Nick Robinson stars as Simon Spier in Love, Simon, the new movie from director Greg Berlanti. Simon is a fairly typical teen in the suburbs, with a good group of friends and the awkwardness that comes with being stuck between phases of life. While he has a great support network around him, including his loving parents (Josh Duhamel and Jennifer Garner), there’s one thing he hasn’t shared with anyone: That he’s gay.
One day reports begin to circulate on social media that someone in his school is gay and it’s not him. Simon begins an anonymous correspondence with this mystery person and, of course, a romantic connection develops. As he tries to determine who the individual is he finally admits the truth to those around him, which causes him to come to term with some issues he’s been dealing with on his own to date.
There’s not much to the first poster, which is fine even if it is a bit simple. Simon is shown as the main focus of the image, standing against a red backdrop. There are two bits of copy aside from the title, both of which are sure to make the subtext the actual text. First: “He’s done keeping his story straight.” Second: Coming out 2018.”
I get it and I can’t say I would have been any better at resisting such obvious wordplay, but still…
There are fewer puns on the second poster, though it does reuse the “Coming out…” line at the bottom. This time we’re told “Everyone deserves a great love story, which is a line also featured in the second trailer. The friends Simon surrounds himself with are shown here as well in a group photo, positioning the film as about more than just the main character, which is a nice approach.
The first trailer opens with Leah asking Simon if he ever feels weird, like there’s something he’s hiding from the world. Of course he does and we hear him narrate how he has a secret, the fact that he’s gay. He’s struggling with coming out, afraid of what that will mean for his friendships and how it’s going to change a fundamental part of who he is.
Not only is the trailer emotional, showing just how hard it can be for someone to defy what are still society’s norms, but it’s also pretty funny. Simon is shown to be awkward in a lot of his life and the final sequence showing people admitting that they’re heterosexual is well done.
As the second trailer starts we hear from Simon about how actually pretty good his life is, with a family he actually likes and friends he can count on. He admits though, that he’s keeping the fact he’s gay a secret. Things get complicated when a friends tell him someone at school has anonymously come out as gay and starts communicating with the mysterious stranger. Everything gets more and more complicated as he is clearly coming to a moment when the secret eventually comes out.
Online and Social
The official website for the movie is fine, featuring the standard Fox site template of “Trailers,” Posters” and other assets. The site’s “Featured Content” section promotes a contest you can enter, an encouragement to send your BFF a special message and promotion of the publicity tour the cast and crew engaged in. There are also links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Some TV advertising was done but it doesn’t appear any of those spots have been made available online. They, along with the trailers, were used for social media promoted posts and key art was used for other online ads to drive people to buy tickets or just raise awareness of the film.
Promotional partners for the movie included:
- GLSEN, which created lesson plans including talking points for group discussions around themes the movie touches on
- Urban Outfitters, which offered a handful of movie-themed items for sale, including the source novel
- Waffle House, which apparently features prominently in the movie and which has hosted get-togethers and events on the film’s publicity tour
- Rudy’s Barbershop, though details weren’t available.
Media and Publicity
EW offered up the first still from the movie, kicking off the publicity campaign with that and brief comments from director Berlanti.
The director also spoke extensively in this interview about how he connected emotionally with the script as soon as he read it, quickly identifying it as his first such project. Writer Becky Albertalli, on whose novel the movie is based, also talked there about the shock of having her book adapted for film and Robinson spoke about the responsibility to tell an emotionally true story that’s universal in meaning.
Berlanti continued to be the focus of the publicity effort, including this interview/feature where he talked about how this is one of the first times a major Hollywood studio has given a coming-of-age gay romance wide, mass-market distribution and support.
Robinson, Garner and Duhamel did make the publicity rounds in the last couple weeks to stop by local newspapers around the country, appear on late night TV and more, all to talk up the film and its message.
For the most part, I agree with the general thesis of this article in that Fox seems to have sold this in much the same way it has any other teen romance. That certainly runs counter to the perception of how something like the recent, critically-acclaimed Call Me By Your Name was marketed, an approach that had many questioning whether Sony Pictures Classics was trying to hide the gay love story that drove the movie’s story.
While it’s not exactly a “love story” that’s on display in this campaign the idea that it’s about a gay character grappling with his feeling in the same way a straight character would is fairly unique among major releases. Sometimes that’s presented very earnestly (the trailers) and sometimes with more of a collegial chuckle (the posters) but you certainly can’t say it’s being pushed into the background. We’ve seen over the last month that the theatrical marketplace is 100% willing to break with convention regarding black-starring and -helmed blockbusters, now we’ll see whether mainstream America is hip enough to turn out for a story like this.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.