Everyone likes a love story, but for queer folk, we are often discluded from portrayals of love altogether.
We are forced to watch the same romance, heterosexuals falling in love on screen, on repeat. Vicariously living through stories of heterosexaulity, queer people have to imagine their own love narrative within this normative plot line.
There is hope though — the gay agenda is making progress — as a couple of films this year portray queer characters and queer romance. Still, these films usually tell just the story of the white, gay male, but any queer representation is a step, however small, towards progress.
“Love, Simon” makes a step towards progress for queer folk, as the film provides partial representation for the LGBTQ+ community by illustrating the love story of a closeted gay kid.
The film attempts to normalize gay identity by depicting the struggles of coming out and finding love as a gay high schooler within the plot structure of an archetypal American coming-of-age film. It provides a digestible plot line and cinematic idealization of family and romance, which presents gay identity as normal within this typically heterosexual narrative.
For example, “I’m Gay”.
Queer folk often agonize over the moment when we tell our parents. Everything has to be planned perfectly, with a back up plan if things don’t go well.
How we are going to say it? Where? One parent at a time?
We want to come out and have the process be easy, but it never is, so we at least make sure we choose the best time possible.
For Simon, he chooses the worst time possible: Christmas, while opening presents with his family.
This is intentional.
Christmas is an evocative holiday of childhood, tradition and family. Additionally, Christmas films often are centered on romance. Drawing from classics like, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” they reiterate the same heterosexual narrative of family and finding love.
When Simon comes out on Christmas, the film almost reclaims American love stories for gay identity, but it is his parents acceptance of his sexuality which works to normalize queerness within the context of American film.
In an emotional scene where Simon’s mom expresses her acceptance of her son, something which is too often an object of fiction for many queer folk, she says, “You get to exhale now, Simon. You get to be more you than you have been in… in a very long time. You deserve everything you want.”
Contrasting the normativity of Simon’s family, as they represent an ideal vision of American family, with Simon’s ‘abnormal,’ closeted gayness is initially subversive. When Simon does come out he is faced with acceptance; the film places gay identity within the context of family, tradition and even Christmas and says, “That’s okay, that’s normal.”
“Love, Simon” replaces a role which is typically reserved for heterosexual men with a closeted, teenage boy. The plot is basic, just another teenage rom-com, but with a gay kid the film is sort of revolutionary.
It gives queer people a movie we can watch and imagine ourselves in.
Likewise, the film provides a normalization of queerness, made palatable by cinematic glamour, which straight folk can watch and accept.
Queer kids, and even queer adults, struggle to come out to their families as their gender and sexual orientations are seen as controversial, but “Love, Simon” provides a platform to discuss identity.
We can see ourselves in “Love, Simon” and begin to accept queerness as normative because truly, everyone loves a love story.