“Love, Simon” hit theaters on March 16 and already has many raving reviews. It has scored 91 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, something that many movies fail to do in their opening week. The plot of the movie follows a young boy who is entering his senior year of highschool and “is just like you,” but has one huge secret. He’s gay, and that makes all the difference in separating this movie from the many other movies that have been released this year.
“Love, Simon” is the first movie from a major studio that features an openly gay protagonist in the romantic comedy genre. Many have considered this movie to be another landmark in history for LGBTQ+ representation.
However, the necessity of media representation has always been a hotly debated topic. Every time a movie is claimed to be progressive, there are always people rushing forward to explain how it isn’t. But fiction can and does often influence reality.
In a popular “Times” article by Daniel D’Addario titled “Love, Simon Is a Groundbreaking Gay Movie. But Do Today’s Teens Actually Need It?” asks the question of relevance of this movie citing famous films like “Moonlight” and “Call Me By Your Name” as proof that people of the gay community have already had enough representation to show that they are OK. He concludes his article by saying that the fight for equality easily ended when gay marriage was legalized, which makes a movie like “Love, Simon” “simply [feel] like looking back in time.”
While the movies D’Addario lists definitely have gay characters and gay romance, a teen could technically never see these movies in theaters without someone 18 years or older to go with them, as both of these movies are rated R. These are not movies a young family could go to and expect the kids to leave with laughs and smiles on their faces, and they address topics that really are for adults.
This is why “Love, Simon” is a very important movie for teens today. It is not that the content is entirely new, but that the behavior is normalized and accessible for all ages. It is a demonstration that anything dealing with LGBTQ+ content isn’t inherently an adult theme.
Media representation does impact societal views on any topic. When the movie “Jaws” came out, it inspired a craze of shark-based fear that can be found to this day. Many more anti-shark campaigns arose, and focus on sharks changed from passive warnings on the beach to active demonization of the sharks as terrors, prompting many to hunt sharks and shrink their population. In 2017, there were less than 200 shark attacks globally, and of that number, very few were fatalities. People are more likely to die in a car accident, as over 1.3 million occur every year then they are to get attacked by a shark. However, because of Jaws, people still fear the idea of a man eating shark.
Movies like “Love, Simon,” “Black Panther” and “Wonder Woman” are very important to society and younger viewers, as they send an important message that people like them exist and they can do great things.