“Love, Simon” and My Ferris Wheel of Emotions

Before anything, with the Disney-Fox merger purchase becoming closer to official everyday, I am including this post about the Fox 2000 film, Love, Simon, on the BOP. Some spoilers for the film are below. Proceed with caution.

There is a moment in Love, Simon where the titular character writes to Blue (as his alter ego, Jacques) and discusses his feelings about coming out so late in his public school career. I’m paraphrasing, but he wonders if it’s even worth the trouble. He’s held in his biggest secret, arguably the biggest a person can have, for so long, what is another school year?

I’m not a crier in movies, so this idea didn’t affect me in the moment. I did fully tear up when Simon’s dad confronted his son with his own realizations and apologies, but that was the extent. However, I left the film with a lot of emotions. I’d never felt like this before, weighed down by what a film had said during its runtime. I had this odd sensation for the 2 hours after viewing that I could breakdown and cry at any point.

Trying to figure out why exactly I felt this way led me back to that specific email Simon sends to the elusive Blue. I resonated. I knew I was gay. The entire world knew I was gay. It was as obvious as the color of the White House. And yet, something held me back my senior year. I felt, deep down, like the time was arising. All these emotions had bubbled up inside me. Many late-night thinking sessions when I was trying to sleep kept telling me to just say those two words: I’m gay. Then, Simon’s thoughts (before I knew they were his) seeped in. Why ruin senior year? The word brings so much hatred your way, do you want to ruin the normalcy of your high school career? Why would you do this.

What Simon had to deal with once his emails were leaked was my worry, and probably remains the worry of every other closeted high school student in the world. Will the bickering get worse? Will the “faggot” comments ever stop? It’s a stressful time.

When his core group of friends get mad at him for creating tension in their friend group, I didn’t understand it. He messed things up, and that was horrible, but do they have no sympathy for his experience, too? Leah, his best friend, says he could have handled him being gay, but not a liar. Imagine being blackmailed about something you can’t explain to your friends without breaking down. They couldn’t even kind of understand where Simon is coming from?

That seems to be a large issue involved in the coming out process, and this movie brings up a lot of interesting points. The Coming Out process of an individual is not one for others to decide upon. No one should be “outed,” no matter the reasoning. On top of that, individuals should realize that when someone is ready to come out, they will. So blaming someone on the grounds of “you should have just told me” is weird and a bit uncalled for.

I, like many other gay teens, felt the same way. Anytime someone even mentioned the word in regards to my sexuality, I went on the defensive. I got angry at friends for bringing it up. People made fun of me on social media and in person and all I could do was “uh huh” and walk away. Someone once handed me a picture of a penis in the hallway at school and said “I know you like those,” and I couldn’t react without a fear of being seen as a faggot for issuing a rebuttal. So, the idea of being outed is a devastating one, especially in this case.

Blue’s first entry to announce his sexuality to the world, anonymously of course, really spoke to this experience. “Sometimes I feel like I’m stuck on a ferris wheel. One minute I’m on top of the world, then the next I’m rock bottom.”

It’s an idea that stays consistent throughout the entire film and really hits home about the high school experience of being in the closet. You forget in the craziness of senior year what you’re hiding, but then you get a moment alone and it all seeps back in.

The movie ends on a glorious note. We see Simon finally unite with Blue. We see a beautiful kiss at the top of the ferris wheel. My audience cheered loudly. I smiled and ruminated. Simon got what he deserved. A boyfriend, a group of friends that love him, and a kiss that he can cherish for the rest of his life.

I came out in college, as I couldn’t stand the thought of what would happen if I officially said something in high school. I didn’t get the high school boyfriend. I didn’t get the driving around the suburbs late at night with iced coffee talking and jamming. I didn’t get the ferris wheel moment, and yet, I still left the movie feeling hopeful.

After coming out, I felt trapped between being stereotyped and my need to stay in hiding, even though I was finally being true to myself. However, like Jennifer Garner says, you leave with the ability to exhale. You’ve dealt with sadness and secrets for your whole life, and now, you can finally enjoy and be present.

I left Love, Simon ready to head to the top of the ferris wheel,  and to search for my own iced coffee person, my own Blue.

So, thanks to everyone involved with Love, Simon for making the movie that I wish I had when I was younger, but also the movie I am glad I have now.

Time’s Up for Disney’s Lack of Women in Film

I sit here after watching this year’s Golden Globes telecast. This will go up a week later, but the sentiments shared through the show can still be heard and felt. From Oprah’s stunning 9-minute oratory to Reese & Laura’s beautiful words after winning their respective awards for Big Little Lies, the #MeToo and #TIMESUP movements are here to stay.

We are living in a fabulous time for women. No longer must they feel the need to stay silent about pay disparity, sexual harassment and assault, or any lack of equality in any medium. However, this movement has grown out of Hollywood. The back-to-back Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey draggings have kick-started the process of weeding out the men who do not deserve any accolade of any kind, but are someone still allowed to flourish in the entertainment industry. (See here and here and here)

With this movement to weed out the bad also allows for a push to bring forward the good. Women deserve starring roles in films. Women deserve directing jobs. Women deserve to write screenplays and edit films and sound mix and costume design and score. They deserve every role any male has ever had, period end-of-story.

If we look through a Disney lens, we can see that the movement has started creating small waves. A Wrinkle in Time is being written by Jennifer Lee and directed by Ava DuVernay (the first woman of color to every be given the reigns to direct a film with a budget over $100 million). Mulan is being directed by Niki Caro. Now, there are a few screenplays co-written by women (Wreck-It Ralph 2, Nutcracker and the 4 Realms, Christopher Robin, Aladdin), but the only women directors lined-up are Ava, Niki, and Jennifer Lee (co-directing Frozen 2).

If we bring Marvel and Lucasfilm into the fray, we find that Captain Marvel is the only one with a woman attached and, once again, it’s co-directing with a man.

Disney has found it very easy to pat themselves on the back for hiring women directors, but three out of a double-digit slate is humorous.

Two big budget franchises are being discussed for Disney right now, with Artemis Fowl and Sword in the Stone adaptations on the way. These can end up being multi-film franchises with big bucks and big opportunities paired with them. Yet, Artemis is going to Kenneth Branagh (white man) and the Sword is going to, reportedly, Ridley Scott (white man). Now, there is nothing wrong with these men. They are great directors. However, if we are championing ourselves for allowing women to join the conversation and be a part of these films, going right back to their old white men tricks leaves something big to be desired.

I don’t want to hear any excuses from them, either. It’s not like women directors are hard to find, they just aren’t getting the work because no one will allow them to have it. Queen Sugar and this upcoming season of Jessica Jones have female directors for every single episode. Hire some female directors. It’s not hard, you’re just lazy.

Look, here’s a nifty database that compiles over 1000 female directors that would love to be able to put their spin on a live-action fairytale or an original story! Now there’s even less of an excuse!

Same goes for screenwriters (I’m all for a collaborative effort, but why not MULTIPLE women?!), editors, songwriters, composers, etc. Every role can be a woman and every role should be a woman.

On top of all this, we still have to deal with John Lasseter being the worst. When statements come out against someone saying that they needed chaperones for an adult male to make sure he wasn’t creepy and gross to character performers, he needs to go. No 6-month sabbatical. He needs to go.

Since the onslaught of men being outed as awful people is coming at such a rapid pace, some still want to look to their artistic achievements as  reason enough for them to remain in the public eye, but that can’t happen. It continues to perpetuate the cycle and fineness with harassment and assault occurring. Even if John Lasseter is the person who saved Disney Animation, it doesn’t matter. Nothing is worth keeping around someone who has ruined many women’s lives.

The best thing for Disney to do would be replace him with a woman to show solidarity and to help get more women into roles that are lacking their presence, within animation especially, but within the company as a whole. I hear Jennifer Lee is free…

Time’s Up. Movies aren’t a man’s game any longer.

(To donate to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, providing subsidized legal support to those affected by workplace sexual harassment and assault, head here)

“A Wrinkle In Time” Has Us Shook Into Another Dimension

We received the first teaser trailer for the upcoming film A Wrinkle In Time, being released March 9th, 2018. I have come back from the grave to write this post, as this trailer left me dead. The stunning imagery (Ava DuVernay’s visual style is clearly seen in the first clips and it is SO appreciated. Look for the shot of the three witches in the tall grass, as it made me yell “OH MY…”), the gorgeous cover of “Sweet Dreams,” and the Oprah narration all mix together to create one of the great teaser trailer’s I’ve ever seen.  Check out the trailer below.

The trailer was announced following the cast coming out on stage at the D23 Expo Live-Action panel. I really loved seeing them quickly talk about the film and the true excitement on all of their faces. Watch for Ava being thrilled to be there, stay for Oprah giving everyone posters.

Looking Back at LeFou’s Coming Out Craziness

LeFou has had one hell of a 2017. From being a simply enjoyable sidekick to the face of the LGBTQ community (but like, not really at all). Bill Condon’s interview stating that LeFou will have an “exclusively gay moment” threw the world for a loop and now that we’ve been able to see the film and let the moment itself sink in, we need to dissect the situation. (Side note: “exclusively gay moment” is such a weirdly worded phrase. It’s the new “conscious uncoupling.”)

The moment we were promised was certainly less than to be desired. If you have yet to see the live-action Beauty and the Beast, that’s crazy and why are you reading this in the first place, but also spoilers ahead.

During the big fight scene, Audra McBoudoir (not her actual character name, but I will call her that from here on out) throws a variety of fabrics and accoutrement at three revolting townsfolk until they are in dresses and their faces are powdered. Two are horrified that anyone would ever see them not adhering to masculine societal norms, while one is okay with it and smiles back at Audra McBoudoir. The moment is played for a laugh, which bothered me a bit, but the underlying meaning behind it I appreciated. Be your true self, nameless character! Audition for RuPaul’s Drag Race! Live your best life! *confetti*

This is key to remember as in the finale of the film, as everyone is dancing in the newly bright ballroom (They Loved It and didn’t List it.), LeFou is dancing with a woman and then spins around to find himself dancing with the nameless townsperson. I have read other reports where they say their faces light up in a way to signify that they are happier, but that is a little much. I have seen the film four times now (don’t @ me) and there is nothing to suggest that. However, that’s the moment. That is what was hyped out the wazoo. It was a disappointment, to say the least.

It was even more of a disappointment considering that they built it up as a tribute to Howard Ashman. For those unfamiliar, the producer and songwriter for the key films during the Disney Renaissance was a gay man who died due to AIDS months before the release of Beauty and the Beast. Roy Disney has said he was another Walt, which is a huge title to be bestowed on someone. He revolutionized Disney Animation Studios, arguably saved the animation department from death single-handedly, and changed the company forever. His presence is truly missed, but the work he did for the company in that short amount of time has left a lasting impression on the Disney brand and entertainment world as a whole.

Thinking about this, a tribute to Ashman through a “gay moment” is very cool and heartwarming. This man died from a disease that was ignored by many because of its ties to the gay community (as a “baby gay,” I highly suggest you check out ABC’s When We Rise, where I learned so much about the community during that tumultuous time.) and blatantly stating a character is gay in his honor is a great tribute in my eyes. Yet, the moment wasn’t that at all. It was so overhyped that what we received what such a big pile of nothing compared to where everyone’s expectations were set.

Now, LeFou throughout the film had many more instances that were smaller, but more telling in my eyes compared to the final dance. During the “Gaston” sequence, he had subtle feminine tendencies that I immediately caught onto and appreciated. It wasn’t in an offensive way or a stereotype, just relatable. When he sits on the bar and tries to get the three nameless townsfolk to join in, I picked on every nuance, for lack of a better word. The placement of his shoulders, the flipping of the hair, etc. It was the stuff most LGBTQ+ kids have to adamantly avoid doing in school, even if it’s how they naturally carry themselves, to avoid bullying (take it from one who has been there and back). Later during the fight, LeFou’s face when Mrs. Potts says that he’s too good for Gaston is great, as well. He’s realizing things about himself and you can see it in his eyes. I loved being able to tell when LeFou realized he shouldn’t stick with a guy who doesn’t love him back.

I feel that if Bill Condon did the interview after the release saying that LeFou was meant to be seen as gay and these moments were a small tribute to Mr. Ashman, the collective feeling would have been more positive from the community (not a huge difference, but it would’ve swayed positive), but the build-up was so great that it would never be able to compete unless LeFou straight up made-out with his dance partner on the lips.

Now, the backlash was strong for these small moments and I do give incredible amounts of credit to Disney for calling bluffs when they saw them. Malaysia, Russia, and China’s big ratings uptick for these miniscule moments were hefty, but Disney didn’t care. They stuck to their guns and wouldn’t allow any edits to the film whatsoever, which is a not only a powerful statement, but also incredibly moving. It’s so great to see how far the community has come in just the last decade, and especially the allies the community has gained in that amount of time. (Just look at the amount of large companies who made mention of Pride in any way, shape, or form last month.) That one Alabama drive-in that banned the movie had no effect on Disney or the box office. The mom who said she would cancel her trip because of these small moments was abhorrent, but Disney didn’t bat an eyelash. You can go take your kids somewhere else, the Magic Kingdom is a place for acceptance. Sorry, lady. Disney is filled with pride.

It was underwhelming compared to the build-up, but it was a step. Hopefully, that step leads into bigger representation down the line. In live-action reboots, in original films, in animated properties, etc. I hope this creates a snowball of LGBTQ+ representation in Disney product, and diverse LGBTQ+ representation at that. So, Disney, I give you a single clap for this, but I’m looking forward to the day when I can give you a standing ovation.