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REVIEW- I read the source material for “Love, Simon,” a young adult novel by Becky Albertalli called “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda,” in one night. It tells the story of a high school junior in Georgia named Simon Spier. Simon has a big group of friends, a supporting family and participates in activities like theater after school. Simon’s major struggle is that he is gay, and has not told anyone yet. He kept his secret throughout high school, but when he starts emailing another closeted kid from his school, it suddenly becomes threatened. I fell in love with Simon, his friends and family. His world consumed me and I could not put the book down until I finished the last page. Naturally, I felt nervous that the movie would be unable to live up to the book. I knew how monumental it was, being the first movie with an LGBTQ protagonist backed by a major studio, but still I had my doubts that the movie would live up to the hype. My doubts started fading around ten minutes into the movie, and by the end I could easily declare that “Love, Simon” did, for the most part, live up to Albertalli’s work.
Despite omitting certain important plot points from the book, it still managed to become a great teen movie. “Love, Simon” broke the mold for modern high school movies. It dealt with the implications of the digital age without treating teens like zombies attached to their phones or acting like every high school in the nation had a token Instagram model in attendance. Simon’s high school seemed real, with extracurriculars and cliques, but without a Disney-style mean girl character. The story was a fun, lighthearted romance that remained free of any overly cheesy moments. It is arguably the best high school film out in a long time, and this fact holds great significance. Not only does it provide Generation Z with its own “Mean Girls” or “Clueless,” it provides LGBTQ youth with a movie meant for them. More movies in recent years have had LGBTQ protagonists, but these movies are mainly dramas about, and for, adult audiences. “Freakshow,” “Moonlight” and “Call Me By Your Name” are three recent releases that deal with LGBTQ youth. However, they are all from indie studios, and their plotlines, which lean toward tragic, are hardly lighthearted sleepover material.
While some have criticized “Love, Simon” for treating the subject of coming out too lightly, I would argue that this really is not a downfall of the film. Yes, some of Simon’s inner dialogue is lost in the medium transition from book to film, and through this we lose some of the more profound musings on what it means to identify as gay, it does not make the film any less revolutionary.
There are straight love stories from every genre, with all different endings. Heterosexual relationships in movies can range from purely physical to hopelessly romantic, from a fluff story to a tragedy. Gay love stories in movies are not as diverse. Previously, if LGBTQ teens wanted to watch a classic high school movie with a picture perfect ending, they would have to watch one that chronicled all the trials and tribulations of being straight and in high school. Now there is finally a movie for LGBTQ students. One that teenagers, whether they are out and proud or still coming to terms with their sexuality, can watch and relate to. LGBTQ youth can see themselves represented in media in a whole new way, not as a sidekick or as a victim of a doomed relationship, but as a protagonist. Simon Spier had many dimensions and interests, a complete character, who actually found love by the end credits. This fact is revolutionary in itself, and the fact that the movie is well written, directed and acted makes it a must-see.