Love, Simon — a coming-of-age film about a teen gay boy and his journey in accepting himself — was rated R21 in Singapore by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), despite the lack of gratuitous violence, sex, or nudity typical of movies categorized in the same restriction.
The acclaimed film has been lauded by critics for its highly affectionate and earnest take in a well-trodden genre, but anyone under the age of 21 in Singapore will, unfortunately, be unable to watch it on the big screen just because the main character happens to be homosexual.
This is what’s in the classification information.
The central theme of the film revolves around a homosexual character coming to terms with his identity as a homosexual and his attempts to gain acceptance from his family and friends. The theme of homosexuality, therefore, forms the main narrative of the film as the protagonist is portrayed to overcome his fear of being rejected as a gay male; and coupled with the support of his friends, gradually gains confidence to seek out the real identity of his love interest. According to the R21 Classification Guidelines “stronger and more explicit portrayal and exploration of mature themes are allowed”.
If that’s not flawed logic, we don’t know what is. A story of a 17-year-old boy coming to terms with his own identity and finding acceptance from friends and family is considered “mature” content? It’s a teen romcom! And probably a piece of art that could be viewed by youths in Singapore who are also struggling to find acceptance within themselves and their environment.
It’s the same sentiment that’s echoed in a petition going around right now calling for the IMDA to re-categorize Love, Simon as NC16 instead.
“By making Love, Simon NC16, I am positive that it will have a huge impact on young teenagers struggling to find acceptance from family and friends,” wrote Thasha Monique Dharmendra, who started the petition.
“It will also educate people that being free and accepted is just what everyone in this extensive community wants. Hopefully, it will also change people’s negative perception of the LGBTQ+ community.”
She compares the film’s ratings here with that in various other countries, where Love, Simon is (appropriately) considered viewable by teen audiences. As of writing, over 13,900 individuals agree with Thasha.
“You might think Singapore is a country where there a little to no LGBTQ+ teens, however, I assure you that they have just been overcome by the internalized homophobia this country has,” she added.
“I also think that reducing the age limit will be a step in the right direction for a more inclusive society.”