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There is an argument to be made that the United States' greatest export is culture. The music, TV shows, video games, internet platforms and movies made here are enjoyed by people all around the world. Yet, as is often the case when cultures clash, different values systems, cultural norms and beliefs can result in things being received differently in different parts of the world. Such is the case with Greg Berlanti's film Love, Simon, which has been restricted in Singapore to viewers over 21 because of its LGBT themes. The official classification of the film states:
The film is rated R21 with an advisory of "Homosexual Theme". 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
It is this theme identified by the Singapore's Media Development Authority in its official statement that garnered Love, Simon an R21 rating, meaning only those above the age of 21 can seen it. These themes are allowed to be explored under the R21 rating, it just limits how many people in Singapore can see it. This is far from surprising considering that under Singapore law, sexual acts between two males are illegal, punishable by up to two years in prison. With that in mind, the message of Love, Simon seems to be at odds with the official stance on homosexuality in the country. The film is saying its okay to be who you are, while the official laws say something much different, although those laws aren't heavily enforced.
Love, Simon is rated PG-13 in America, and it would appear that many people stateside have issues with Singapore's restriction on the film. There is even a Change.org petition to have the film reclassified to NC16, or no children under 16 admitted. There are probably plenty of countries where a film like Love, Simon would have been outright banned though, so the fact that it is accessible to some of the population is encouraging. However, the argument is that a restricted rating like R21 prevents the film from being seen by those who are most in need of hearing its message, mainly teenagers. At that impressionable time in a person's life where they are discovering who they are, a film such as Love, Simon might provide comfort and affirmation that they desperately need. A change to an NC16 rating in Singapore would allow those in their formative years to see the film and its message.
Love, Simon has received pretty positive reviews since its release, and the coming of age romantic drama currently sits at 92% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Some Hollywood stars like Neil Patrick Harris and Kristen Bell even bought out screenings so others can see the film. As for Singapore, attitudes may be changing, but change is rarely fast or easy. Exposure is the first step to understanding, and even if Love, Simon is restricted, there are still audiences in the country who will be able to see it, and maybe in time, that will help change bigger things like policy. Love, Simon is currently in theaters. For everything else hitting this year, check out our release schedule.