Love, Simon and What Should Come Next
This is a guest post written by Tina Kakadelis.
In the name of full disclosure, I wrote a much different essay before I saw Love, Simon. Now, after sitting in a theatre last Saturday night with tears streaming down my face, I knew I had to write something different. As much as I wanted this movie to be something it didn’t end up being, I am so happy it exists in the world.
Minor spoilers ahead.
Love, Simon tells the story of Simon Spier, a well-liked high school senior with a loving family at home and one huge-ass secret (his words). He’s gay. He’s pretty content keeping things quiet and hidden away because he doesn’t want his perfectly constructed world to crumble around him. When an anonymous student named Blue posts on the school’s Creek Secrets Tumblr page and says no one knows he’s gay, it hits Simon like a freight train.
Simon feels like he has to reach out to Blue, so he sends an email. One email turns into another turns into Blue being the only thing Simon can think about. He tries to figure out who Blue is, but his search is cut short by Martin.
Martin has a crush on Simon’s friend Abby. Martin also logged into a school computer just after Simon and saw all Simon’s email conversations with Blue. He threatens to expose Simon’s secret if Simon doesn’t help Martin get a date with Abby. It then becomes this blackmailing situation that pushes Simon to his breaking point.
This story was so close to everything I wanted a teenage gay rom-com to be. I mean, Simon’s perpetual doe-eyed, pining stare beautifully captured his youthful longing. His love interest, Bram, was the perfect choice to have Simon fall in love with because he’s just so charming, even though he doesn’t say much. And post-Presidency Barack Obama is the best Halloween costume I have ever seen.
Bleachers songs just sound like they were written to be in teen romantic comedies, and the entire movie built up to a moment that centered around a Ferris wheel. It was 2018’s way less problematic Notebook-dangling-from-a-Ferris-wheel moment. It even had a small dance number set to Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me).
Here’s why the movie lost me a little. The central focus was still on coming out.
I don’t ever want to say coming out stories are irrelevant. That’s so far from the truth. Everyone who has come out will tell you how absolutely vital that moment is because, for the first time, the thoughts and feelings that have swirled around in their head and made them feel alone are the thoughts and feelings that connect them to an entire community. I could not live the life I have if it wasn’t for Ellen DeGeneres telling her coming out story. So, yeah, coming out stories are important.
I just wish that for once the story had moved past the coming out. This burden and critique don’t fall entirely on Love, Simon. They’re also on But I’m a Cheerleader, Brokeback Mountain, Imagine Me & You, The Way He Looks, G.B.F., 4th Man Out…I could go on forever.
At the end of the day, choosing to focus queer narratives on this one moment leaves a huge, gaping hole, especially for young, just coming out LGBT people. You reach a point of acceptance where you want to see yourself or someone like you being a part of a story that has nothing to do with their sexuality. I grew up watching 90s teen comedies, and all I ever wanted was to see a lesbian retelling of She’s All That. I wanted to watch something where a lesbian wasn’t seen as different. I wanted to see there’s nothing different or wrong about being gay.
Instead, even today, I have to watch a fictional version of myself go through tremendous heartbreak that usually ends in death. Over and over again.
What does that say to young LGBT people? That the only part of our lives worth focusing on is our sexuality? That we don’t exist outside that? That our coming out is the only story we have to tell? Why don’t we get to see a future where we get to be with the person we have a crush on? Where we just live a normal life?
There’s a lot to be said about teen rom-coms and their place in pop culture, and I think they’re very important. It’s nice to be able to turn on a movie like that and know that no matter the obstacles, no matter the hurdles or the troubles or the strife, those two people in the movie WILL be together. Damn the odds, the consequences, the miles, the everything. They’ll make it. It’s nice to know that. Believing in happy endings makes the world a little brighter.
I also think there’s a lot to be said about never getting to see yourself with that happy ending.
So I hope Love, Simon continues to push the door open. My theatre was pretty decently packed for a late showing on St. Patrick’s Day, and the entire audience erupted in cheers when Simon finally got to kiss the boy he liked. I hope we’ll see more happy love stories about lesbians and non-binary people and all queer people and all people of color and race and ability and nationality and age and just everybody. I hope everybody gets their Hollywood blockbuster moment.
Simon’s right. He deserves a great love story. We all do. I can’t wait to watch every single one of them.