Recently on YouTube I was watching interviews with some of my favorite actors and an ad popped up for the upcoming film Love, Simon.
It wasn’t an ad I could skip and by the end of it, my eyes had rolled practically all the way to the back of my head. As an openly queer woman, specifically a pansexual woman, I have grown so tired of the same queer representation we’ve been seeing for decades. I am tired of coming out stories and representation only for white conventionally attractive gay male characters and characters that fit stereotypes. Love, Simon managed to do all three in a short YouTube ad. In addition, the whole “straight people coming out as straight” gag is tired and problematic.
Entertainment Weekly calls the trailer “groundbreaking.” Bustle claims that Love, Simon “has the internet in tears.” I, personally feel little more than frustration. From slogans like “He’s done keeping his story straight” to “a love story that must come out,” the promotion of Love, Simon makes a spectacle of Simon’s sexuality, and markets the film entirely on his sexuality. There has yet to be a heterosexual romance marketed in this way. We don’t get a heterosexual romance about Adam and Alice called “Straight A’s” or a straight romance about athletes named Chad and Becky called “Playing It Straight,” so why is it so impossible for those behind Love, Simon to go more than five seconds without making a pun or reference toward Simon’s sexuality?
I was talking about the trailer with a friend of mine who identifies as lesbian and she loved the trailer and couldn’t see why it bothered me so much. She essentially told me that “beggars can’t be choosers,” and that since queer representation is limited we have to celebrate everything we get.
I have a really hard time accepting that and don’t feel I should have to. As a pansexual woman, I have had to wait around way too long to be represented. I had waited so long for a Deadpool film, hoping once he’d star in his own film his pansexuality could be addressed. But I watched as Tim Miller failed to deliver upon his word that his Deadpool would be pansexual—not acknowledging his sexual orientation in the film beyond a couple blink-and-you’ll-miss-it clues.
From Jodie on SOAP to Jack on Will & Grace to Simon of Love, Simon, it seems that we haven’t developed very far from the same media portrayals of the white, feminine, theater-obsessed and Britney Spears-loving gay men we’ve grown so accustomed to. Would it be too much to ask for more queer leads of color, queer leads that aren’t wealthy or upper-middle class, or queer leads who don’t fit the sassy gay sidekick mold in 2018? Is it too much to ask for queer women to be leads? Is it too much to represent the queer community beyond gay and lesbian characters? Is it too much that a queer character’s story arc goes beyond coming out storylines? Is it too much to have a film with a queer lead that doesn’t market itself with gay puns? It continues to seem, for me, that Hollywood feels my requests are too much to ask for.