A look into how the film Love, Simon has revolutionized the portrayal of LGBTQ+ people in the media and the positive representation that has resulted in the film industry.
Why is straight the default?” asks 17 year-old Simon Spier. In the film Love, Simon, Simon Spier, an average teenage boy who is stuck in the closet has to confront his sexuality. It is an adaptation of the Becky Albertalli novel, Simon vs. The Homo Sapien Agenda, which was published in 2015.
According to The New York Times, it is 20th Century Fox’s first feature length film to headline a gay character as the featured role. The release of this movie was anticipated both in the U.S. and the U.K., already taking in approximately $54.69 million in box office revenue internationally since its release on April 6, making it the 20th highest grossing film of 2018, as of May 2.
The lack of representation in the media prior to the release of Love, Simon hindered Denise’s* (’21) ability to come to terms with her sexuality, something she found challenging. “I think it was really hard because I didn’t see it [in the media], so I didn’t realize [being bisexual] was a possibility, or that it was normal,” she said.
For Denise, who is not out to the ASL community, believes that the representation of LGBTQ+ characters in movies and TV is necessary in order for them to feel accepted in society. She believes that for those who don’t see themselves fitting into the norm, it’s hard to envision a future where they can thrive.
Denise believes that when people see their own representation in the media, whether it be through sexuality, ethnic background, or socioeconomic status, it makes them more confident in themselves. “If 8-year-old me saw a movie with two guys who fall in love, it would help me a lot because it would have made me realize [being gay] is not abnormal, people are happy,” she said.
Counselor Stephanie Oliver predicts that the release of the movie will promote the production of more LGBTQ+–centered movies. “One of the reasons that Hollywood always shows the same kind of people, the same kinds of couples, straight, white, very attractive people, is because they’re afraid [to lose money],” Oliver said.
Oliver believes that if the reception of the movie is successful, Hollywood will see it as an opportunity to make profit, and continue to produce LGBTQ+ content.
Similarly, Martyn Loukes, founder of Transport for London’s #RideWithPride campaign believes that Love, Simon is a step towards LGBTQ+ inclusivity. “This is very much a mainstream movie aimed at families and young people. Its release was timed to coincide with the [British] school holiday, which is really positive,” he said.
Loukes also explained that the representation of gay people in media is stereotypical: thin, white, and flamboyant. By having the movie display Simon’s love interest as someone with an ethnic and religious background, Loukes thinks such representation will help the media break from the current vision of gay people.
When director Greg Berlanti chose roles for the principal characters, he chose Nick Robinson as Simon, knowing he was straight. Despite his sexuality, Berlanti felt like Robinson was perfect for the role, and persuaded him to take it.
According to an interview from MetroWeekly, Berlanti describes his reasoning for the casting choice, saying that although Robinson identifies as straight, “we still can create our own closet in our heads.” Due to Robinson’s appearance in other films, Berlanti also felt like this would be an advantage to the Simon character. “I have a deep respect for him that at his young age he’s so focused and dedicated, in terms of how he portrays a role, and the kind of energy he puts into that portrayal.” Berlanti said in an interview.
However, Olivia Benjamin-McDonald (’21) was disappointed to find out there were fewLGBTQ+ cast members. “You can’t just get someone to play something when they’re not actually, because then the representation wouldn’t be 100 percent [accurate],” Benjamin-MacDonald said.
However, Denise thinks that the actors’ sexualities should not affect their role in a movie, “It’s important to see [LGBTQ+ actors], but I don’t think it’s crucial. If this actor is going to be best for the part, and portray the character, then they should be cast,” Denise said.
As a result of the outpour of support for the LGBTQ+ community through the production of the film, Keiynan Lonsdale, who played Bram, came out as LGBTQ+ during the filming process.
“Even though this is a Hollywood film, the more types of people we see, the more of a picture of real life it is too,” Oliver said. After all, “everyone deserves a great love story.”
To read on Love, Simon and the impact it has had, see Staff Writer Sara Short’s article
Written by Izzy Harris