Simon Vs. The Mainstream Agenda

Love, Simon is the film LGBT+ audiences have waited forever to see but what reaction can we expect from a mainstream audience?

Love, Simon (in cinemas April 6th) is based on Becky Albertalli’s debut novel, Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda. The film is directed by Riverdale director, Greg Berlanti and stays fairly true to its source material. Berlanti delivers a heartwarming, emotional romance; one that is well deserving of its current 92% score on Rotten Tomatoes. A score that makes it the highest rated LGBT+ film of the year.

The plot is one that feels right at home in its romcom/coming of age genre. Simon Speir (Nick Robinson of Jurassic World fame) is a teenager with a secret. When a post appears on the Creek Secrets website he discovers another student, “Blue,” shares the same secret. They’re both gay. Things escalate quickly when Simon emails back using the pseudonym Jacques and a romance begins to build.

The fun begins while trying to figure out who Blue really is from a cast of strong contenders. The script drops plenty of hints for those who pay close attention but it’s never too obvious. Meanwhile, Simon leaves his computer logged on in school and the emails to Blue are discovered. This situation leads to him being blackmailed by the school nerd who wants help getting close to Simon’s best friend. Desperate to keep his secret, Simon weaves a web of lies and deceit which threatens his friendships and forces him to come out to his friends and family.

Some have argued that Love, Simon is hardly groundbreaking and that we have plenty of LGBT+ romance films already. They argued that Simon is masculine, good-looking and from a very liberal family which is also true. However, that doesn’t make his journey any more easy or any more or less important than somebody who may be the complete opposite. None of this should matter because the fact is, the film exists in a world where it simply can. Love, Simon has been given a PG rating which sets it apart from most LGBT+ films. A PG rating means that it is a family film, aimed at everyone and so it should be.

There is no shame in being LGBT and in this age, it’s only right that we get the representation we deserve and that it is available to anyone and everyone. Becky Albertalli should be applauded for giving us the book (which you simply must read if you haven’t already.) Love, Simon is a wonderful gift to the LGBT+ community. It does away with the old stereotypes where every gay person has to be camp and flamboyant or the punchline of every joke. While there is some representation for those people too, with a nice twist (and rightly so) Love, Simon is about being yourself.

The harshest criticism for the film was perhaps when the Cineworld chain of cinemas held secret screenings across the UK for their Cineworld Unlimited members on Tuesday 13th March. The excitement of secret screenings is that nobody knows what the film is until the title card comes up and it could be anything due out within the next four weeks. There was bound to be disappointment for some when Love, Simon appeared on the screen especially with massive blockbusters like Tomb Raider, Ready Player One and Pacific Rim: Uprising coming out soon. Sadly, it sparked utterances of disgust and walk outs…but why?

If someone has an Unlimited card, it would be safe to assume they are a fan of cinema and would enjoy a variety of films. Maybe Romcoms aren’t for everyone though? Those who left silently and straight away, while easy to judge, maybe had innocent reasons. It was perhaps harder to ignore when the film actually started and around about the time the G word came up, more heterosexual couples and lone men began to trickle out of the screening in Newcastle. There was something deflating and hurtful about watching those people leave so boldly and defiantly.

Love, Simon represents so much to the LGBT+ community. The film is our first mainstream, widely publicised, for-all-ages romcom. We could have only dreamed of representation and validation like this, even as littler as a decade ago. Those people who tutted, sighed and caused a distraction while leaving destroyed that moment for us. Having those people ruin it was like inviting someone to a party and having them smash the cake. It was insulting and offensive.

Sadly, Twitter users reported scenes like this across the country. It was a relief, though, that the majority in Newcastle remained. The audience laughed and cheered along at the right moments and genuinely enjoyed it. Even though Love, Simon seemed to generate a mostly positive buzz, the nagging thought remained: Why did those people leave?

The answer should have been, sadly, obvious.

It was after the showing, when cinemagoers took to Twitter and the #CineworldSecretScreening hashtag that things became very clear. Some users of the social media claimed typical absurdities like: “This film is niche,” or “It speaks to a very narrow demographic,”

One went as far as to say that “This is a film you should choose to see.” Another cited that they “walked out after twenty minutes [because] it was s**t,”

Ironically, it’s roughly around the twenty minute mark that the romance begins. Suddenly the intent behind the walkouts became very clear. It was, in most cases blatant, undeniable homophobia disguised as disinterest. While the walkouts and tweets from trolls were hurtful, it was easy to laugh them off  (Classic cases of “The lady doth protest too much,”)

Later, the following comments of love and joy proved exactly why Love, Simon is an important and influential LGBT+ film. Twitter soon flooded with support from people of all backgrounds telling the world just how beautiful, heartwarming and thought-provoking it was.

Love, Simon stands as a monumental achievement in our fight for equality. It is important that we don’t let the sad few spoil it for us. We’re the bigger people and this film will help to educate and develop a sense of empathy in those those who see us as “different”…if they stick around long enough, at least.

Love, Simon opens across the country on April 6th. If you’re seeing the film this weekend let us know what you thought:

I'm Simon Sayers-Franklin and I've got something to say!
I'm a Twenty-Something-Year-Old Writer, actor, husband, Slytherin, Cat-Dad and Gaymer.

Review: The Grinning Man at Trafalgar Studios, London

RuPaul, Sashay for All