12 July 2018

Having A Gay Old Time

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I think I was about sixteen when my Mum worked out that I was gay. According to her, the thing that gave me away was the fact that I had a huge picture of a man on my bedroom wall and that I'd spent the last week banging on about another one that I liked. As a result I obviously never had to make the decision to come out as gay to her which would have probably been a huge relief if it wasn't for one small thing.. I'm not fucking gay. The poster on my wall was of Raiders Of The Lost Ark featuring Harrison Ford and the man I was banging on about was Bill Murray having just discovered the films of Wes Anderson. I mean even if I was gay I'd like to think that I'd fancy at least one person below the age of fucking sixty. Love, Simon begins with the main character of Simon informing us that he has a “big ass secret”. “Do you have a big ass secret?” I asked my friend who I'm fully aware is sensitive about the fact that he has a big ass. In the case of Simon, his secret is that he's actually gay but being in his final year of school, he is yet to come out to anybody. My friend took offence because he thought I was making fun of his fat arse which is unfair because really I was simply implying that I think he's gay too.

In the film we see that Simon goes to a school in which all of the students obsess over a website that documents the gossip of all their classmates. I mean I'm pretty sure we all have that website.. it's called Facebook and usually the people at the centre of the gossip are the ones updating it themselves in a mad desire to exchange their dignity for 'likes'. Here however everything is anonymous, with a student one day deciding to announce that he's gay and including a contact email whilst still being able to hide his identity. Seeing somebody going through the same anxieties as he is, Simon decides to use a false name to message this person with the two boys finding comfort in their mutual secret. 'So far, so sweet' I hear you say, except that if this film was realistic then I'm telling you as a fact that they'd get to, maybe, the second email before bombarding each other with dick pics. Not because they're gay, but because they're fucking teenagers. As the two confide more and more in each other, Simon becomes a little obsessed with finding out who the other person is by testing his gaydar around school like a member of the X-Men that's only just discovered their power. Sadly, Simon makes the rookie mistake of leaving himself logged into his emails in school which gives a pain-in-the-balls fellow student Martin some material to blackmail him with.

In many ways I'd say that the way in which Simon deals with Martin's blackmailing is somewhat unrealistic. In real life, a student under that much pressure would no doubt solve the problem by turning up to school the next day with a Kalashnikov and an erection to mow everybody down to avoid humiliation. However Simon pretty much just plays along with Martin's plan for as long as he can. This is ignoring the obvious option of asking for help from the friendly Buster Bluth-esque Vice Principal who is brilliantly played by that bloke who actually did play Buster Bluth in Arrested Development. And it's also ignoring the fact that the Simon could easily kick the shit out of Martin if he needed to get blackmail material back from him and I'm pretty sure that nobody would mind because of how much of an absolute cock Martin is. Simon shouldn't be worried that it'll leak out that he's gay but rather that he's easily manipulated and a little on the gullible side. Not that any of this matters really. The entire film rests on how likeable Simon is which he definitely is, even if he is pretty shit at thinking things through. Played by Nick Robinson, the key thing about him is that he's just a normal guy. He doesn't mince about in drag, he doesn't grow a handlebar moustache, and at no point does he describe his mood as “fabulous, darling!”.

Although even if the film has avoided turning its central gay character into a stereotype, I'd say that Love, Simon is completely cliched in almost every other respect. In terms of your average teen rom-com, this film ticks almost every box, which may ironically be it's greatest strength. Breakout films about being gay have recently included the masterpieces Call Me By Your Name and Moonlight, which Love, Simon isn't even close to being in the same league as. But it shouldn't just be the job of indie movies or art house cinema to tell the experience of being gay. Sexuality isn't a choice and I hate the idea of somebody feeling that they're not able to be themselves for fear of being compared to Quentin Crisp or Kenneth Williams. The world is over populated as it is and so any time that somebody picks gay sex over the chance to procreate then in my opinion they're really just saving the planet with one bumming at a time. As such, it's long over-due that a mainstream movie came about which features a gay character as its lead before conforming to the same old shit that a straight teen rom-com would. If you want to normalise something then I think that making a film that doesn't need to be sought out, that treats the issue as an every day thing, and that appeals to people other than those affected, is the only way to do it.

Love, Simon is absolutely the cinematic equivalent of comfort food, but by throwing some rainbow coloured food dye into the recipe it's the kind of comfort food that we all need from time to time. Does the film have likeable characters? Yes. Does it have funny moments? Yes. Does it have a happy ending that'll put a little spring in your step as you leave the movie? Yes. In any other circumstance I'd slag the movie off for how fucking contrived and unrealistic its ending is. Not to spoil anything but things don't conclude with Simon arranging a blind-date style hook-up with his online confidant, only to discover it was a forty-five year old truck driver all along. But I'll let it get away with it simply because it offers hope to a group that have previously only been marginalised, ignored, or treated as a joke. Which isn't to say that the film only works for gay people by the way. As long as you have the capacity for human empathy then this is a film that'll go down well with a big bowl of ice-cream and a side order of loneliness. It's a feel good movie and as such is the cinematic equivalent of a friend but without the needs and fucking demands that you get from actual human companionship.

Love, Simon is essentially a modern day John Hughes movie but better because John Hughes movies were shit. And fuck you to anybody who disagrees with me on that too because I'll actually fight you over it. Ferris Bueller's Day Off is pretty good assuming the main character is meant to be a fucking psychopath and The Breakfast Club can actually go kick itself in the balls. I mean what the fuck is the message of that movie? One of the kids is in detention because he'd considered suicide with the joke of the scene being that he was going to blow his head off with a flare gun. What the actual fuck? No wonder kids are more depressed than ever when movies are teaching them that their mental health is a joke that they should be punished for. Thank God John Hughes never got his hands on The Virgin Suicides in case he included a fucking laughter track on it. By contrast, Love, Simon does have a more positive message that, although you might not be defined by your sexuality, that doesn't also mean that you should have to hide it. Taken for what it is, the film is nothing special. But for a studio movie that's aiming itself at as broad an audience as possible, I think that it's brilliant. Just don't tell my Mum I liked it because I got enough grief for just liking Indiana fucking Jones. Thanks for reading and see you next time, motherfuckers.

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