Friday, April 6, 2018

Love Simon is a lovely movie that represents the struggle of a gay teen in a very affluent white household and not what it must be like for the other 99% of America.

I saw Love, Simon on Monday night with my friend Brad. Speaking in generalizations, it's a delightful movie in which an angsty teen deals awkwardly and ultimately heroically with coming out in the digital age. Along the way to this heroic end, he makes some very bad choices with regard to his friends (which ends up destroying trust), and he tells quite a few hurtful lies because he doesn't know how to deal with a person who is blackmailing him regarding his sexuality.

The film is directed by Greg Berlanti, who some of you may recognize is the producer behind a ton of the CW hits like The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. It's also not a surprise (knowing this) that the guy who plays Kid Flash from Legends of Tomorrow is one of the stars. The core of the movie revolves around Simon trying to discover the identity of "Blue," and the reveal is worth the wait as the story is ultimately romantic and about accepting yourself (and asking for acceptance from others).

But the film also has a strange problem that I feel uniquely apt too point out, regarding these kinds of stories as they are presented so casually on screen to unsuspecting viewers. Simon comes from a family where (in his own words) "the quarterback married the head cheerleader, and they did not peak in high school." But their house manages to be one of those "not overtly ostentatious" homes that's easy to accept as an "everyman" home. However, it's not and far from it. How do I know this? Because I have a brother that works in the furniture business, and I can tell you exactly how much all of the things cost that I saw in this "typical white suburban home."

They had a Sub-Zero refrigerator. One of these has to have custom cabinets in order to be installed (like they have to be ordered with the refrigerator) and the base model of a Sub-Zero fridge is somewhere in the neighborhood of $10,000.00. They go up to $20,000. I also saw a Wolf-brand range (this is the same thing and it's ridiculous). Their backsplash over the range had a pot-filler appliance. This is only found in upper end homes. They had a massive island with granite countertops (again think very high-end). Simon's bedroom had a chalkboard wall which is on the very cutting edge of the new designs featured on HGTV. Additionally, all of the kids in the movie had every latest gadget and appliance.

Long story short, this movie was chock full of VERY AFFLUENT teens, and this bothers me on a lot of levels. I'm not talking teens with parents who live in a $500,000 home. I'm talking teens that live in homes that are worth well north of a million dollars. Every. Single. One. Why is this movie...this first movie that is a John Hughe's-esque film regarding gay teen brimming with 1% wealth and being passed off as an "everyman tale of what it's like to grow up gay?" I'm not sure if I can even answer this question. But it's things like this that convince people that they are "middle class" when in fact they are in the "lower class." They see Simon and think, "Oh there are a lot of issues he's dealing with that echo my life so I must be just like him...." And I'm the "buzzkill" because I say, " are not just like him! You have never been just like him. Do your parents have a refrigerator that costs the same as a new car? No you don't! Do you even know what a new car costs these days?! I'll tell you that most people in the nation can no longer afford them. Did you know that the average price of a new car now in the U.S. is in the neighborhood of $45,000? There's not that many people who can afford a new car."

Sure, you can brand me as a leftist whiner about all of this stuff, but income and wealth ignorance create a false reality. In other words, whether or not you choose to believe it, I think a lot of the problems we currently have in this country are because people do not acknowledge or even realize how poor they actually are...that they are IN FACT lower class when they think they are middle class folks. When someone is in the lower class, and they vote in tax breaks that help the wealthy because they feel like this represents them, it's not good for anyone. Love, Simon and other movies like it perpetuate this kind of wealth ignorance, because the wealth is not ostentatious and dripping with gold. "Oh they must have a nice fridge that cost a few extra dollars than my Kitchenaide that I bought at Lowes" is exactly what the one percent in this country wants the everyman to think. "NO NO NO, it is not merely a nice fridge, but one that costs TEN TIMES if not more what you paid for yours and does all kinds of other things. A family that can afford that...that can afford to cook pancakes in a kitchen that easily cost $100, as unrepresentative of the majority of America as a tortoise is to a regular human being.

Don't get me wrong. I really enjoyed Love, Simon. But it's a movie that represents the struggle of a gay teen in a very affluent white household, and not what it must be like for the other 99% of America. After Simon comes out, he's seen studying a picture of Anderson Cooper, heir to the Vanderbilt fortune and multi-millionaire anchor of CNN. I think this was an appropriate comparison, because Simon's struggle has way more to do with Anderson Cooper than it does with any other gay teen out there. Just sayin'...wealth is the lubricant of life. The more you have, the less friction you get from all of life's troubles.


  1. Good point. I think someone once calculated how much clothes and such for tv families would cost and it was pretty ridiculous. Like teachers or cops making 40K are wearing $100 shirts and driving $40000 cars. It's pretty stupid but it's Hollywood.

  2. >sigh<
    I don't even know how to respond to this.
    It's like every movie/TV show is just there to be a product placement except the "product" is not a thing but the idea of being rich.

  3. You make a good point about how TV sets up unrealistic expectations. Many sitcoms are set in locations that the tenant could never afford. The worst offenders usually seem to be shows that mostly play to younger adults like the CW, Freeform, E! and MTV.

    One that kind of drives me nuts right now is the Flash. How are they paying for that huge Star Labs building? They made a pretense of allowing tours but there's no way that alone could meet the rent. Then there's the new house that Barry and Iris bought. Considering that Barry has only been working part time for the last year and now is on indefinitely suspension I have to wonder what bank lent them the money. Surely it's not on a Iris' reporter's salary.

    I know we aren't supposed to think these things but it is frustrating to see so many shows do things like this. I have to say it's why I enjoyed the return of Rosanne even if I don't agree with her politics.

  4. Good point. However, when a movie tries to show how people really live, do people go? I think part of it is the fantasy of the movie world. I don't see that changing any time soon.

  5. A very good post, Mike. I couldn't price furniture or kitchens like you or your brother, but I've spotted upper end designer clothes on TV kids and adults that I KNOW cost a fortune. And they always have nice new cars and huge SUVs on TV. What about old clunkers or just Toyotas that have been around for a few years, like my car?

    What you mentioned about money smoothing out life for people is oh so true. Years ago gays were shut out of middle and lower middle class life, but among the very wealthy they didn't have to hide. Nancy Reagan used a "walker" named Zipkin as an escort to high society events when Ronnie wasn't around, as did other very wealthy wives, and this was totally acceptable because everyone knew Zipkin was gay so there was no chance of a scandal. And controversial gay photographer Robert Mappelthorpe, who so scandalized the lower classes, was hired to photograph the Reagans' friends.

    C'est la vie for the 1%.