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“Love, Simon” Rethinks Romance Genre

GROWING+UP%3A+Nick+Robinson+stars+as+Simon+Spier+%28far+right%29+who+faces+the+typical+pressures+of%0Ahigh+school%2C+along+with+the+added+stress+of+keeping+his+sexuality+a+secret.
GROWING UP: Nick Robinson stars as Simon Spier (far right) who faces the typical pressures of
high school, along with the added stress of keeping his sexuality a secret.

GROWING UP: Nick Robinson stars as Simon Spier (far right) who faces the typical pressures of high school, along with the added stress of keeping his sexuality a secret.

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

GROWING UP: Nick Robinson stars as Simon Spier (far right) who faces the typical pressures of high school, along with the added stress of keeping his sexuality a secret.

Tara Tabibi, Contributor

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I can name a dozen teen flicks with a dozen plot elements in common with Greg Berlanti’s “Love, Simon.” Based on Becky Albertalli’s teen fiction novel, “Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda,” the film “Love, Simon” follows the self-proclaimed “just-like-you” Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) as he struggles to balance school, friends, family and love—except there’s just one small twist: Simon happens to be gay.

In terms of plot, “Love, Simon” leaves something to be desired; nearly every cliché you can think of in terms of a high school romantic comedy makes its way into this movie. Extremely nice high school with kids wandering around like it’s 1980 (how much property tax do I have to pay to go to that school)? Check. Throwing a party filled with underage drinking and sex (do parents actually leave town or is that a myth)? Check. Drama department intent on putting on a stellar show with a not-sostellar cast? Check. Annoying vice principal with a penchant for cellphones and a tendency to get a little too far up your business? Check (these people really exist). Blackmail as a socially acceptable means to get what you want? Check (have we really learned nothing from “Gossip Girl?”). A declaration of love as the entire school looks on in admiration? Check, check and check.

Watching “Love, Simon” was a spur of the moment decision for me. It was also my first time going to the movies since junior year of high school. But spring break was coming to an end when I realized I had spent it either staring at books or watching “Say Yes to the Dress” marathons in a near vegetative state, and I knew I needed something new. That’s why (after paying $10 for the ticket and another $10 for popcorn and drinks), I was surprised to find that “Love, Simon” sold out on its opening night in my fairly conservative hometown.

The theater I watched “Love, Simon” in happened to be nearly empty on that particular Friday night. Except for the small group of teenagers sitting behind us and the older man two seats away, my friend and I were the only ones in attendance. The movie starts out as innocently as any teen flick, with Simon picking up each of his friends for school. The plot thickens when, after exchanging several
emails with a mystery pen pal, Simon accidentally leaves his emails open only for Martin (Logan Miller) to accidentally find Simon’s secret. Martin proceeds to blackmail Simon in exchange for keeping his pen pal (and sexuality) a secret. In one particular sequence,

Simon, cursing at the injustice of it all, wonders why people need to “come out” as gay. “Why is straight the assumption?” he laments, as the sequence shows Simon’s heterosexual friends informing their distraught parents of being heterosexual. “Love, Simon” sticks out for the same reason it blends in. I can name a dozen films with plots nearly identical to “Love, Simon,” but not one of those films treats gay characters as more than a token, comic relief or at best a sidekick with a valley-girl tone to his voice. Simon’s character parallels many of the same characters we’ve seen before. From Lindsay Lohan’s Cady Heron to (the lesser known but equally iconic) Mandy Gilbert in “Picture This,” Simon faces—and eventually overcomes—the same perils of our favorite teen flick characters. Although “Simon” can hardly be considered Oscar bait, it is important in its own right.

Regardless of where you stand on the Kinsey Scale, you can empathize with Simon’s character because you’ve seen a version of him in a different movie. Besides, who wouldn’t love the romance in “Love, Simon”? (I swooned).

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“Love, Simon” Rethinks Romance Genre