I’ll be the first person to admit that I’m far too stubborn about certain things. I’ve discussed it before and I’m sure it will come up again. When it comes to certain topics, I’m sticking to my guns regardless. One of those things is YA fiction. I’ve had such terrible experiences when reading YA fiction that I now avoid it at all costs. I’m not going to say that it’s bad but it’s not for me. And it’s not just books. Whenever I see another adaptation of a Young Adult novel, I just roll my eyes and ignore it.I rarely give them a chance because I just assume it won’t appeal to me. Although, I’m also someone who is something of a glutton for punishment. I’ve given plenty of YA fiction a chance. That’s the reason I’ve been disappointed so often. So, why not films? I decided to give one a chance as it really was the best companion for Dating Amber this week.
Love, Simon is the adaptation of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. It’s a book that I, obviously, haven’t read because it’s a YA book. It tells the story of a high school student that is doing everything he can to keep his sexuality a secret. Simon has been hiding the fact that he’s gay for a few years but an anonymous post from a fellow student inspires him. When the mysterious Blue posts online about how it feels to be gay at their school, Simon reaches out to him. The pair begin emailing and start getting closer. It all seems to be going very well. At least until a fellow student threatens to expose Simon’s secret. Is Simon really willing to betray his closest friends in order to protect his identity?
It’s sad thing to say in 2020 but Love, Simon was something kind of revolutionary when it was released. There have been gay love stories on film before but this was for a teen audience. A Hollywood film championing a gay teens coming-out story and quest for love is definitely something to be celebrated. However, I had always been wary of this film. Not only were the stakes too high but I was worried that it would be another tired teen movie. Turns out, I can be wrong occasionally. Love, Simon is a sweet and sensitive film that handles the story really well.
Although, I won’t pretend that I don’t have issues with it. For one thing, it does that classic teen movie thing of portraying that brand of hipster teen that doesn’t quite feel realistic. They are meant to be on the outskirts of their school society yet they are all effortlessly cool, beautiful, and happy. This is the kind of unbelievable world where everyone is living great lives and the problems are few. I realise the point of the book and film is to present a positive coming-out story but this is a book that ignores a very real and very dangerous aspect of modern life. Gay people don’t always have such a strong support system. Love, Simon feels like a fantasy at times.
I’m not saying that it needed to be brutally honest but the treatment of Simon and the only other out kid in his class feels pretty tame. There is one major incident and a couple of stupid comments and that’s it. We know that so many gay teenagers are facing such horrible treatments by the classmates, their family and society in general. The idealised world of Love, Simon feels incredibly naive at times. After all, it’s so vanilla and young. This is a gay romantic-comedy for a 12A audience. It’s sweet, chaste, and uncomplicated. At times, it feels as though we’re one step away from a Jane Austen novel.
Still, it is an incredibly clever, charming and sweet film. It handles the subject matter in a sensitive way and there is never any judgement on either side. Simon explains why he is so afraid to come out in a way that many teens will resonate with and his eventually decision to tell his family will inspire many. What this film is aiming to do, and does pretty well at achieving, is to show that Simon’s life and love is ordinary. That there really is no difference between him and his heterosexual friends. As frustratingly perfect as the reality may be, it is necessary to showcase this idea. Simon comes out and his world doesn’t end. His parents still love him, his friends still care, and his schoolmates celebrate his love. It might be a little trite but, God, is it effective.