Do you remember the time you came out as straight? When you stood in front of your parents and revealed that you loved the opposite sex? Probably not, right? This is a huge question posed in Fox’s new film, LOVE, SIMON.

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The film follows Simon Spier (Nick Robinson), a junior in high school with one major secret. He’s gay. And the only person who knows is Blue, his anonymous email pen-pal who is also gay. For most of the film, Simon explores what it means to like men with Blue. Everything seems to be fine until Simon forgets to log out of his email in the library. Enter Martin Addison, the drama club’s lead actor who is also in love with Simon’s best friend Abby. In exchange for keeping his secret, Martin blackmails Simon into helping him date Abby. But as you can expect, this doesn’t go well.

If the title sounds familiar, you might be thinking of the novel it’s adapted from, SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIEN AGENDA by Becky Albertalli. Fox 2000 picked up the title October 2015. A year later, Greg Berlanti (THE FLASH, ARROW) signed on as the director with the screenplay by Elizabeth Berger (THIS IS US, GRANDFATHERED) and Isaac Aptaker (THIS IS US, GRANDFATHERED).

Simon and the Homo Sapien Cast

LOVE, SIMON's Simon, Abby, Leah, and Nick
Simon and his three best friends | Image: Youtube

You probably recognize Nick Robinson from other teen flicks from the past few years. He’s starred in THE FIFTH WAVE, JURASSIC WORLD, and EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING. In fact, you’ll probably recognize a lot of the teenage cast. Katherine Lange (Leah) starred alongside Miles Heizer in Netflix’s 13 REASONS WHY.

Keiynan Lonsdale (Bram) is Wally West in THE FLASH; Alexandra Shipp (Abby) is Ororo Monroe in X-MEN: APOCALYPSE and X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX; and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. is 1/2 of Midtown High’s news team in SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING. These teens aren’t the only recognizable actors in LOVE, SIMON.

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Josh Duhamel and Jennifer Gardner star as Simon’s hip (their words) parents. Tony Hale (Mr. Worth) has been in CHUCK, ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, and VEEP. Lastly, Natasha Rothwell, who plays the badass, no-shits-given drama teacher, Ms. Albright, is best known for her role as Kelli in Issa Rae’s INSECURE.

Simon nor Nick Robinson are effeminate, a stereotypical expectation of gay men. Simon likes hoodies and loose jeans. He likes listening to indie music and drinking a lot of iced coffee. Nick Robinson does a phenomenal job as the titular character. He embodies your average, awkward teenage boy perfectly. His performance is thought-provoking and forces the audience to consider their own thoughts and biases towards homosexuality.

No Two People Gay the Same

When Leah tells Simon about the newest post on CreekSecrets, the anonymous blog used by Shady Creek High School students and he discovers that there is another closeted gay kid on his campus, his entire world shifts. Immediately, Simon creates a fake email address to contact this person. Blue is very different from Simon. Through a series of emails, he learns about Blue’s life: about his divorced parents, his love for good grammar, and little snippets of his very private life.

Another semi-important character in LOVE, SIMON is Ethan, Shady Creek’s only openly gay kid. Ethan has shoulder-length hair and dresses femininely. When Simon visualizes himself as being openly gay, he’s not too keen on mimicking this. Simon goes through an identity crisis after his secret is revealed. He cycles through tight-fitting shirts and pants. He thinks something along the lines of, “Well, now that everyone knows I’m gay, I might as well dress the part.” Ultimately, he settles back into his usual attire.

Simon looking at himself in the mirror wearing a tight shirt
Simon and his gay attire | Image: Youtube

This is important for one main reason. Being effeminate does not equal homosexuality, a stereotype that is particularly damaging. Young, effeminate boys are often called derogatory names. While there are a lot of men who feel more comfortable appearing more feminine, not everyone is in this boat. Simon’s choice to be himself reads like an open invitation to do the same. Simon isn’t “fem,” he isn’t “masc;” he’s just Simon.

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Coming Out on Your Own Terms

One of the most pivotable moments in the film is when Martin tells the entire school that Simon is gay. When the two finally meet again in the parking lot of their high school, Martin tries to apologize. Simon blows up immediately, shouting, “I’m supposed to be the one who decides when, and where, and who knows! That’s supposed to be my thing!”

Coming out is obviously a huge part of LOVE, SIMON and not something that a lot of characters understand right away. Simon’s friends don’t immediately consider how important coming out is to him when they learn of Martin’s blackmail.  Instead, they’re angry at the fact that he’d “sold them out” and put his own feelings over their own.

This, of course, isn’t at all fair. Simon, as with a lot of non-heterosexual folks, believes that coming out is the one thing that they have control over, especially when this is something heterosexual people don’t have to do.

Simon and Cal kiss under a mistletoe
Simon and the boy he thinks is Blue | Image: Youtube

This scene reminds me of an interview I read with MOONLIGHT director, Barry Jenkins, on his Oscar win last year. LA LA LAND had mistakenly won Best Picture. Jenkins recalled the moment with The Hollywood Reporter. “And for two minutes, we lost. And in those two minutes, I was still self-satisfied because I knew I’m going to go off and do these things, you know? … But it’s bittersweet because when that switch happened, I didn’t enjoy it.”

I’m sure Jenkins’ words resonate with a lot of people who came out before they were ready. To have this moment taken away is devastating. But not everyone knows what this feels like. This scene makes the audience realize that something important has been stolen from Simon.

The Importance of a Strong Support System

LOVE, SIMON operates in an ideal world: Simon’s family accepts him unquestionably, his best friends love him unconditionally, and his teachers punish bullies properly. Not everyone is so lucky. But for Simon’s story, these people are really important. Simon isolates himself when people find out he’s gay. He shuts himself in his room for the entirety of Christmas break. When his friends and Blue turn their noses on him, he feels lonelier than ever.

But what ultimately makes Simon bounce back and find his confidence is his family. They are very tight-knit, to begin with. When Simon comes out to his parents, they’re initially speechless. Not because they don’t approve, but because they have only known their son as this one person. They don’t know this Simon.

It’s like they’re meeting him for the first time. In a later scene, Simon sits down with his mom and asks if she knew he was gay. In response, she says almost apologetically, “These last years, it’s almost like I can feel you holding your breath.” Most queer people can relate to this feeling, myself included. This scene, as well as the one-on-one with his father, made the entire theater tear up.

Simon sits on the couch with his sister, Nora, and their parents
Simon and his loving family | Image: 20th Century Fox

Simon’s friends don’t return until they witness two jocks harassing him in the school cafeteria. When they do, they admit their fault and are steadfast until the end. It’s these people that keep Simon going until the big reveal at the end of the movie. Having a strong support system is really important for anyone, not just Simon. These people will always have your back. In LOVE, SIMON, these characters are the backbone of the entire narrative.

Without them, Simon would probably be in a very different headspace.

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Adapting a Best-Selling Novel

I purchased SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIEN AGENDA as soon as I got home and devoured it in a single night. I’m usually not one to compare books and their adaptations since they’re never the same anyway. But I found this one to be super interesting. The book starts when Marty first approaches Simon about the emails, dropping readers right into the story. The book also extends past where the movie ends, but I’ll get more into that later.

LOVE, SIMON tones down a lot of the characters while improving the ones that matter. For those of you who have read the novel, Leah is nowhere near as angry all the time; Marty becomes a bigger part of the overall story; Alice was admittedly kept out of the movie, but Nora is more involved in film-Simon’s life to make up the difference. The book does offer more in terms of character development, but not so much to make the film feel incomplete or unfinished.

One of the biggest let-downs in terms of adapting this novel is the fact that we don’t get to see Blue and Simon’s relationship blossom. While the movie does give off a sense of completion, seeing Blue and Simon’s relationship in the weeks after the big reveal is beautiful. I would have loved to see this relationship on-screen, which hasn’t exactly happened in Hollywood films. Sure, there a quite a few gay characters out there, but for young, queer, teenage audiences who might not know what a healthy queer relationship looks like, this film could have done so much more.

Love, Simon

Simon wonders if the Waffle House waiter is Blue
Simon and the Waffle House waiter | Image: Youtube

Overall — and this is one of those strange cases — I think I liked the movie more than the book. LOVE, SIMON was a more engaging tale with heightened urgency to really let the audience understand how important Blue and coming out is to Simon. The film offered poignant humor that did not distract from the real issues at hand.

I whole-heartedly believe that LOVE, SIMON is a must-watch movie of 2018. Berlanti has created, in my opinion, one of the best pieces of LGBTQA+ cinema. The movie is a light-hearted, thought-provoking drama that reaches beyond social lines to remind audiences that at the end of the day, we’re all human.

We all feel emotions like happiness, pain, and anger. And we all deserve to be the person we want to be.

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LOVE, SIMON comes out March 16th!

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