to these friends he holds so dear.
While he wants truth, he is also enthralled at the idea of a relationship, even if it has to be secret. The movie allows readers to see Simon agonize over a short introductory email to the boy he knows as Blue. Nick Robinson, who plays Simon, amazingly portrays a teenager’s nervous anticipation when approaching a relationship. His performance displays honest emotion, an excited stress that a young person feels in their chest on the fringes of something bigger. The scene is not “gay,” it’s a wonderful mix of self-doubt and hope—it’s human.
Simon’s coming out scene has a lot of buildup. The family’s reaction is fine; his dad immediately tries to use humor as a crutch insuring an awkward moment. The lack of dramatics is where the importance lies. This is one of the first American films where the coming out scene isn’t scarring to every closeted viewer. People can see that having these conversations don’t have to end in being kicked out or beat up. This will hopefully create a tone that can continue to create room for more conversations about sexuality.
While book and movie have different ways of ending, both have climaxes at the carnival. Simon sends out a message asking Blue to come and meet him after closing night of his musical. The movie amps up the viewer, placing Simon on a Ferris wheel, waiting for his knight in shining t-shirt. And boy does he wait. A post about their possible meeting had excited the populous of Simon’s high school. With a crowd having gathered to watch the spectacle, Blue arrives. While walking towards a giant crowd wouldn’t want to make this writer come out and profess her love all in one swoop, he does it, walks right up to Simon. In the book there is no crowd, so this artistic choice serves to really show that it was never a one sided relationship, but two guys learning who they were as individuals and together. The film ends as it began: four best friends in a car, only this time with the addition of Blue in the passenger seat. They all ride off into the surrounding suburbia.
This story is so successful because of its relatability. Every teen is trying to find out who they are, and who they want to be, and being gay makes it extra challenging. Simon Spier is a multifaceted character who has so many sides to him—friend, big brother, Elliot Smith fanatic. He refuses to be seen as only one part of himself. This creates a human character who readers and viewers can fall in love with, just as Blue does.