I don’t remember if I’ve ever been nervous to watch a movie before… extremely excited, but not nervous. As I processed it a little more, perhaps anxious is a more appropriate word than nervous, but I definitely had something odd going on in my mind as I mentally prepared myself to watch Love, Simon last night.
This anxiety came from a combination of three different things: I previously read the book and really enjoyed it, so I was anxious the movie wouldn’t be a good adaptation; I was anxious that I wouldn’t get to sit in my preferred seat while watching it; and I was mentally preparing myself for a cathartic movie experience similar to when I saw The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
I bought the book, Simon vs. The Homosapiens Agenda, several months ago when I first heard about this movie. As is my habit, I bought the book and added it to the number of other unread books on my bookshelf. I finally started reading it around two weeks ago in preparation of seeing the movie. I had some trouble getting into it at first because of the way it was written. It’s written in a way that really feels as if it’s Simon’s journal, his inner rantings and ramblings, and narrating his everyday life in his head. I think the reason it took me a little more time to get into it is because I’m surrounded by teenage ranting and rambling everyday as a teacher and the last thing I want to deal with when I get home is more teenage ranting and rambling. But after I adjusted to it, I really got into it and read through the majority of the book within two days.
I debated in my head after school yesterday if I wanted to see the movie last night, or wait at least another week so the theater wouldn’t be as crowded. I couldn’t deter my excitement and desire to see it, so I decided I would go last night. Because I hate being late to movies, I mentally planned out my evening and the times I would leave in order to get to the theater with plenty of time to spare. I left about 4:30, ate dinner in Athens, and pulled into the parking lot of the theater at 6:10; the movie didn’t start until 7:20. While I didn’t expect a line out the door like some movie releases, I was worried there would be some people in front of me and they would sit in my favorite spot of the theater: the middle of the back row of the front section of seats. Depending on the movie, I occasionally move to the middle of the front row of the back section. If it’s more of an action movie with a lot of fast paced scenes, the extra distance between these two rows is crucial.
When I arrived at 6:10, there were maybe 20 other cars in the parking lot, and some of those cars were leaving. Despite the limited number of people, I was still anxious I wouldn’t get my seat. I curbed my enthusiasm and sat in my car until 6:25 before I gave into temptation to go inside. I bought my ticket and sat down in my seat at 6:30. I was the only person in the theater. I don’t mind seeing movies by myself so sitting alone in a dark movie theater is sometimes a common occurrence for me. Especially after a long week at work, there is something very relaxing and satisfying about sitting in an empty, quiet movie theater. I was alone in the theater until 6:53, and it was awesome.
While mentally preparing to watch the movie earlier in the week, I felt tears already starting to well up in my eyes on two different occasions. Like I said earlier, I was expecting an experience similar to when I watched The Perks of Being a Wallflower where I not only cried several times throughout the movie, but I was bawling my eyes out as the credits started to roll. As it turns out, my face didn’t turn into a waterfall, but I still really enjoyed the movie for a lot of reasons. If you haven’t seen it yet, you may want to stop reading now… here is your spoiler alert.
Similar to probably most, if not all, of the out adults who have seen or will see this movie, I identified with Simon in some way. Obviously, the fear of coming out is something we all can identify with. I first came out to one of my best friends while driving in my car much like how Simon tells Abby. I have spent time in and out of my actual closet and in front of my mirror trying on clothes that give the hint that I’m gay without being “too gay.” I don’t remember if I ever specifically Googled “How to dress like a gay guy” like Simon does, but I was definitely more conscious of how I dressed depending on where I was going… like when I specifically planned to wear a light turquoise v-neck t-shirt when I went to a gay bar for my birthday or when I wore a vest and bow-tie to the first day of school this year.
Among some of my other favorite moments were the conversation between Simon and his mother after he came out, and the scene when Simon’s dad suggests they sign up for Grindr together, not understanding that Grindr isn’t just Facebook for gay guys. But perhaps my favorite and most important moment in the movie is when Simon confronts Martin for outing him. I cried when I read this part in the book and I cried last night in the theater.
Like Simon says to Martin, deciding to who come out to and when to do it is supposed to be his thing. As terrifying as it can be, coming out is a very special process for us. Finally having enough self-acceptance and confidence to let someone know your innermost secret after denying it and hiding it for years, not knowing how they will react, is an extremely important time in every LGBT+ person’s life. Even when the reaction is an “Okay, so what?” kind of thing, I can’t imagine having that choice ripped away from me at that time in my life.
I would say a lot of LGBT+ people can look back at that time in their life and fondly remember when they were finally able to exhale and just be their true, authentic selves without any hesitation. Even though we can still recall the fear and pain of holding in this secret, and we are still faced with having to come out to new people sometimes on a daily basis, we now know we have an awesome community of LGBT+ brothers, sisters, and allies to fall back on when we need them. Granted, if you faced negative reactions to your coming out, you may have a different experience. Thankfully, I didn’t have that experience and my coming out process is something I can look back on with gratitude and relief. Maybe this kind of coming out experience is only more common now because of the ground work others have laid. I sincerely don’t take it for granted and I hope my peers and future generations don’t as well.
While I enjoyed the movie, I had a few criticisms that aren’t necessarily specific to Love, Simon, but book-to-movie adaptations in general. There were a few moments in the movie that felt rushed in order to tell the story within the time constraints of the movie. As I read the book, I imagined certain moments taking place at a different pace; there were a few more beats and moments of silence as characters processed what they’ve just heard someone say, one specific example being when Simon came out to his family. There also are some moments that were more intimate and special in the book, like when Simon finally learns that Bram is Blue. I know books by nature allow this more intimate experience, but I really wanted that experience in the movie too.
Regardless of any these small issues, Love, Simon is a much-needed and very important movie for representation of gay teens and what the coming out process can be like. Hopefully Love, Simon, as well movies like Call Me By Your Name, helps fuel the fire of acceptance that’s already going and helps serve as a catalyst for more mainstream movies of representation, inclusiveness, and diversity where it’s not being used as any kind of schtick or obligation. We all may not experience the exact same things, but we’re all human, we are all deserving of love and acceptance, and we all have stories to tell.