Simple Simon

I saw this movie with a Gay, White Male, Cisgender couple, two good friends of mine. I have dined in their house, watched movies and marched in Pride parades with these two. We had different experiences watching this movie (them being white and me being black) and I am attempting here to unpack my conflicting feelings about this film that is being so heralded, when I am just bothered by it, and at the same time-not.

I must start out saying that 15 year old me would have fallen HEAD OVER HEELS for this film. Just coming to grips with my own sexuality at the time and having decided God made me gay, the star of this movie with his “straight passing” (I know, yuck) matinee idol looks and twinky charm, would have been the poster over my bed. Just the kind of white boy my (at the time) internalized anti blackness/respectability politics would have prompted me to bring home to mom and dad. Also the friends group,

resembled mine in my uber liberal, performing arts magnet high school. We were diverse before it was a thing.

I keep finding myself rewriting this piece again and again. My soul was not comfortable with the result and that is because it is naunced, and nuance does not go viral in this society. We like black and white hit pieces, either praising something or tearing it down, “reading for filth” as my gays say. This is not one of those pieces. I am conflicted in regards to my feelings about this movie and my feelings lay at the heart of some of my biggest intersections: race, sexuality, and my passion for the eighties ☺️. I am finding it difficult to get to the meat of what I want to say. Often, when I feel this way I need to just wait. Waiting on my spirit, and the world to catch up to that spirit is always key and though I know this, time and time again I rush to publish when I should have waited. I am also a victim of this rush to do everything culture it seems. Waiting would have been prudent because I would have read This Harvard study that came out on race and life outcomes and this is why I feel uneasy about Love, Simon. The data is clear here that despite all the respectability politics in the world, the deck is stacked aginst Black men.White Supremacy is not overcome by graduate degrees, or lifestyle. That is why this film stuck in my craw and why I have a hard time cheering for it. White Gay men are FINE. If they are not, their whiteness will make them fine. Simon will get a good job with benefits and find a husband and end up with a dog, 2.5 adopted kids and a white picket fence. That will not be the same fate for his black gay male counterpart in the school is who has different gender presentation.

Simon seems sweet, and kind, and his parents are liberal and progressive and are about smashing the patriarchy and love him when he comes out, blah, blah, blah. I think I am getting to the point where I just can’t sit through another white led coming out narrative. I mean Torch Song Trilogy is how old? Even with all of the POC as friends in this movie, it is not ABOUT them. They are periphery to the main story that is white Simon. While I slowly golf clap for the inclusion of POC in his friends group, I see also see where colorism strikes because they are all light skinned, mostly biracial people of color. It is like the only acceptable blackness in his circle is half-black. You are ok as long as part of you is white 🙄 So while this movie seemingly pats itself on the back for being SO progressive and groundbreaking, in terms or race it kinda seems more of the same. White, and closest to white is right.

There is one darker skinned black character in the story and he is ostracized for his gender presentation. I love how self-assured the character is, but I also struggle with a sort of fetish I see developing for black trans women (whom this character is not identified as but seems a surrogate for) in the white, mainstream media. I feel like this character embodies that fetish. Not in the performance of the actor, but in the writing of the script and the function of the character. He has duel function as the noble savage and the sassy black woman. He constantly cuts the homophobic characters down to size with zingers, and in a latter scene Simon lets him know how jealous he is of his courage. Again all I can do is roll my eyes🙄 Spare me your esteem and dimantle your privilege please!

With all of this, I still kind of liked the movie. It is well written, soundly acted, well paced, and witty in places. It is such an homage to the eighties that my heart warmed in all the right John Hughes nostalgia moments recreated in the film. I fully admit this film is a guilty pleasure because on the one hand it is the world Donald Trump is most afraid of, Whites coming together with POC and all sexuality being accepted, not merely tolerated. But on the other, it is more of the same in terms of privileging a white gay narrative, with small inclusion for people of color. Sigh…

Now Simon being black, THAT would have been groundbreaking, however black people being a monolith I guess we only get Moonlight right?



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William Fitzgerald Flood

Artist, Activist, Professor and occasional watcher of too many 80s cartoons.