Sunday, March 25, 2018

Love Simon.... I'd like to, but...

I am trying to like “Love Simon”.

Really I am. From all indications the movie is the Gay high school Rom-Com that we have all wanted to see for so long. Granted there have been others. But all were smaller indie-type movies. Great movies like Love Seventeen, Trick, Jeffery, The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green, and Broken Hearts Club. All wonderful films but not major Hollywood releases.

Now comes “Love Simon” which is basically the Gay version of all those John Hughes high school romantic comedies I grew up watching when I was that age. A gay “Sixteen Candles” or “Pretty in Pink”. Finally right?

Time Magazine recently stole my thunder by asking the very question I did when I first saw the trailer for this movie “Do Today’s Teens Really Need it?” In the film our hero Simon, a good looking popular kid with a loving and supportive family never really faces any serious risk in coming out. Not that having such risks would make it a better movie. It wouldn’t. This is fantasy. Just like the nerdy freshman girl getting the senior hunk of her dreams in Sixteen Candles this movie also (quite rightly) glosses over the reality of the American High School experience. Creating a wonderful fantasy where boy meets boy and after some endearing ups and downs gets his guy, and goes to the happily ever after-prom.

I went to a pretty good High School. It was ( and still is) an outstanding public school with dedicated and talented Teachers, decent facilities great extra-curricular programs and overall I received a very good education there. It was however, like most American High Schools, ridiculously stratified to the point that makes the Caste system in India look like outtakes from the Breakfast Club..

As much as my classmates at the time would never admit it today. In the 80’s if a student had come out, the reaction quite simply would have been to bully him or her to death., and no, that is by no means an exaggeration.

There was no such thing a Gay-Straight alliances, or “Safe Spaces” for LGBT youth. My Junior year When I was one of the editors of the school newspaper an organization called “The United” which was a ground breaking non profit support and counseling organization that served Gay and Lesbian teens in South Central Wisconsin, contacted us, and wanted to buy an ad our school paper advertising their crisis counseling line for Gay teens. It was the biggest drama you could possibly imagine where teachers that I had thought to be open minded and progressive were suddenly “seriously concerned” that we might be “promoting the homosexual lifestyle”, and even potentially pushing some poor confused soul into it, just by running this ad.

As a young gay teen terrified of coming out the conversations that were had, the opinions that both friends and teachers alike expressed, all taught me a lot. Mainly that my school was a very dangerous place for me, There would never be a date, a dance or a kiss stolen at a locker in between classes for someone like me. And to even attempt such a thing would be suicide. Literally.

So yes, Love Simon is the sweet, and wonderfully ground breaking film that I always hoped would be made some day. But it also has severed as painful reminder of what I, and many like me, never had. So maybe my feelings stem from a place of envy. Or maybe the good news is , a Gay kid today at my High School really does have it a lot better than I did, and this movie is just art imitating life.

That certainly is good news. Even if that life wasn’t mine.

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