WHY WE CARE


Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live. Through reviews, articles and discussions, we want to spark intellectual thought, spiritual growth and a desire to follow the command of Colossians 2:8: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."

YOUR STORIES


Family uses Plugged In as a ‘significant compass’

"I am at a loss for words to adequately express how much it means to my husband and me to know that there is an organization like Focus that is rooting for us. Just today I was reading Psalm 37 and thinking about how your ministry provides ways to 'dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.' We have two teenagers and an 8-year-old in our household...Plugged In has become a significant compass for our family. All three of our kids are dedicated to their walk with Christ but they still encounter challenges. Thanks for all of your research and persistence in helping us navigate through stormy waters."

Plugged In helps college student stand-up for his belief

"Thanks for the great job you do in posting movie and television reviews online. I’m a college freshman and I recently had a confrontational disagreement with my English professor regarding an R-rated film. It is her favorite movie and she wanted to show it in class. I went to your Web site to research the film’s content. Although I had not seen the movie myself, I was able to make an educated argument against it based on the concerns you outlined. The prof said that she was impressed by my stand and decided to poll the whole class and give us a choice. We overwhelmingly voted to watch a G-rated movie instead! I’ve learned that I can trust your site and I will be using it a lot in the future.”

Plugged In brings ‘Sanity and Order’ to Non-believer

“Even though I don’t consider myself a Christian, I find your Plugged In Web site useful and thought-provoking. No one reviews movies like you do. Instead of being judgmental, you put entertainment ‘on trial.’ After presenting the evidence, you allow the jury of your readers to decide for themselves what they should do. In my opinion, you bring sanity and order to the wild world of modern day entertainment. Keep up the good work!”

Mom thinks Plugged In is the ‘BEST Christian media review site’

"Our family doesn't go to the movies until we go online and check out your assessment of a given film. I think this is the BEST Christian media review website that I've found, and I recommend it to my family and friends. Keep up the good work!"

SUPPORT THE WORK OF PLUGGED IN

Our hope is that whether you're a parent, youth leader or teen, the information and tools at Plugged In will help you and your family make appropriate media decisions. We are privileged to do the work we do, and are continually thankful for the generosity and support from you, our loyal readers, listeners and friends.

PLUGGED IN RATING

Watch This Review

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Movie Review

Simon says he's got a secret.

Simon says his family doesn't know it. He loves 'em and all, and he thinks they’d accept it. But why risk it? Why explode their idyllic nuclear unit?

Simon says his friends don't know, either—not even Leah Burke, his best bud since they were able to walk under tables without hitting their heads. They've done just about everything together for 13 years. But that? That secret's just a little too dangerous. A little too disruptive.

Simon says he likes his life right now. Mostly. Why mess up his senior year with a startling, earth-churning confession that'll change everything, and change how everyone'll look at him?

See, Simon likes other guys.

Wait, did Simon actually say that? Does it count if he didn't?

Admittedly, Simon said so himself in some private emails to a secret pen pal, a guy (or girl?) he only knows as Blue. They connected after Blue published an anonymous confession on a gossipy high school blog, one that came with an email address attached. Simon mailed him his own little confession, also anonymously, crafting a fake account and calling himself "Jacques." They're close, these two. Intimate, even. But neither knows who the other is. When Simon walks the halls, he scans the faces of his friends and classmates, wondering just who the mysterious Blue might be.

But Simon said some stuff to Blue on a school computer and didn't sign out of his Google account. When another student logs onto the same computer and stumbles across Simon's emails—taking screenshots of each—that other student suddenly has some serious blackmailing material.

Simon says he's just like everybody else. But Simon feels different. And now, someone might just say just how Simon feels … even if Simon doesn’t say so.

Positive Elements

So. Love, Simon is a tricky film to review, given that the very premise of the movie flies into problematic territory. But within that framework, we find some sweet moments.

Simon's parents—his dad, Jack, and his mom, Emily—are dedicated, loving and involved, deeply committed to each other and to their kids. The family eats together at the table whenever possible. They spend time together. When Simon's little sister, Nora, an aspiring chef, concocts yet another one of her culinary experiments, everyone chokes it down with a smile as best they can. And they've raised pretty conscientious kids, too. Jack depends on Simon for help with everything—from hanging Christmas lights to creating a multimedia presentation in order to celebrate Jack and Emily's 20th anniversary.

They're not picture-perfect, Bible-believing Christian parents, as we'll see. And they don't have spiritual issues with Simon's sexual leanings. But when he reveals those leanings, it still throws both parents off their game. But when they adjust, Jack and Emily respond with love, and that's heartening to see.

The film offers a strong anti-bullying message, too, which Plugged In can also get behind. Everyone, made as we are in God's image, deserves to be treated with respect and honor.

Spiritual Content

Blue is Jewish. He writes to Simon about how he plans to come out to his dad during their modest celebration of Chanukah: Blue visits his father in a seedy hotel, where they light menorah candles and Blue secretly prays that "the sprinklers don't go off." (We see Simon's imaginings of what the scene would look like.)

Simon talks with another male homosexual student, who says that his mother lies about his sexuality all the time to family members—because those relatives are "old and religious."

Part of the movie takes place at Christmas, so Simon's family members decorate their tree and open presents. When Simon dresses as John Lennon for a costume party, some friends mistake him for a well-dressed Jesus.

Sexual Content

It’s a spoiler warning, but it’s also content that we can’t avoid here: Simon eventually connects with a boyfriend, and we see the two kiss several times.

When Simon ogles a male construction worker from his bedroom window, his father walks in and startles him. Jack—who’s not yet in on Simon’s secret—jokes that he must've interrupted his boy either looking at erotic (female) images online or masturbating. Jack jokes with Simon about how someone looks gay, using a number of derogatory terms to describe the person in question.

Before Simon's secret is revealed, a boy named Ethan is the only student at Simon's high school who openly claims to be gay. Unlike Simon, he's effeminate and dresses androgynously. In flashback, we see the moment Ethan "comes out" to his friends, who feign surprise. Ethan's lifestyle has also made him the target of other students who bully him. But when they mock him, he turns the tables and begins crudely making fun of their manhood.

When Simon's secret eventually spills out, two bullies mock him in the lunch room. They assume that Simon’s having a sexual relationship with Ethan. (The school's vice principal assumes that, too, despite both students’ honest protestations to the contrary.) The bullies’ mockery also includes pantomiming suggestively as one spanks the other.

We see an odd little musical number (made up in Simon’s mind) wherein he imagines going to college and celebrating his out-and-proud gayness with a song-and-dance routine on college grounds, a rainbow flag hanging proudly in the background. In flashback, we see Simon wake up after apparently having erotic dreams about Daniel Radcliff.

Leah sleeps over at Simon's house, something she’s done since they were little kids. They sleep in separate beds, but Simon's parents suspect the two may be having a sexual relationship. That said, they don't seem to care. Leah, for her part, would love it if their relationship took a more romantic turn: Ironically, Simon's hyper-selective attitude toward his girlfriends (he's only had a couple) inadvertently encourages Leah to believe maybe he has eyes for her, too.

In another flashback, a female date of Simon's kisses him at a school dance and tries to speed the relationship along. But he flees to the bathroom, calls his mother and begs for her to pick him up. (He lies, saying that students are drinking alcohol at the dance.) Jack and Emily kiss a few times, and they make some uncomfortable allusions to sexual behavior. Emily tries to encourage the whole family to watch The Affair (a TV show) as a family; both Simon and Nora refuse, protesting that the show's "all about sex." Emily grumbles about how "repressed" her family is, and she and Jack decide the whole clan can watch FX's sexually graphic and uber-violent The Americans instead.

Simon participates in the school play Cabaret, which takes place in what the drama teacher describes as a “German sex club.” (How does she know what a German sex club looks like? someone wonders. I’d rather not say, she says under her breath.) At a Halloween party, Simon walks in on a male crush of his kissing a girl in a bedroom. Elsewhere, we hear various characters make lewd and suggestive comments about both men and women, people talk about various body parts (in a sometimes derogatory manner), and there's a reference or two to lingerie.

A guy goes to a costume party wearing a fake gray beard, a thin black dress and a written message explaining his outfit: "Freudian slip." A teen girl there wears a revealing Wonder Woman costume that pairs a skimpy, cleavage-revealing top with tight short shorts. Jack jokes that Simon got someone pregnant. Both Leah and Simon suggest that they're not "casual" lovers: Once they fall in love, each suggests, it might be forever.

Violent Content

Someone violently tries to wrest a microphone from a National Anthem singer. Simon grabs someone by the lapel and pulls him through the library for a private, angry chat.

Crude or Profane Language

One clear f-word (along with a couple other near uses of that vulgarity) and nearly a dozen s words. We also hear “a--,” “b--ch,” “crap,” “h---” and “f-g.” God’s name is misused about 20 times, including at least eight pairings with “d--n.”

Drug and Alcohol Content

Simon and his friends go to a party where alcohol is served. We see teens drink and take shots. Though some express surprise that Simon’s willing to drink (he apparently isn’t known as a big partier), he makes an exception on this evening. He and others get seriously intoxicated. (One person admits later how drunk he was.) Simon sings karaoke loudly, even as some of his friends are passed out by the stage. And one fellow reveler is so drunk that he …

Other Negative Elements

… vomits all over Simon’s white suit. The incident necessitates a hasty retreat back home, where Simon and Leah are disappointed that Simon’s parents are still up. They toss his vomit-stained shirt away (leaving him in only a slightly stained undershirt, with his white shoes still covered with the ooky stuff) and try to sneak past, but to no avail: Simon’s parents know what’s up, and discuss whether they should be concerned or not. “He didn’t drive drunk, and he’s home before curfew,” Simon’s mom rationalizes. “We’re good parents,” Simon’s dad says.

Jack also apparently vomits—the victim of one of his daughter's culinary experiments. There’s obviously quite a bit of lying and subterfuge going on in this movie, much of it by Simon himself in an effort to keep his secret buried.

Conclusion

Mainstream movies and TV shows focused on same-sex relationships aren’t edgy outliers anymore, but absolutely in vogue. We’ve seen many examples of this trend over the couple of years, from Beauty and the Beast to Andy Mack, Supergirl to Call Me by Your Name—just to name a few. Love, Simon is simply one more such film in this crowded field.

That might very well be all that some of you need to hear in order to make your decision about whether to see this movie or not, or whether to let your kids see it. For many families, Love, Simon’s narrative focus on teen homosexuality will be an automatic nonstarter.

But I think that there’s more we need to say with regard to this film, one that’s already generating a lot of cultural buzz. For starters, all these same-sex themed movies are not … well, the same. Some preach and forcefully push an agenda. Some are more subtle. Love, Simon falls into the latter category.

This is not to say that the film doesn’t have an agenda. It obviously does. Even Simon jokingly suggests that he stays in the closet because of how blatantly unfair it is that heterosexuality is considered the standard, and everything else is a deviation—complete with a comic montage of Simon’s friends “coming out” as straight to their shocked and weeping parents. Moments like these feel nuanced and authentic. Disarmingly so, in fact. And funny, too.

But Love, Simon's inherent likeability cuts both ways. After all, the more you like a flick, the more it'll potentially influence you. And Love, Simon aims to influence. Lots of mainstream critics are hailing the way it normalizes teen homosexuality. And even though I might appreciate, on some levels, the film’s authenticity, that very quality also makes the movie’s quiet advocacy for homosexuality that much more problematic for families trying to raise their kids by truths rooted in Scripture. This movie reinforces messages that are all but ubiquitous in the culture today, but does so with a warm smile and a friendly hug. We like Simon. We want him to be happy. And impressionable teens—who might very well know a Simon or two in their own lives—might root for him to find that happiness on his own terms. Not (as we're all asked to do) on God's.

Love, Simon's title contains multiple layers within its two words: It's how he signs his concluding letter. It's what Simon's looking for. And the movie's ultimately about Simon loving himself—exactly as he is.

Self-love is the ethos of the day, and a not unhealthy one in some ways. We're supposed to love ourselves, just as God loves us. But at the end of the day, we're supposed to love others more than ourselves, and God most of all. Thy will be done. That's a deeply countercultural message in our self-aggrandizing society, where culture insists that it's my will that counts.

Love, Simon fails when it comes to its message of self-love, I believe. But it does better (as we all do) when it focuses on others.

I didn’t love Love, Simon. The language was harsh, the sexuality was pervasive and the parents—well, the parents could’ve perhaps used some guidance from Focus on the Family and Plugged In. But they got one thing right: They loved their kid. And their kid loved them right back.

And that’s our job description as parents too: Loving our kids. That doesn’t mean we don’t question or grieve or talk with them. We strive to relate with both truth and grace, both of which are critically important. (See John 1:14-17.) But we never, ever stop loving them—a message Love, Simon rightly emphasizes, despite the significant worldview and sexuality issues that will require careful, intentional navigation by parents whose teens are interested in this culturally influential film.

For more on addressing the issue of homosexuality and teens, consider these resources from Focus on the Family:

How to Talk to Your Children About Homosexuality

How Should We Respond? An Exhortation to the Church on Loving the Homosexual

Understanding Homosexuality

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Nick Robinson as Simon Spier; Josh Duhamel as Jack Spier; Jennifer Garner as Emily Spier; Katherine Langford as Leah Burke; Jorge Lendeborg Jr. as Nick Eisner; Alexandra Shipp as Abby Suso; Talitha Eliana Bateman as Nora Spier; Logan Miller as Martin Addison; Keiynan Lonsdale as Bram Greenfeld; Tony Hale as Mr. Worth; Natasha Rothwell as Ms. Albright

Director

Greg Berlanti ( )

Distributor

20th Century Fox

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

March 16, 2018

On Video

June 12, 2018

Year Published

Awards

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults
We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Get weekly e-news, Culture Clips & more!