I’m not big on super hero movies. I’ve always preferred quiet indie films and rom-coms to the loud action of the Marvel and DC universes. Even then, I happily paid to see Wonder Woman in theatres.
This shouldn’t be surprising. It seems like common sense that people want to see themselves represented on screen; women who have spent years watching white dudes with superpowers save a city from other white dudes with superpowers are, naturally, excited to see a woman step into that role.
But the shock that surrounded Wonder Woman’s success was overwhelming. With every box office record the movie broke, media outlets and film critics alike became increasingly astonished — even Warner Bros. was surprised at the success of their own movie.
Months later, the same sense of shock surrounds the success of Black Panther, a movie from Marvel’s canon that features a star-studded cast. As the movie maintains its top spot the box office, there are daily headlines expressing shock at the fact that this particular superhero film is garnering so much international attention.
Love, Simon opened to strong box office results this past weekend and gained critical acclaim. This is a groundbreaking movie: the first major studio rom-com about a gay teen. As a result, LGBTQ+ audiences are going to support this film in the same way that women supported Wonder Women and people of colour supported Black Panther. Queer teens are going to sit in their local Cineplex and see themselves on screen for the first time.
I’m also willing to bet that as positive reviews keep rolling in and box office numbers keep rising, media outlets will be just as shocked by Love, Simon’s success as they were with Wonder Woman and Black Panther.
There’s a predictable refrain in the media that follows the success of any diverse movie. While it’s usually coded in nicely-worded headlines, it essentially screams: “WOW! A MOVIE THAT’S NOT ABOUT A STRAIGHT WHITE GUY IS SUCCESSFUL! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? I SURE CAN’T!”
The film industry has a long history of excluding women, PoC, and storylines that step outside of our heteronormative comfort zones, and this recent shift towards minority representation is long overdue. But it's not just empowering; diversity actually sells. Between Get Out, A Wrinkle in Time and Coco, this past year has proved that audiences will buy tickets for movies with diverse casts and storylines.
The success of both Wonder Woman and Black Panther really shouldn’t be surprising, and the same goes for the inevitable success of Love, Simon. There's an audience beyond straight, white men — hence, when Blockbuster flicks feature a female lead, a gay teen or a predominantly black cast, it makes sense that viewers are excited.
It's important for contemporary films to represent the diversity of movie goers. We all want to see ourselves reflected in our favourite films; albeit a taller, hotter version who can fly and shoot lasers. At this point, it's just good business.