The new teen romantic comedy Love, Simon has been given an R21 rating in Singapore, meaning that viewers must be 21 or older to see the film in theaters.
The highly anticipated film stars Nick Robinson as the titular Simon Spier, self-described in the film’s trailers as being “just like you, except [he has] one huge-ass secret,” that being the fact that he’s gay.
While the film contains no violence, nudity, sex, or other salacious content other than references to (straight) people online dating, the Media Development Authority (MDA) of Singapore still gave it an R21 rating. Somewhat equivalent to a United States NC-17, the rating will effectively prevent it from release in most of the country’s mainstream cinemas.
How could a teen rom-com elicit such a response? “Homosexual acts” are illegal in Singapore. The MDA says of films that contain gay content that “they should not promote or justify a homosexual lifestyle. However, non-exploitative and non-explicit depictions of sexual activity between two persons of the same gender may be considered for R21." For perspective, Guillermo Del Toro’s Academy Award winner The Shape of Water, which gives intimate insight into a deaf woman’s romantic and sexual relationship with a humanoid fish, was rated NC16.
Despite the criminal conviction of homosexuality and the initial ruling of the MDA, a petition has requested that they alter the rating to be NC16, which would give many more people access to the film. Started by Singaporean activist Thasha Monique Dharmendra, the petition is about 550 signatures shy of its 15,000 signature goal (as of writing this article).
In her statement attached to the petition, Dharmendra remarked:
“I realised that the movie Love, Simon has been rated R21 by the Media Development Authority of Singapore which I think is ridiculous as there is no sexual intercourse or violence involved. Its just a harmless coming of age movie where the main character happens to be gay. I understand that the older generations are hostile towards the LGBTQ+ community thus leading to some younger generations to just follow suit. However, a young Singaporean teen struggling with their sexuality might find themself relating and finding comfort in this movie.”