A petition is calling on Singapore to lift restrictions forbidding anyone under 21 from seeing Love, Simon in theaters.
The Greg Berlanti-directed film has been heralded as the first gay teen romcom ever produced by a major studio. But as fan Thasha Monique Dharmendra points out in a Change.org petition, its current rating of R21 would prevent its target audience from seeing the film.
Dharmendra calls the decision “ridiculous.”
“[T]here is no sexual intercourse or violence involved,” she claims in a heartfelt plea to the South Asian country’s ratings board. “It’s just a harmless coming of age movie where the main character happens to be gay.
“I understand that the older generations are hostile toward the LGBTQ community, thus, leading to some younger generations to just follow suit,” Dharmendra continues. “However, a young Singaporean teen struggling with their sexuality might find themself relating and finding comfort in this movie.”
The petition’s creator urges Singapore to lower the age restriction to NC16, the closest equivalent to the MPAA’s PG-13 rating in the U.S.
“I am positive that it will have a huge impact on young teenagers struggling to find acceptance from family and friends,” Dharmendra says. “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 adds.
Singapore’s Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) has alleged the film is inappropriate for youth due to its “homosexual theme.” In a statement, the media advisory group says “the theme of homosexuality forms the main narrative of the film.”
“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,” it claims.
IMDA also took issue with some “verbal sexual references” throughout the film.
“These include scenes such as, a man who barges into his son’s room and apologizes for interrupting the latter’s attempt at masturbating; a teenage boy who gives a verbal account of his first sexual encounter; and verbal exchanges that make reference to the male and female genitalia,” the board continues.
But critics of the R21 rating note that IMDA was far more lenient in its classification of Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water.
The Best Picture champ, which includes a graphic depiction of the romance between a fish-man and a mute cleaning woman, skated by a an M18. While Love, Simon briefly features a kiss between the titular character (played by Nick Robinson) and a male classmate, The Shape of Water features full-frontal nudity, bestiality, and a scene depicting female masturbation.
As if to further point out the absurdity of Singapore’s ratings system, M18 is the same rating the Oscar-winning gay romance Moonlight received when it was released in the country last year.
Critics say the controversy is yet another reminder that LGBTQ Singaporeans have great strides to make before they are accepted.
Although Singapore struck down a colonial-era law banning “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” in 2007, it retained policies specifically targeting gay sex. Under Section 377A, being convicted of same-sex intercourse can result in up to two years behind bars.
The law was unsuccessfully challenged in Singapore’s Court of Appeal in 2014, which claimed the anti-sodomy code is “constitutional.”
Mahendrawhose petition has garnered more than 14,000 signatures of its 20,000 goal at the time of writingdoesn’t think allowing teens to see Love, Simon will fix the myriad problems the LGBTQ community faces. But she says it’s a start.
“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 internalised homophobia this country has,” Mahendra says. “I also think that reducing the age limit will be a step in the right direction for a more inclusive society.”
“I personally know many individuals who are afraid of coming out and a movie like this will show them that they are not alone and that there is hope,” she adds.
Love, Simon will be released in Singapore on May 3, 2018. It has received a PG rating in Canada, a 12A rating in Ireland, an R-13 rating in the Philippines, a 15 rating in South Korea, a 12A rating in the United Kingdom, and a PG-13 rating in the United States.