Nobody expects “Bridgerton” to be strong in its plot; as an avid consumer of historical dramas, I went into the second season expecting nothing more than familiar characters, outfits and feel-good romance. From the second Kate is introduced on horseback with her unkempt hair flying behind her, the audience knows she and Anthony must end up together, making the show all the more enjoyable.
Since middle school, I’ve craved male attention. Early on, I developed a sixth sense for athletic and charismatic boys, the kind who’d make the loudest jokes in class; ask the girl next to me to slow dance while seeming to look right through me. At night I prayed to magically wake up more extroverted, flirtier and funnier and please, please less pimply. I became certain if I could just make one boy like this love me (or at least look at me), then I would somehow be lovable, confirming my femininity and worth. Though I remained fixated on boys, my closest, most intimate relationships were with other girls.
I’m not the type of person who watches one movie after another on long-haul flights, and usually spend the better part of the sixteen hours sleeping. The trip back from Hong Kong before the beginning of this semester ended up being one rare exception, however, because there was a crying baby in the seat next to me. I had no choice but to cycle through all the MCU movies they had (thank God), and afterwards, set my eye on a movie I had deliberately avoided seeing in the spring — Love, Simon. Despite putting the movie’s soundtrack on repeat the moment it came out, and despite promising every one of my friends who went to opening weekend and raved about it afterwards that I would go see it, I never did after watching the trailer. You would think that as someone who loves rom-coms and never shuts up about representation, the premise itself is enough to make me want to go.
From the moment this Netflix Original begins, with Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) imagining herself wandering through an idyllic field with the boy of her dreams, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before screams “self-indulgent romance fantasy.” It’s the quintessential teen rom-com: there’s the shy main character, two pouty Hot Boys (Noah Centineo and Israel Broussard) and the crucial misunderstanding that forces her to pick between them. Every character is addressed by their full name and speaks in Tumblr-ready quotes (“Josh Sanderson, I liked you first. By all rights, you were mine.”) Add a fake dating plot, a hair-flipping jealous mean girl and a supportive rebel best friend, and you’ve got a full-blown cliché. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is tropey and cheesy and gooey, but in a good way. It revels in its purest rom-com moments because it knows exactly what it is.
For a while, Love, Simon flew under my radar. Once I first saw trailers for it though, I became intrigued — but also cautious. I didn’t know how a teenage romance movie would handle a gay protagonist. The film, directed by Greg Berlanti and written by Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Bergerm, could easily go so wrong. Luckily, my fears have been dispelled.