Letter From the Editor: "I Do Not Love, Simon"

So, the movie “Love, Simon” is opening in theaters tomorrow, and if you think the fact that I have yet to see it is going to stop me from talking about it critically then you don’t know me at all. Just so that we’re all clear on the premise of the movie, this is what it says on the films IMDB:

“Simon Spier keeps a huge secret from his family, his friends, and all of his classmates: he's gay. When that secret is threatened, Simon must face everyone and come to terms with his identity.”

The gays have been falling all over themselves since this was announced to see who could proclaim the loudest that this movie is the long overdue right of the community.



This is nothing against Nick Robinson, who plays the titular character, but who the fuck in 2018 America has space in their psyche to feel bad for a beautiful (by all conventional standards) white gay male?? There is so much turmoil and violence going on in the real world, that if Im going to pay money to see a movie, am I seriously to be expected to sit through 2 hours of some fit, attractive, white dude, with 2 parents, and the luxury of being able to pass as straight, “struggle” (can you capitalize quotation marks?) with coming out of the closet??


I think back on Brokeback Mountain (2005), starring Jake Gyllenhal and Heath Ledger, as two closeted gay men, who’s friendship is finally consummated in a brutal (do straight people still not know about lube?? Educate yourselves) deflowering on a camping trip. Somehow even that story, of two married white men, in the rodeo south, doing some secret al-fresco bump and grind is more relatable. In this instance, both of these men risked something in coming out and accepting their identity. Which, by the way, *vintage spoiler alert* comes manifest, when Jake Gyllenhalls character, Jack, is - as we’re led to believe - viciously murdered by a group of men who found out about his sexual orientation. 

From what I can tell in the previews the only thing Simon has to lose in coming to terms with his sexuality, is his characters reliance on American Eagle button downs. The nightmare is over, people know you’re gay now, you can put the blue plaid down.

JK nothing is a risk!! THIS IS A JOKE.

I was recently speaking with a friend, and when I mentioned that I was writing this article about why I feel this movie is so problematic, I was met with the same argument that I’ve been met with whenever I speak to any gay male about this film:

    “Well representation is important, so isn’t it about time we got a movie like this?… I mean, its not perfect but we still need to support it….Finally a gay movie thats not about a gay man breaking up a hetero relationship, this is like a role model for kids these days…”

To which I responded obviously:  wrong, very wrong, and bitch you tried it— respectively. 

Has anyone out there ever heard of a man named Tyler Perry?  *cymbals sound in the distance*.

Its statements like those of my friend that were used in the black community when Madea first came on the scene, and now look what we’ve got. House of fucking Payne. 

So I should just be happy with that? I SHOULD JUST BE HAPPY WITH BOO 2: A MEDEA HALLOWEEN??!! I refuse to sit by and accept that just because there weren't any black creators being allowed to make stories about their experience and given major studio/network backing in the early 2000’s that that somehow makes Tyler Perry’s movies good. It don't. 

At the 2017 Emmy awards, when an interviewer guilelessly asked Issa Rae, creator of the the web series Awkward Black Girl, and HBO show Insecure,  who she was rooting for that night, she, now infamously responded “I’m rooting for everybody black”. 



Its since been memed, put on shirts, mugs, hats, and has become sort of a rallying cry/call to action in the movement for black visibility. Not that I feel that any of this needs to be explained to Issa Rae - who was talking about rooting for everybody black out of a pool of people that have already been preselected as being that years best in television — but some of y’all need to listen closely:

    Im not going to support you just because you’re black. Im going to support you because whatever it is you're creating is good. IF THAT IS ESTABLISHED, then you can absolutely believe that I’m rooting for everybody black. Starting with black women. #Shangelawasrobbed

I say aaallllll of that to say that YES representation matters, but that representation should not come with a free pass against critique. 

Sidebar: Is this even representation? Which Connecticut, 2 parent home, lilly white privileged homo is this movie supposed to be for? This movie clearly is not for me. Its doesn't speak to my experience. Like I don’t need another movie about slavery, or with Octavia Spencer as a maid, I don’t need another gay movie about a gay man destroying a home. I want a lighthearted rom-com that puts my reality at the center of a narrative where no-one dies, and  in the end love conquers all. HOWEVER I’d love it if the protagonist of that story was a middle eastern transfer student with broken english, and a really nice smile. Where is the story about a fun loving trans girl of color trying to decide if she's going to cave to her parents pressures to wear to tux to prom rather than the dress that she made herself? Where is the story about the gay chubby black boy with a single mom, who grew up in the projects, went to a mostly white school, in anime club and science olympiad, struggling through high school, college, and most of his 20’s, but dresses really cute, is super funny, and started a blo— 


I just think that we risk so much when we exalt something to the level that it can no longer be talked about in a real meaningful way, that puts it in context with the world around it.

If that's the case then that isn't even inclusion. It's some cheap facsimile of inclusion, where the straight white people in power allow you to have just enough room, to say "Ok now you gays have your movie so stop asking us for one".

It's patronizing. It's damaging.

lmaoooooo LMAAOOOOOOOOOOOOOO who's life is this? No no, please write in and tell me if this is how you grew up. Look at those bay windows. LOOK AT THOSE FUCKING BEAUTIFUL BAY WINDOWS. 

lmaoooooo LMAAOOOOOOOOOOOOOO who's life is this? No no, please write in and tell me if this is how you grew up. Look at those bay windows. LOOK AT THOSE FUCKING BEAUTIFUL BAY WINDOWS. 

I don't want a gay movie that shows a life that's the same set up as a straight high school romantic comedy where it just so happens that the main characters both have penises. This is gay life viewed through the lense of heterosexuality, as if anyone is still under the false assumption that all gay people want is to live a life like straight people. STRAIGHT PEOPLE ARE OUT HERE WEARING CROCS, THEY CAN'T DANCE, AND EAT AT APPLEBEE'S. I want none of it. 

Love, Simon is the gay movie that the community needed. But it needed it in 2006. The gay movie that the community needs now is not going to look like a high school story about a jock with a bunch of friends lusting after straight men. The gay story the community needs urgently, is about inclusivity.

Its about how frequently we tear each other down in private spaces, and how we so frequently turn our backs in public to the problems that we feel do not pertain directly to our own lives. It's about the men and the women who don’t live in big cities and who still face the threat of violence for being who they are. Its about the lives of LGBTQ people in Sudan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Mauritania, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Qatar, UAE, parts of Nigeria, parts of Somalia, parts of Syria and parts of Iraq (to name a few) where being gay is punishable by death. It’s about the puritanical ways we still treat sex, and how those affected with HIV, and other sexually transmitted diseases are completed dismissed in the community. Its about body positivity, its about brown skin. It’s going to be a movie thats not in english, and have subtitles to make it easier for us to understand, even though the pain of oppression, and the euphoria of love knows no language. It will be a movie that teaches empathy, and re-parents an entire generation of people who grew up without a role model of what it means to love yourself, so that you in turn, can love someone else. 

When that movie comes out, I will be first in line to see it. 



Jonathan Bell