I can’t help notice that there’s something different about you. It started with Carol (2015) bagging six Oscar nominations in 2016. Then it was with Moonlight (2016) with five nominations and three wins. And now, Call Me By Your Name (2017) is in the running for Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Picture this year.
But Call Me By Your Name seems to be a different type of Oscar nominated LGBT+ film. In a rare occurrence, it managed to capture both the industry’s attention and, at the same time, the hearts of the young. It might seem the move towards inclusivity has begun to trickle down from the film critic community to a more general and approachable demographic: young adults.
I heard you’ll be releasing two young adult LGBT+ films to succeed the hype Call Me By Your Name has left. There is the quirky gay coming-of-age flick Love, Simon and the queer fantasy Every Day. Both movies are film adaptations of young adult novels, which are Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, and David Levithan’s novel of the same name, respectively.
And that’s great. There isn’t essentially anything wrong with more non-heterosexual narratives being brought to light. But I just can’t shake this feeling of skepticism off my back. The audience is definitely ripe for more LGBT+ movies, but I’m more concerned on the part of the producers and not the consumers.
I’m sorry to bring this up, but you do have a long list of sins committed against portraying the community properly, from “queerbaiting” to succumbing to the #buryyourgays trope. In other words, LGBT+ characters or plotlines have been often used as a marketing strategy.
And now there seems to be a steady trend of LGBT+ films and I can’t help wonder if you have decided to merely capitalize on the demand for representation through the young adult genre. This genre of movies has been notorious in following and fueling trends, whether it’s vampires or dystopian futures. It’s easy to turn to existing young adult fiction for your ideas and bring them to the silver screen. Authors of this genre would see that certain trend rising and create more books, therefore feeding the cycle.
Don’t get me wrong, I want more LGBT+ films. People need LGBT+ representation to be normalized. My only concern is that you cannot treat their stories and their narratives the same way you would treat a fictional fantasy romance with a werewolf. By reducing it to this trend of film adaptations catered to a demographic that you perceive as shallow or easy to please, you allow the possibility of being non-heterosexual to be romanticized or fetishized.
“That’s a slippery slope,” you may argue and that’s a valid argument. Could these assumptions still apply to two drastically different trends? I had a hard time trying to pinpoint what was the previous young adult trend and I realized that there indeed was a shift from the mythical and futuristic to something closer to home: mental health. There was a surge in young adult novels and their adaptations with more thought and heart that tackled real issues that teenagers face, such as Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) and The Fault in Our Stars (2014). The stigma against mental health was challenged and that was amazing. But then the 13 Reasons Why (2017 —) catastrophe happened exactly because of lazy production, which is at the heart of misrepresentation.
Yet, I’m not totally convinced with my cynicism either and this is again because of the effect that Call Me By Your Name has had on the industry and the audience. The fact that young adults and critics managed to meet on middle ground with this particular film gives me hope. There are threads on Twitter made by the film’s fandom that exhibit a grasp on film theory and analysis. This shouldn’t be a surprise to me since the Internet has given the youth access to resources on how to analyze and critique absolutely anything.
I don’t want to expect Love, Simon and Every Day to be like any other young adult film and be merely passable. I’m praying for the exact opposite. But even if they are, this could be your wake-up call that the audience that you’re courting has become a lot smarter than you think.
Hollywood, you have a trail that is ablaze and it has never been brighter. Please, I beg of you, don’t put it out just yet.
Your local concerned bisexual
Art by Lara Intong
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