‘Love, Simon’ Raises Questions About How LGBTQ Characters Are Represented in Media

The pride flag in front of Hendricks Chapel at Syracuse University. (c) 2018 Sara Rizzo

Click the play button above to hear about LGBTQ media representation in movies and TV shows.

Audio transcript: Rizzo_LGBTQ Media Representation

By Sara Rizzo SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News)— Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer representation in movies and TV shows have been increasing over the past few years, but some members of that community are concerned about how LGBTQ characters are being portrayed.

The movie “Love, Simon” was released earlier this year and is about a gay high schooler who has to balance family, school and friends while trying to discover the identity of a classmate who he has fallen in love with online.

Abby Fite, the Program Coordinator for the Syracuse University LGBT Resource Center, had some concerns about the LGBTQ representation in “Love, Simon.” Since the lead in the movie is gay, she thought an LGBTQ actor should play him.

“Because queer and trans actors have been excluded from the industry for so long, I think it’s really important to represent LGBTQ people as LGBTQ characters whenever possible,” Fite said.

Fite also took issue with the fact Simon was a white male.

“When queer people are represented at all, especially if they’re represented in a positive way, more often than not, they are white cisgender men,” said Fite. “Queer people hold a ton of different identities, right? There are queer and trans people of color, queer and trans disabled people, queer and trans women, queer and trans poor and working class people, queer and trans older adults.”

Robin Riley, the director of Syracuse University’s LGBT studies program, said many movies and TV shows don’t have LGBTQ people producing them, and that can lead to negative stereotypes being portrayed in movies and TV shows.

“If we’re talking about stuff that appears on mainstream media, it’s often not LGBT produced. It’s often produced by straight people, who maybe get LGBTQI life and maybe they don’t,” said Riley. “Will and Grace for example, in its first iteration, ended up just reinforcing negative stereotypes about gay people, right, rather than really opening up people’s minds about gay people in all walks of life.”

Both Fite and Riley said LGBTQ representation in movies and TV shows are needed but can be improved upon.

Haidyn Buckler, a Syracuse University freshman, is in the LGBTQ Living Learning Community on campus. Buckler thinks LGBTQ media is important, especially for LGBTQ youth.

“Growing up as a young queer kid, and not really seeing any representation it made it really hard for me to kind of come to terms with my own identity,” Buckler said.

Buckler has seen “Love, Simon” four times and he loves it. He makes an effort to watch movies and TV shows with LGBTQ characters in them.

“If there’s like a TV show or movie that I know has queer characters or like was directed by a queer director, like I really do my best to kind of make sure that I consume that media because it’s not really something that we’re usually given as much and that’s why I think Love, Simon is super important,” Buckler said.