Love Simon Film Analysis in Sociological Perspective
The film “Love Simon” has a lot of sociological significance. In a society where acceptance and understanding of others is more prevalent than ever, the film portrays two teenagers who experience this phenomenon as different from their peers. These main characters, Simon (Nick Robinson) and his best friend – Josh (Jacob Elordi), are in juvenile court after it has been revealed that they have had sexual intercourse with one another. The question becomes: what do these plot developments say about societal norms? This article will briefly introduce the topic of homosexuality and queerness as a whole to help start an open dialogue that could lead to a better understanding of this timely topic. A highly educational blog post for sure!
As hinted at above, there are certain terms that need to be clarified before diving into this topic. Homosexuality is when someone exhibits sexual attraction to members of the same gender. Note that this attraction is not exclusive to any one gender, which means that it is possible for a person who identifies as heterosexual to still experience homosexual attractions as well as any other permutation one could think of. On the other hand, queerness is an umbrella term used by anyone that does not identify as heterosexual or cisgender (a binary term used to refer to people whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth).
To examine this topic, we will look at homosexuality in a historic context and also consider it in terms of the sociology of gender, as well as the sociology of sexuality. Some other topics to consider are the relationship between religion and homosexuality, including Protestantism and Catholicism (specifically when looking at their stances on homosexuality), as well as homosexual individuals’ experiences with religion (Macionis, 2010).
There is also the role that language plays in shaping individuals’ perceptions about those who identify under the LGBTQ acronym. In other words, we will examine the ways in which language can be used as an agent of social change. In other words, we will look at the role that language plays in the development of new narratives. Through our explorations, we hope to gain insight into the complex nature of the issues surrounding homosexuality and ask why the LGBTQ acronym is such a popular choice for its members. We also hope to consider homophobia’s role in this discussion and how society can move forward in terms of changing discriminatory practices against individuals who identify under this umbrella term (for example, gay conversion therapy).
The goal of this article is to paint a sociological picture of homosexuality and queerness, thus incorporating the insights of multiple fields within sociology and critically examining how these perspectives interact with one another.
As an overview on the “history” of homosexuality in America, let us first consider that it was not all that long ago (1940’s – 50’s) when homosexuality was considered a mental disorder by key medical health professionals, such as: The American Psychiatric Association (APA), The National Association for Mental Health (NAMH) and The National Council for Mental Health (NCMH). While these organizations have since changed their policies and now consider such categorizations to be unprofessional, the APA did not officially change its stance on homosexuality until 1973. Additionally, in 1962, a researcher named Evelyn Hooker published a study that showed that gay men were no more likely to show signs of mental illness than anyone else. This study is regarded as the first major step in changing the narrative surrounding homosexuality (Macionis, 2010).
As mentioned above, one of the most important outcomes of this shift in thought from medical professionals was their reclassification of homosexuality from a mental disorder to merely an orientation (i.e., homosexuals were no longer thought to be ill).
This is not to say that homosexuality has been widely accepted as a normal part of life throughout the entirety of American history. No, that is not what I am saying at all. Rather, I am pointing out that in recent history there have been significant strides made to accept people who identify as LGBTQ as full and equal citizens in our society (Robinson & Schmitz, 2021).
The social acceptance of homosexuality has been an ongoing conversation for centuries. Discussions about homosexuality often lead to key sociological questions such as: what does it mean to be normal? This is a question that extends beyond just the topic at hand and can be applied to every aspect of human behavior including race, religion, class, language, gender (to name a few).
As we dig deeper into the first point, ‘what is normal?’, we will find that there are many different opinions about what is considered normal and abnormal. For example: if one believed that blonde hair was not something to be concerned about, then this would be considered abnormal by another. In order for society to function, however, we must find what to focus our attention on in order to maintain a collective sense of “normalcy”, i.e. a sense of the “sameness” among all members of our society (Macionis & Plummer, 2005).
The commonalities people share allow us to develop a certain set of social norms as well as identify and differentiate behaviors that deviate from these norms from those who do not (Robinson & Schmitz, 2021). For example: Simon struggles with coming out to his friends, how he understands his attraction to men, what kind of backlash he might face for being gay and whether or not he will be accepted at school after news of his sexuality gets out. He also struggles with his mother’s decision to commit him to a mental institution because she believes he is mentally ill and believes he should be “cured”.
This film showcases the story of a gay teenager in America whose life is completely different from most, who gets thrown into the courts at a young age and faces devastating consequences that significantly affect his life. Before this point, there has not been a lot of movies like this (or series, for that matter). It has shown how discrimination can have a huge impact on those who are part of the LGBTQ community. This film manages to show just how serious this inequality really is (Macionis & Plummer, 2005).
The legal system has always been very relevant and continues to be so in many ways in contemporary times. The system is not only used as a means to fairly punish those who break the law, it can also be a tool for further discrimination as well. For example, in the film, Simon’s mother is sentenced by a judge after being found guilty of violating Simon’s civil rights. This decision was made even though she fought against her decision to have her son committed and spoke out to defend him.
As mentioned above, the film also highlights many parts of society which are beginning to shift towards greater acceptance of homosexuality and more recognition of its contribution to society. It establishes that in no way should one be considered ‘mentally ill’ because they identify as LGBTQ and are not heterosexual (or ‘straight’).
We can then conclude that “Love Simon” mainly takes place within a society with a positive outlook on homosexuality, which is also slowly becoming more common throughout more areas of America with time. The importance of this film’s release in 2018 stems from the fact that it is breaking ground on many levels. It portrays a main character who is gay and his struggle with discovering, accepting and understanding this about himself and how others would react if they were to find out (Berlanti, 2018).
Berlanti, G. 2018 Love Simon. Wyck Godfrey, Marty Bowen, Pouya Shahbazian, Isaac KlausnerMacionis, J. (2010). Sociology, 13/e.
Macionis, J. J., & Plummer, K. (2005). Sociology: A global introduction. Pearson Education.
Robinson, B. A., & Schmitz, R. M. (2021). Beyond resilience: Resistance in the lives of LGBTQ youth. Sociology compass, 15(12), e12947.