You get to exhale now.

Anchored on the queer theory, this critical film analysis aims to explore the applicability of the queer theory on the film “Love, Simon”. In this critical film analysis, some terms or jargons will be defined to avoid confusion. For the purpose of this critical film analysis, “heteronormativity” shall be defined as a worldview that heterosexuality is the normal or the standard sexual orientation; “queer” shall be defined as anything that does not conform with socially constructed standards; “power dynamics” shall be defined as the preexisting inequalities on sexuality, i.e., the higher privileges possessed by heterosexuals in juxtaposition with the privileges of the non-heterosexuals; “oppression” shall be defined as the disadvantages faced by the minority group due to nonconformity with social constructs. This analysis aims to probe on the queerness of the film. The film’s narrative discusses the challenges of heteronormativity that consequently result to a disparity between privileges, and eventually lead to oppression. 

The storyline of this film is about a high school student Simon Spier, a closeted gay who lives a “normal life” like any other high schooler. The plot revolves around Simon’s love interest that developed through an anonymous exchange of messages with a fellow schoolmate who also happens to be a closeted gay. At first, things were just like casual conversations until Simon, with alter ego “Jacques” and the other guy, “Blue”, develop romantic feelings for one another. Things went south when Simon left his email logged in on a public computer and a schoolmate leaked all their private conversations online. When Simon was inconveniently outed and his coming out was taken away from him, he had to face the challenges of oppression that included bullying and alienation.

Photo courtesy of FOX

The term “queer” is an encompassing term for any sexual minority or deviant; the non-heterosexual (Creekmur & Doty, 1995). Ergo, the queer theory, in the context of sexuality, encompasses anything that goes beyond the bounds of heteronormativity. A queer perspective takes cognizance of the myriad of sexual codes and it recognizes the existing power dynamics but does not submit itself to the purported authority of non-deviants (West, 2018). As a corollary, the queer theory also empowers because it operates under principles that resist any form of domination such as heterosexism and homophobia (Minton, 1997). With reference to New Queer Cinema, that exhibit themes that reject heteronormativity (Alcantara, 2015) and the disenfranchised lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) characters that are not fully accepted by society, the film “Love, Simon” can be classified as a queer film. For example, Helen Wright, coordinator and co-founder of Scottish Queer International Film Festival said that she considers a film as queer if “it somehow counters or challenges heterosexuality”.

The film’s premise is rooted on the struggles of being in the closet. The first scene of the film alone already narrates how closeted the protagonist is when he said, “except I have one huge-ass secret”. With reference to the tenets of the queer theory, the struggle of the gay character is rooted in the fear of oppression (Matsumoto, 2017). Throughout the film, Simon was painted as the typical lonely gay (Smelik, 2000), which then again is a common stereotype. Moreover, when the “Blue” posted anonymously through a blog about his feelings and thoughts on being a closeted gay, this triggered Simon to create his own anonymous identity for reasons of wanting someone that he can confide to. Simon, a homosexual, sought for the solace from a fellow homosexual (Aguinaldo, 2008), albeit anonymously, simply because he just needed an outlet. When a schoolmate gets access to Simon’s private emails, he gets blackmailed in to doing things against his will, otherwise the emails go public and his secret will be out forever. I am taking note on how a heterosexual blackmailed a closeted homosexual and that scene zooms in on the oppression feared by the deviants. In addition, there are also scenes where the protagonist compares how easy life is for the straights—they need not to come out, they need not to feel conscious on how society will react, and they can be as carefree as they want to be. I would also take note on how Simon and a fellow gay schoolmate were publicly bullied in the campus cafeteria—they were reduced to the incorrect and unacceptable public belief that gays are hypersexualized perverts who hit on heterosexuals. Homosexual characters are subjected to ridicule and are often taunted and attacked (Smelik, 2000). Furthermore, the fear on coming out of the closet is anchored on heteronormative, homophobic, and the patriarchal nature of society (Tamagawa, 2017). When the protagonist came out, embraced his true self, and got accepted by his family and friends, that is a reverbation of what the oppressed groups simply want—to be accepted (Lee, M. & Lee, R., 2006). 

Photo courtesy of FOX

Given that queers are treated as second-class citizens and their voices are silenced and they are misrepresented, the queer theory aims to integrate or include the queers to mainstream culture. In the context of films, queer theorists criticize these heteronormative practices and standards and they help the disenfranchised and misrepresented by collaborating with film writers and producers to showcase the queers in the silver screen. Such collaboration is rooted in the desire to educate, persuade, andn expose the audiences to the vastness of the spectrum and to disavow the stereotypes that were portrayed and are still being portrayed.

The film is far from being sweeping and encompassing but somehow, one cannot deny the presence of representation. The film was light and emotional but most importantly, relatable. “Love, Simon”, was not able to highlight the struggles faced by queer relationships such as dealing with unaccepting friends or family, the degree of being “out” and public, and others of like cirumstances. Overall, the film was able to provide an amount of representation to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community, particularly for the gays. The film was queer in itself and it was able to highlight the struggles faced by homosexuals every day, the fear to come out, and the results of bullying a minority. The film is not the best queer film nor the best film to encapsulate queer cinema but it can serve as an inspiration or a benchmark for producers and writers.

Photo courtesy of FOX

References

Aguinaldo, J. P. (2008). The social construction of gay oppression as a determinant of gay mens health: ‘homophobia is killing us’. Critical Public Health, 18(1), 87-96. doi:10.1080/09581590801958255

Alcantara, M. H. (n.d.). New Queer Cinema in the USA: Rejecting Heteronormative Categorisations in Desert Hearts (1985) and Brokeback Mountain (2005). Retrieved 2019, from https://gredos.usal.es/jspui/bitstream/10366/125911/1/Mª Teresa Hernández Alcántara TFG.pdf

Allan, F. (2018, December 02). Just what makes a film ‘queer’? Retrieved March 3, 2019, from https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-45992645

Couch, E. (2018, November 07). “Love, Simon” is Unremarkably Queer, Remarkably Mainstream. Retrieved March 3, 2019, from https://swarthmorephoenix.com/2018/11/08/love-simon-is-unremarkably-queer-remarkably-mainstream/

Creekmur, C. K., & Doty, A. (1995). Out in culture: Gay, lesbian, and queer essays on popular culture. Durham: Duke University Press.

Lee, M. M., & Lee, R. E. (2006). The Voices of Accepting and Supportive Parents of Gay Sons. Journal of GLBT Family Studies, 2(2), 1-27. doi:10.1300/j461v02n02_01

Matsumoto, M. C. (2017, December 15). Queer Theory as a Critique of Society: The Closet and Gay Marriage. Retrieved March 2, 2019, from https://medium.com/@QueerESL/queer-theory-as-a-critique-of-society-523084eb4b64

Minton, H. L. (1997). Queer Theory. Theory & Psychology, 7(3), 337-353. doi:10.1177/0959354397073003

Smelik, A. (1998a). And the Mirror Cracked: Feminist Cinema and Film Theory.

Tamagawa, M. (2017). Coming Out of the Closet in Japan: An Exploratory Sociological Study. Journal of GLBT Family Studies, 14(5), 488-518. doi:10.1080/1550428x.2017.1338172

West, I. N. (2018). Queer Perspectives in Communication Studies. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication. doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780190228613.013.81

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