Love, LGBTQ Representation

Love, Simon and other LGBTQ films offer more authentic portrayal

Molly Murch, Staff Writer

WARNING: content contains spoilers.
Few films feature LGBTQ characters, and even fewer portray them and their lives authentically. However, we have recently begun to introduce more realistic LGBTQ characters, and situations, into film. No longer are the GBF (Gay best friend) or quirky lesbian sidekick, both cliché characters, the only gay roles represented. We now see characters opening up and for once, no one dies. Instead of whispering and secrets, we find regular people living their life just as everyone else.
Propelling this movement forward is new-to-theaters romcom “Love, Simon”, which centers around high schooler Simon whose struggles with coming output into perspective the reality of being a LGBTQ teen. He lives a “totally perfectly normal life”, except there’s something no one knows: he’s gay. After coming out, or rather, being outed, he faces backlash, but he pushes back and his life, to a certain extent, returns to normal. He even gets his happily ever after.
The 2017 indie movie “Call Me by Your Name” is helping bridge this divide. This coming-of-age romance between 17-year-old Elio and 24-year-old Oliver, an assistant to Elio’s father, sheds light on the struggles of maintaining an LGBTQ relationship while facing society’s judgment. The film, set in the Italian countryside during 1983, dives into the couple’s almost perfectly ordinary romantic life: bicycle rides, lounging around and weekend getaways.
There still remain aspects of it that fail to present a successful relationship, as the two later part ways, and Oliver becomes engaged to a woman. Nevertheless, the message is clear. LGBTQ relationships can flourish just as heterosexual ones can.
Hollywood hasn’t always displayed LGBTQ relationships in such normalized settings though. Take 2005 drama “Brokeback Mountain”, for example. Released more than a decade ago, but set in 1963, the film revolves around two protagonists, Ennis and Jack, both cowboys working in the Wyoming mountains.
They fall in love, but keep their relationship a secret, for fear of retribution. Eventually splitting up, they marry women and start families of their own, maintaining little contact. Nearly two decades later, Jack is murdered because of his sexuality, and a heartbroken Ennis flashbacks to their time together.
While forbidden romance and a tragic homicide make for an exhilarating emotional rollercoaster, it is unlikely that the plot line resonates with or is relatable to many LGBTQ youth today. Hollywood-bred stories like that of “Brokeback Mountain” consistently convey the idea that, due to society’s criticism, gay individuals will eventually conform toward heterosexual relationships.
Their failure to normalize these relationships leaves those in the audience who relate feeling that they are alone. One of the very reasons we watch movies and TV is to find solace in seeing characters like us on the screen, and Hollywood often deprives us of that. Our perceptions cannot change if pop culture still exhibits what shouldn’t happen; rather, by using it as a platform to express what should happen, we will make change.
We are constantly talking about representation in pop culture, specifically in film. What we must realize, though, is that if the “representation” plays on stereotypes, it isn’t doing any good. In fact, with film being such an influential and far-reaching platform, it could actually do harm. [d][e]What distinguishes box-office hit “Love, Simon”, and to some degree, “Call Me by Your Name”, from other films featuring gay main characters is the fact that they depict typical teenagers and their everyday lives.
These three films, some more realistic than others, reflect a trend of increasing authenticity and normalization in those featuring LGBTQ individuals. Don’t let the optimism fool you though. We still have progress to make. But for now, let us relish in the knowledge that accurate portrayals of LGBTQ individuals are becoming ever more mainstream.