As we’ve seen with recent big budget movies such as Black Panther and Wonder Woman, representation is very important.

From a financial point of view, if movie studios present stories that people connect with then they will part with their cash to go and see them. On a grander scale, if studios present movies with characters they identify with, then they will continue to champion them long after they leave the cinema.

This is how I feel about Love, Simon.

I’ve talked about Love, Simon previously on It’s A Stampede!; highlighting how much I enjoy the movie and how I urge everyone to see it – both of these things remain true. However, today I wanted to discuss why I think this movie is one of the most important films of 2018 – at least why it is important to me anyway.

I grew up during the 1980s, with my teenage years running through the 1990s. Back when I was a kid (I’m 36 now), representation was hard to find and homosexuality wasn’t always portrayed in a positive light.

Was it a problem? Maybe.

I came out when I was 19-years-old. Until the time I came out I didn’t really know I was gay.

While on a subconscious level I always knew I was gay (my love for She-Ra and Care Bears was a big hint), I never really thought too much about it and it was only when I reached the age of 19 – a year after I left school – did everything make sense. During my school life I was confused more than anything.

As a boy I was expected to be interested in girls – TV, movies and music told me this was the case and who was I to question it? Truth was, there was no one out there who was really telling me any different, so I never really thought about the alternative.

Whenever I watched films or TV shows, all the lead stars were heterosexual. The guy got the girl, the girl was apparently more than happy with this and felt fulfilled with her life… blah… blah… blah… and so on (yeah that was a lie too).

TV shows or films that did feature gay characters were few and far between and whenever they did pop up on my radar, they never struck a chord with me. Why? Because I didn’t identify with any of them.

Gay characters usually fell into two categories: Flamboyant and camp as Christmas, or non-important comic relief – i.e. a throw-away character. I’m not a particularly flamboyant person (well, maybe after I’ve had a drink) and I’d like to think of myself as something more than a non-important throw-away character.

However way you cut it, no one on TV or film has ever represented me. In fact, it’s taken until 2018 before I can honestly say I’ve found someone who I identify with – and that someone is Simon Spier, the lead character in Love, Simon.

Love Simon movie

Image: 20th Century Fox

I am Simon. He is me.

I honestly believe I didn’t think much about my sexuality while growing up because I had no one to identify with. I wasn’t camp, I wasn’t flamboyant, I wasn’t a stereotype – I was just me. I was Simon.

Watching Love, Simon (and reading the book that the film is based on) I identified with so many aspects of the story, from situations and characters, to conversations and feelings. The idea that a pretty average person could like guys instead of girls seems pretty ordinary now, but it didn’t when I was a kid and it might not to some kids today.

Having now found someone who I identify with, I see just how important representation is. I always knew of its importance, but now I see it on an even bigger scale – it can change perceptions, change lives and change the world. Or at least change someone’s world.

Creating characters that represent all walks of life is what needs to be Hollywood’s focus – it’s what all story tellers should be focused on. As consumers of media; as people who are all different; this is what we should be focused on too.

With Avengers: Infinity War now on the big screen – ushering in the summer blockbuster season – a small picture like Love, Simon will start to fade away from cinemas. While this is a shame as I’d love it to remain on the big screen for much, much longer, I understand it’s just the natural cycle of movie theatres. I’m just glad it is out there for others to discover and identify with.

I love Love, Simon. I love that this form of representation exists.