In this column, I discuss "Love, Simon" and it's potential social impact:
People are talking about “Love, Simon” as a twist on the fantasy teen romance genre because it has a gay protagonist, but that’s more of an incidental detail than a real twist. The real twist on the fantasy teen romance genre is that “Love, Simon” has a positive message for society.
The genre has a variety of culprits. It’s got movies like “Grease,” reinforcing oppressive norms of patriarchy and female objectification. It’s got movies like “Say Anything,” perpetuating the myth that broad, consent-defying gestures are cute instead of actually super creepy. It’s got movies like “High School Musical,” contributing to romanticized notions that love should be simple and lead to an easy “happily ever after.”
But “Love, Simon” is a love story that has some very clever — and unambiguously squeaky-clean, morally and ethically — messages built directly into the experience. It even has a nice critique of the broad, romantic gesture thing.
It also crackles with romance in ways that I found recognizable from my own reality.
Before becoming a favorite recurring character in this very column, my wife Katie and I actually met via social media, so when the film shows Simon (Nick Robinson) making early contact via anonymous email with the boy he’s falling in love with, it vividly brought to my mind the specific kind of romantic elation I felt when I first started communicating with Katie in private messages. The “whoosh” sound of a digital note being sent off may as well have been the sound of my own fluttering heart — and the movie beautifully captures that exact feeling.
Simon and the boy he’s crushing on are anonymous to each other because they are both still in the closet about their sexual identities. Simon goes by Jacques. The other boy goes by Blue. They go to the same school, which means Simon sees half the student population as potential candidates for the true Blue.