Hello you lovely readers! Today, I want to tell you a little story about how a certain book became one of my favourites, and one that has since become a really wonderful film adaptation. I hope you’ll enjoy…
A couple of years ago, I started working in Waterstones. One shift, a colleague showed me a little red book called Simon VS The Homo Sapiens Agenda. “Read this, please please! It’s honestly so brilliant!” she said. So, naturally, I bought it that evening and headed home to read it.
What followed was a truly wonderful experience about love, acceptance and happiness. I have always made it clear that I hated romance books, and was quite skeptical about reading this one as it was penned as a romantic book too. The email chapters are what had me intrigued, but what followed was a beautiful, heartwarming story. In case you haven’t read it, Simon VS The Homo Sapiens Agenda follows Simon Spier, a normal high school kid with great friends, annoying classes and a fun, loving family. He’s hiding a huge secret from everyone, a secret that he wishes he could share and for it to not be a big deal. Simon is gay, and he doesn’t know how on earth to deal with this self revelation. So when a post on a school secrets blog goes up from another student – signed Blue – talking about being gay, Simon jumps at the chance to talk about his feelings with somebody else who understands. Somebody else that knows what he’s going through. But one day, their secret correspondence gets into the wrong hands and soon Simon finds himself being blackmailed. If he doesn’t agree, the blackmailer threatens to leak the emails – outing Simon. It’s an awful situation he finds himself in.
I read the book, I loved the book, and once I’d finished it I told my colleague how much I loved it! I put it on tables at work, I recommended it to people looking for a great love story, I told everyone that bought it that it was an amazing choice. So when I heard rumours about a film being made, my heart sank. ‘Yet another book falling victim to the film industry’ I thought. At the time, I was incredibly worried that the film just wouldn’t be perfect, how do you make a film out of a book this good? Would the film studio handle the subject matter well? However, the more I saw of the casting, the pre-production and eventual set photos, I was beginning to get more and more convinced that this film adaptation would be special.
The trailers were released and from watching them, the film seemed very close to source material. I was able to relax a little bit, and turned the worry about the adaptation into excitement. Fanart covered my Twitter feed, Becky Albertalli talked about her thoughts on the film, easter eggs were discussed, and soon it was a waiting game of when the film would be out. American audiences got it first and with that came glowing reviews and happiness about what this film meant to people. Over in the UK, lots of people were able to see it pre-release, meaning that I had to avoid spoilers like the plague. Yes, I’d read the book, but I wanted to experience the film without people detailing whether there would be differences.
Finally, the film was out in the UK, meaning that I was able to go and see it. An old friend from work also wanted to see it too, so we made plans, had Nando’s, then headed to the cinema. The next two hours flew by. I laughed. I cried. When I say I cried, I sobbed about five separate times for different scenes. I related to moments in the film. I felt so genuinely happy at watching the story unfold. Love, Simon is a wonderfully accurate portrayal of the book – one that honours its source material well, and even the minor changes from the book didn’t take anything away from the true value of the story.
If you don’t know why Love, Simon is important to audiences, then let me tell you now. In a world filled with films where gay characters are mostly tokenistic, stereotypical people, it is so refreshing to see characters just act normal. Simon doesn’t want to be a stereotypical gay guy, he is far from that. He just want to be himself. Simon is a character that teenagers and young adults can relate to. He just wants to go through life as Simon, not ‘Gay Best Friend Simon’. This is so, SO important for teenagers, especially LGBT+ teenagers, beginning to understand who they are. It is important to show Simon wanting to be himself and not wanting to lose any of his personality. You can see the worry eating away at him, before the turning point of self acceptance and love. It’s a massive step in the right direction for portrayal of LGBT+ people in media.
Diversity is so, so important in films. In a world where we strive to see equality on the big screen after years of inequality, it’s so heartwarming and fulfilling to see black characters with wonderful character arcs and growth, rather than also becoming tokens. The characters of Nick, Abby and Bram are just wonderful. They are never suggested as characters because of their skin tone, they are just people who happen to be friends with Simon. It represents an accurate and diverse friendship group. They are strong, confident and important characters without any need for them to be announced that they’re black.
This next part of the post requires a SPOILER WARNING! If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, please, PLEASE, stop reading here.
The character of Bram is by far the most important character in this book, in this film, in the whole selection of YA books perhaps. ‘But what makes Bram important?’ I hear you ask. Bram is a character whose representation is incredibly important and reassuring to see. Bram, just like Simon, is your average high school guy. He plays football, deals with awkward conversations with his parents during Hanukkah, and has great friends in high school. He too is dealing with a huge secret; he’s gay. Bram, as I mentioned earlier, is one of the black characters in the story. I know this may sound contradictory to my earlier points, but it is brilliant to showcase black LGBT+ characters in media. Unfortunately, there seems to be more of a stigma towards black men if they are gay. I hope that characters like Bram can shatter this stigma and teach many people that regardless of your skin tone, it is perfectly fine and acceptable to be gay. Bram is a character that isn’t ashamed of his sexuality at all; he is proud of his heritage and is proud of his sexuality, they are parts of his life that he loves.
There is a scene in this film where Simon and his mum discuss how Simon feels after coming out as gay. She tells him that he is free to exhale now, and is free to be more him that he ever has been in his entire life. So after reading this post, I want you to take that away with you.
Exhale. Be comfortable and proud with yourself. It doesn’t matter what – you are free to be you. Regardless of anything in the world, breathe out and love yourself for the person you are today. You are important. You are strong. Whatever you’re going through, you’ve got this. You are you. Don’t ever let anybody change that.