A Different Kind of Revolution

So it’s my day off from the bookstore, and I knew I was going to reserve some time for writing today.  What I wasn’t sure of, until I sat down, is what I was going to write about.  After all, today is the day of the #WalkOut, it’s Pi Day, Hawking died, and then there’s the din of the perpetual horror machine that is contemporary American politics.  Plenty of people are talking about all of those things, though, and I thought I’d stick my neck out a bit and talk a bit about something a bit different.

So let’s talk about Love, Simon.  This film’s coming out Friday, or maybe tomorrow night if you’re lucky enough to be in a city that has an early release.  The movie is put out by 20th Century Fox, and when I say that I mean 20th Century Fox–not one of their smaller art house subsidiaries.  We’ll get to why that’s important in a minute.  It’s a romantic comedy with more than just a nod to John Hughes in its feel and aesthetic.  It has a diverse cast, and some major names attached.  In short, it’s a typical Hollywood date movie that usually fills the months of March and April, while the movie industry holds its breath waiting for the big tentpole action films to run riot over the summer and fall.

Love, Simon is a love story that seems almost nostalgic in its depiction of high school relationships, imbued with a Technicolor light that renders the hope underscoring the characters infectious.  That hope, that yearning, is palpable despite–perhaps because of–the comedy of horrors and errors that Simon and his friends endure.  It’s the hope all of us have–that we will find a place for ourselves, if we expose our truest, most innermost selves to those we care for.  That home can be whatever and wherever the people we love are, and that there is somebody out there for all of us, waiting to be found.

So Simon’s gay.  I’m pretty sure I didn’t mention that.  He doesn’t either, not at first.  In fact, the entire film is only half a love story in the traditional sense.  The other half is very much Simon Spier coming to love himself enough that he becomes invested in his own happiness.  Now for some spoilers: no one dies, and no one contracts an incurable disease.  This is a rom-com, remember?  I point this out because outside of some art house flicks over the past few years, most of the LGBTQ films put out by the smaller arms of the major studios over the past years have always ended that way.  There are no genuine happy endings, just a flutter of hopeful moments before the inevitable tragic denouement.

Based on Becky Albertalli‘s teen novel Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, Love, Simon is a movie behind its time–and that’s not its fault.  The book itself–and its sequels Upside of Unrequited and Leah on the Offbeat–are heartfelt, relevant explorations of those crucial teen years for LGBTQ youth and their friends and allies.  But even in 2016, when the first book first appeared on the scene, a movie based on it seemed a bit behind the times.  Not because the book doesn’t feel “of the now”, because it certainly does, but because honestly a movie like this should’ve been made 10 years ago.  Hell, 20 years ago if people in Hollywood would’ve seen where the culture was heading with a bit more chutzpah.  But Greg Berlanti (yes, that Greg Berlanti) saw something in those pages he was willing to take a chance on, and here we are.

It’s 2018, and the world is about to get the first LGBTQ romcom about a same-sex romance from any major studio.  ANY.  It’s insane to me that’s true, but there you have it.  20th Century Fox, of all places, has decided America–and the world!–is ready for this, regardless of fear of sales in international markets that might not be open to such a story.  That’s the common excuse by major studios who refuse to allow LGBTQ characters to even exist in their larger franchises, much less have storylines that highlight that particular aspect of their character.  This is a smaller film than Spider-Man or Marvel’s Avengers, but one with the capacity for greater impact.

This film can save and transform lives, and families, and friendships, but it’s going to need your help to do it.  So here we come to why I wrote this post.  As it stands, the movie is supposed to make $15-18 million this weekend, based on current industry projections. It’s budget was $17 million.  I’m sure you can see what I’m getting at here. To have more movies like this, more movies exploring all aspects of the LGBTQ experience in a mainstream, easily accessed format for teens and young adults this movie needs to do well, not just meh.  It needs to surprise, shock and awe hollywood and its establishment with just how well it does, how much we and our allies support them taking a chance on actually showing our stories in the limelight.

I can’t actually imagine what a story like this just existing when I was a teen would’ve meant to me, let alone actually getting to see it in a film.  I grew up in a very white, wealthy upstate New York town, known to many as an art town, but that’s not what it felt like as a teen.  It felt…stultifying.  Filled with so many secrets that I was amazed anyone could look anyone else in the eye.  One of those secrets was my own orientation, and it took years to figure out what that was and what it meant to live openly and authentically.  In the meanwhile, I put on a very brave face and soldiered on, despite the bullying and confusion, despite the self-hatred I was taught and my determination to escape.  It amazes me how many kids just 30 years later don’t have to worry about that.  In many ways, it’s a different world.  The last few generations have made so many leaps forward in acceptance and inclusion.  Kids come out young and in many places, people shrug and simply just accept it as no big deal.

But here’s the thing that probably anyone not LGBTQ doesn’t get: it’s always a big deal.  In many ways, life is a perpetual state of coming out–to ourselves, and to the world around us.  And not just that first time, but every single time you come out.  Your first friend, your first extended family, your first workplace–and every person or situation you find yourself in for the rest of your life.  How are people going to react?  It’s always a choice you have to weigh with every single person you interact with.  It keeps loved ones from holding hands in public is a default, or risking a kiss goodbye or hello.  It keeps people using gender neutral pronouns to cover up the identities of their partners, it keeps us from having the courage to simply be 100% ourselves in the public sphere.  Think about that for a second, if you could.  It requires courage just to hold hands, to do more than a one-armed bro hug hello, to say your partner or spouse’s name.  Yes, it gets better, but.  They always forget the but.  Not every place is safe, not every mind and situation is accepting.  Our media tells us this story, too.  How many of the stories they tell of us feature tragedy, illness, bashing, or death?

This movie, for all that it is most certainly light-hearted, is an opportunity to tell hollywood–and the people you know–that we can have these types of stories, too.  That we can have stories that celebrate us, stories that show us fighting not just battles of social justice but fighting the doubt and self-hatred that so often grows inside us and actually winning.  We can have romcoms and spy stories, fantasies and superhero movies.  We can have these films and not have them be gay movies, but just movies.  Movies who happen to feature people that look and act like us, just like the overwhelming majority of leads depicted as straight without having to be so to the exclusion of all else.  We can have stories that are for us, not just about us.

Every single kid, tween, and teen who sees this movie is going to know there are people who support them, who will love them, and that the required courage is worth the risk. If they invite you to see Love, Simon, they’re already halfway there.  How many conversations will happen this weekend–and into the future–because this film gave people a window to understand themselves and each other?

Will you join me this weekend?  Will you send that message to your son, or nephew, or your student, that you support not just them, but a culture that includes them and others like them?  Don’t let Simon be the only one fighting the Homo Sapiens agenda.

Click the image below to get your tickets.


Wednesday Weigh-In Week 2

Favorite Meal: Another boring week–I had leftovers for the first half of the week, and take out Qdoba last night.  Going to make something fun this weekend though, since I have it off–just haven’t decided what that might be as yet.

Song of the Week: Shooting Star, by Owl City.  Total cheese pop, but totally hits me where I live this week.  Actually, this whole album is amazingly upbeat compared to some of his earlier work–and while his voice doesn’t always hit that sweet spot we want in our bubble gum pop, the earnestness that made a lot of America fall in love with him after “Fireflies” is still there in spades.

Best Media of the Week: Lots of musical media this week.  Most recently, we have the grinning Golden in Hip Dog Digs It.  I giggled for a half hour watching it.  New to some of you, though, may be this next one (especially if you don’t follow me on tumblr)  Behold the dancing Robin GIF: Don’t Judge.  There’s My Name is Kay’s new video for Strangers, too.  Lots of good stuff this week, but hands down my favorite? The Irish President ripping a Tea Party supporter for…well, just about everything he stood for.  Take a listen here.

Comic of the Week: This was a week of a lot of endings in comic land.  Most story arcs in DC’s oeuvre ended this month, due to their flashback month in September.  Green Lantern: New Guardians finished it’s first year story arc this week with issue 12, and there were pay offs galore.  I enjoy this book, but something felt almost forced about this issue…as if it needed another issue or two to tell all that happened, but because of 0 Month in September they weren’t given the space.  I do dig, in a big way, what they’re setting Kyle up for heading into the Green Lantern crossover event that is the next story arc after September’s flashback.

Surprisingly, The Unwritten also wrapped up its current story arc this month and it was epic and awesome in the way that book and only that book can be.  Honestly, there isn’t another comic out there, in my estimation, with Unwritten’s combination of Gross’ art and  the manifold layers of depth in Carey’s written word.  It’s the book I save close to last so I can savor it, because I know I’ll have to read it a few times before I really feel like I understand everything happening.  The ending of this issue had me shouting “YES!” to an empty room.  The best endings are just new beginnings.

Without question Flash #12 had some of the best art of the week, and the story was the tightest its been in months.  In short, THIS is the Flash book we were promised, and I’m thrilled that we’re headed to a place where we’re done with the moping and we’re getting into the frenetic life of what is arguably one of my favorite comic characters (albeit with other people behind the mask) of all time. Manapul and Buccellato managed to make the watercolors–especially on Glider–so effortlessly beautiful without sacrificing the incredible chaotic energy of life on super speed.  Old Friends became enemies, old enemies became friends, and suddenly Central City felt so real again.

The winner of the week, though, was Amazing Spider-Man #692.

 It’s an interesting issue.  I really don’t like Andy Maguire (aka Alpha), and I get the feeling that was sort of the point.  Peter Parker was special in a lot of ways even before that damned arachnid got involved.  Andy isn’t.  He’s worked so hard to become invisible, to not matter, that when he finally does you don’t necessarily wish him well of it.  I think Spidey is amazing about it though, as is the supporting cast.  Reed and Ben make great comedic and serious foils, especially dealing with Pete’s history and the common Spidey theme of hubris.  I agree with CBR’s review that said Slott easily was channeling Stan Lee when he wrote the issue.  It’s a great totally Spidey story, even if I don’t care for his new sidekick.

What amazed me the most, however, were the two backup stories.  The first was written and penciled by Dean Haspiel.  The story was fine enough, though nothing to necessarily write home about–until the last few panels had me in tears.  I love Spider-Man for this very reason, for the simple nobility and the purity of what he stands for.  Totally reminded me of the issue with Pete and Franklin after Johnny’s death.  I love that Haspiel found a tossed away moment in recent continuity and crafted something so totally fitting to honor Spidey’s 50th with it.  The man who found the costume was desperate to make “her” happy, so much so that he tried again and again to give her anything she could possibly want–but ultimately all she wanted was his love.  Heartbreaking.

The second back up was written by Joshua Fialkov, with Nino Plati on art.  I don’t typically love Fialkov’s work, but I loved Plati’s manga-inspired art enough to give it a whirl.  His muted colors softened what could’ve been a jarring switch in style, and engendered a feeling of nostalgia that ran throughout the tale.  Honestly, it could’ve been set almost anytime in Spider-Man’s continuity and it would’ve held up well.  As for the story itself, I hope Dan Slott doesn’t take this the wrong way, but that was as solid a Spider-Man story as Slott’s done in his run.  I was definitely that kid growing up.  I definitely spent the majority of my ‘tweens’ living in my head, to make dealing with the bullying of the other kids easier.  I just kept it to myself rather than tell anyone who could hear.  But Fialkov made me laugh, made me tear up, and maybe even made me want to fistbump my cat at its awesomeness.

There were no humans present, ok?

Owein is chill like that.


Wednesday Weigh-In: Week One

Comic of the Week: Despite me floundering in the end of Kieron Gillen‘s Journey into Mystery (which, the more I think about it, might be one of my favorite comic runs by anyone of all time) all week, whistfully sighing waiting for Marvel to announce that he is writing that teen team-up book with some of my favorite characters ever (WHEN, Marvel, WHEN?), and the craziness involving travel and business trips for the boyfriend, I haven’t even gotten to last week’s comics yet!  But a commitment is a commitment, and I promised you folks an update.  So I had the unfortunate burden of heading to Culver’s for comics lunch and reading my entire weekly draw from this week.  And there was a lot to read.

I should probably give you all a sense of scale.  This was a slightly heavy draw week off of my pull list at my friendly local comic shop (flcs, going forward).  I had 20 books waiting for me today, spreading between the big 2 (Marvel & DC Comics) and some smaller franchise and independent books.  So when I say something was the best of the week, that means it surpassed about 17-19 other titles each week.  That means I read approximately 80 comics a month.  It also means I’m poor.

So, what won out this week? It was a weird pull, because for a change I had a wide spread across a bunch of genres.  Valiant’s Harbinger, Mike Norton & Tim Seeley‘s Revival, Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga, and Nate Cosby & Ben McCool’s Pigs #8 were all tight this week, turning in some of the best work yet on all titles.  For big payoffs, AvX #10 was pretty sweet (been waiting for a decent moment in this title, as its definitely been dragging). Some books that surprised me were X-Factor #242–big emotional moments, but almost no build up left me wanting to feel more than I did.  Red Hood #12 almost made it to the top of the pile, as the storytelling was honestly as tight as I’ve seen Lobdell do since he started his run.  It felt very much the epic, star-spanning swashbuckling story they were clearly aiming for with the cover font choice.  Avengers Academy 35 (which just announced its end date this fall and I’m trying not to cry) had big emotional payoffs this week and ties for the top spot. I’m going to miss the characters something fierce, despite Christos Gage‘s comment that they may be living on in some way in other title in the MarvelNOW iniative. They won’t be the same without his heart and soul filling them up with awesome.

The winner for this week, however, is DC Universe Presents: Kid Flash.  What? A one-shot in an anthology series wins best of the week? HECK YEAH, it does!  For starters, I didn’t realize how much I missed Fabian Nicieza‘s voice in DC’s teen heroes.  I love Scott Lobdell‘s Teen Titans, but Fabian was my go-to guy that made me seriously love Tim Drake–and he does wonder with the New52’s Bart.  Under Nicieza’s guidance, Kid Flash comes across more serious in this one-shot than in the main Titans book, more experienced and wiser while at the same time keeping his humor and awkwardness that made Bart one of my favorite DC heroes ever.  He also goes up against teenage human/dinosaur hybrids that are pretty complex for brand new, one-shot characters.  And that’s just the start.  I almost want him to lead a team of these dino-kids in a longer running mini-series.  The art by Jorge Jimenez is sleek and speedy.  I didn’t exhale until I finished the issue, as it was one beautiful ride that slid effortlessly from panel to panel.  This makes me crush so hard for this creative team, as well as all of the characters.  So if you like dinosaurs, Flash, Bart, or just great teen characters (that ought to be most of you), DC Presents: Kid FLash (#12) is the one comic you should buy this week.

Song of the Week: Well, last week it was Primadonna, by Marina & the Diamonds.  Early this week, it was Want U Back, by Cher Lloyd.  But lately I’ve found myself listening to the remix album of Imagine Dragons’ It’s Time on Spotify on endless repeat. It’s been really energizing, good habit reinforcing, and makes me dance around the house with my gym shorts on.  No videos of the latter.

Favorite Meal of the Week: This week has been boring for food.  Leftovers and frozen dinners.  I’ll Have more exciting things to report next week.

Best Media Stuff of the Week:  Well, the Madonna Bar Mitzvah Boy is big on the gay blogs this week.  I feel envious of him, that he’s comfortable enough in himself, and his family and friends that he could let loose like that at so young an age.  I definitely used to wish to do things like that at that age.  But I think the two best media making the rounds the last week, in the last week or so (keep in mind, some of this is dated but I found it this week) is the story of the momma dog saving her puppies from a burning building in Chile and an old story I found on Kieron Gillen’s tumblr stream about the magic we can give to each other when we rise about ourselves and try to be selfless, even in the smallest ways.  That story made me cry, so it wins this week.  Read it here.