If Love, Simon came out when I was a teenager, it would have changed my life. I love Love, Simon. Today, this movie still very much inspires me. It’s the first movie where I can truly see myself on the screen. I might even argue that they took my story, and simply modernized it. Now, my mom wasn’t exactly Jennifer Garner, but that’s another story. If you haven’t watched it, check out the trailer immediately (and go to your local theatre now). And now, Simon says, tell your story. Ah, okay. Dim lights!
Let me start this short, but important flashback by coming out about the riskiest thing I ever did as a teenager: I waxed my armpits. Once. And it was brutally painful. Anyways, that should bring to mind a pretty conservative farm kid with a bad 90’s haircut, parted in the middle.
So Monday nights at 10pm EST in 2000 was a very scary but very freeing time for 17 year old me. I would sneak into the living room, after everyone had went to bed, and turn on Showcase. I’d keep the volume low as to not wake anyone: Not that I was too concerned about waking someone up (I was a teenager after all!), but more so, I was terrified about getting caught watching Queer as Folk. Yes, there was nudity, and some bad words. But this was the first explicitly gay show on TV (Mondays at 10pm is a sign of the times). What if someone thought I could be gay? What if they told me I couldn’t’ watch it? I don’t think I watched one moment in peace, gripping the remote and changing the channel anytime I heard a creak. But seeing this show was liberating. It was identifying. It was so hot. Although small town me was living a life completely different from the big city characters, they were me. And I was them. I was not alone Mondays at 10pm.
This was also at the time when my version of “Blue” came into my life. A friend in our group had recently broken up with his girlfriend by saying “I’m less like Pacey, and more like Jack” (Dawson’s Creek baby! 20 years strong! We really did talk like this!). He wasn’t out to many but he came out to us. Most of my friends were open and welcoming, with a fair bit of intrigue. From our standpoint, he was the first gay kid in the history of Norwood. For me, I was… what’s the word, like 1983 times more than intrigued? Yep. That was me. So old school style, I wrote him a
n email letter: “How do you know that you’re gay?” began a letter exchange once a day for a long while, secretly exchanged before the bell or during class. The nerves and anticipation that came with each letter ignited me as I had a space to connect and explore what was going on inside of me. These letters helped enormously with my coming to terms with myself, and eventual coming out. They also lead to a crazy 5 year relationship. I still have those letters. In real life, for the first time, I wasn’t alone.
Flash forward to March 16, 2018. Hollywood brings us our first mainstream gay rom-com: Love, Simon. No more sneaking TV at 10pm. Derrick, along with my 71 year old friend, catch the matinee on opening weekend. Since Queer as Folk, we’ve had Will and Grace, Brokeback, Moonlight, Riverdale. So yes, gay visibility has made huge leaps over the past 18 years. Usually, we’re still confined to the role of gay best friend, the tragic independent love story, or the completely secondary storyline, often for humor.
Love, Simon is the first film focused solely on a gay teenager coming to terms with his sexuality and exploring that with the world. It’s light and fuzzy, charming and wonderful. It’s both laugh out loud, and sob in your seat. It’s got a great soundtrack. It’s the perfect call out to Ferris, the Breakfast Club, and all the teen films of the 80’s. Ultimately, I believe it’s relatable to anyone, gay or not. The baby chef sister, the friends, the parents, all of them, and all of us: we’re just as lost, aren’t we? And really, that teacher says what we’ve all been thinking for years. But most of all: it’s a love story.
The highlight of the movie experience is right near the end (sort of spoiler, but pinky swear, no real details). It’s the inevitable boy on boy kiss. I know it’s coming, and I subconsciously clutch Derrick’s hand a little harder, as a fall out of the movie zone, and back into the real life packed Philadelphia cinema. I’m waiting for the groans, or the silence as everyone holds their breath; the reactions I normally hear when a gay couple does anything a straight couple has been scaring me with for years ;). Instead, the theatre erupts in clapping, and cheers. And the movie moment is so sweet. I can feel Derrick crying beside me, as a few happy tears rollercoaster down my face. I love you Simon!
As we walk home, like always, we debrief the movie. The only difference this time is we are sharing this with our friend Marian. She looks at us and says “I really liked it. But you know what, that’s just not how people act. Black and white kids hanging out like that. And the parents, being so accepting. Everyone getting along like that. That’s just not realistic.”
I paused, and pondered: Why not?
The reality is that she’s right. Not for everyone, but for enough. Too many. I’m floored much too often seeing the colour divide with people, and views. Just look at American, and Ontario politics. Many still can’t see the bigger-than-me picture; that we get further by celebrating each other, and by being accountable for our failures and lessons. We rely too much on blame, and fear. I grew up in a conservative, fearful sort of experience, so even now, if I ever show affection in public, I can’t help but have one eye open. The reality is, that opening weekend of Love, Simon likely attracted a rather open minded and excited crowd. I’m waiting for the day when a movie like Love Simon isn’t categorized as ‘queer cinema’; just a movie, like every other movie. Yet the reality is that we finally have a movie like this that people are going to see. And for today, I will take that, with much love.
To be really straight (bahaha!) with you, with every dollar this movie makes, it increases the likelihood that another movie like this will come out. So do yourself a favor, and be inspired: watch Love, Simon. And hey, if you’ve went already, want to go again with me?! And if you need a little more inspiration, do it for me and all of the gay kids who would have done anything to see a movie like this.
Love, Me (& Simon)
PS: I’m still waiting for my gay super hero movie :).
What movies have changed you?
More of a reader? Definitely check out the source material: Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda.
Song of the Day: Not Your Typical Love Song (The Bleachers)