“Love, Simon” fell into a number of clichés, but redeemed itself with a humorous style and well-landed messages.
Many of the clichés were high school movie tropes. A ridiculous principal fulfilled the high school movie standard of featuring a foolish adult character. The “creek secrets” blog that absolutely everybody was constantly monitoring was reminiscent of “Gossip Girl”-type social media. The small-town feeling that everybody in a high school cares about the drama of just one group also falls into the clichés we see in movies like “Mean Girls.” Plus, like any movie with teenagers, some of the “high schoolers” were played by actors old enough to be married with kids. Everybody in the movie seemed to be overinvested when the title character, Simon (Nick Robinson) was forced out of the closet. This attention may be accurate of some schools, depending on size and location, but doesn’t necessarily tell the typical narrative of a real American high school.
One accomplishment of this overplayed trope, everybody looking at Simon and everybody making fun of Simon and everybody being all up in Simon’s business, is that it mimics how somebody in Simon’s situation might feel. Psychologically, we all experience the Spotlight Effect, when we feel like everyone is paying attention when we trip. Although the film may have come across as a little grown-ups writing high school, the methods they used at least succeeded in communicating a character’s emotions.
Besides the stereotypes concerning high school, the movie also exaggerated Gen-Z characteristics. We’ve moved past millennials and into a new generation defined by technology, we get that. However, that doesn’t mean we need to overemphasize the iced coffee teenagers must all drink in the morning and the “Panic! at the Disco” songs all teenagers must have come of age with and the ubiquity of Google in every teenager’s life, so impressively featured you can’t help but wonder how much they were paid for product placement.
These exaggerations can be somewhat forgiven in light of the movie’s strengths. The method of splicing together scenes to highlight funny hypotheticals, sort of “How I Met Your Mother” -style, kept the mood light. Perhaps too many funny scenes got a shout-out in the preview to make the movie really funny, but these scenes let the audience know the film didn’t take itself too seriously.
At times the high schoolers were unrealistically conniving and obnoxiously disloyal, but overall the characters were likable and engaging, and even though the movie included rampant stereotypes and clichés, there was one big cliché the movie avoided.
With a largely liberal audience, the “gasp-so-and-so-is-gay” story needs more of a kick to really fly in theaters. Stories of coming out are still very relevant today, but without a more developed plot line they can begin to seem trite, especially as we try to address the more intricate issues that LGBTQ communities face. For this reason, one of “Love, Simon’s” greatest strengths is that instead of showing a character struggling with shame or an unsupportive family, it told a story about a boy who is proud of his identity, but still struggles with how to tell his supportive friends and family, all while falling in love. Instead of just telling a coming-out story, “Love, Simon” also tells a love story, which does result in an incredibly cringey climax, but also makes it a better movie.
Alex Houdeshell is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.