Max and I had another mate night tonight, heading out to see teen flick Love, Simon. I’ll admit that after our recent Ladybird sex scene challenge , there may have been some slight trepidation about seeing a movie about a gay teen coming out during high school with my 13-year-old son. Us mums do love an awkward moment, don’t we?
But here’s the thing: Love, Simon isn’t really a movie about a gay teen coming out during high school at all. I mean, it is most definitely that, but it’s so much more as well. Like so many teen flicks before it, this is a story about friendship, finding yourself and learning to fit in while you stand out. The difference is that it’s told from a guy’s perspective and that makes it very refreshing indeed. Nick Robinson is perfect as Simon – he’s unassuming, uncomfortable, but all kinds of cool at the same time.
How often do we see a film where the way boys feel is central to the plot? When it’s cool for a guy to be different and not your average meathead. Where a guy is prepared to go large and embarrass himself to win the girls. Where boys and girls have equal friendships and it’s the guy who is playing matchmaker (even if he’s making the wrong kind of matches). When a macho-male culture is held up for scrutiny and found to be offensive and downright lacking.
It’s also not a particularly awkward movie at all. I mean, there are a few kisses here and there and references to sex from time to time, but that sort of thing is weird to watch with your mother regardless of the genders of the kids involved. What I liked about the sexual references was that they were all totally natural, non-schmaltzy and believable. Every sex reference had a reason, every kiss had a moment.
I heard that celebrities like Kristin Bell bought out cinemas to give tickets to Love, Simon away for free. I can understand it – you watch this film and you want to get its non-stereotypical, non-judgmental, non-gender-specific message out there. Because while Love, Simon is a film about many things, it’s mostly a film about being a gay kid in a not-very-gay school. It doesn’t shy away from any of that and the film is careful to remind us that of course ‘being gay’ looks different for everyone. Being a gay person doesn’t make you any other kind of person. It just makes you gay.
Things Max and I talked about after (and, yes, during – ugh) Love, Simon:
1. Whether the movie felt true-to-life – what would the reaction be at Max’s high school if a kid came out? (Answer: Der Mum, kids have already come out and it’s only the dickheads who can’t handle it.)
2. Who the gay love letter writer might be and who we wanted it to be (Because this film is just as much a detective mystery as it is a love story.)
3. Whether Simon’s parents reacted the way most parents would react (Answer: You would react exactly like the mum with an embarrassingly emotional “talk”, and Dad… he’d probably react exactly like the mum too, guffaw!)
4. Whether the school vice-principal needed to be certified or whether he was doing a really good job. (Answer: Probably both.)
5. What the true meaning of friendship is and whether Simon’s friends defined that. (Answer: You can’t always react in a way that makes a friend feel supported, sometimes you’ve got to take care of yourself first.)
6. What it might be like to be gay and not tell anyone. (Answer: Scary. Confusing. Maybe kind of nice sometimes to have a secret. Or an excuse.)
7. Why Simon needed to tell anyone anyway. (Answer: You just gotta.)
You can see that this film opens up some deep conversation with teens, which is why I say that Love, Simon is a film all parents should see with their kids. And it’s definitely a film that all boys should see because they just don’t make these kinds of films featuring boys very often. I hope this film means that changes quickly.
Love, Simon is out now in cinemas across Australia. Catch it on the big screen so you can have a mate night with the kids!