A “Bittle” Love

Christa M. Burgin | May 1, 2018

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For those of you who haven’t seen Love, Simon, there are numerous reasons why you should, most important of which is this: Simon, as we’re told early on, is just like you. He has a normal life with the exception of “one huge-ass secret.”1 In fact, this secret is so large that Simon doesn’t reveal he’s gay until he begins emailing “Blue,” a fellow student at his high school. Complications arise when another student reads Simon’s messages on one of the school computers. As a result, Simon is blackmailed into helping his classmate win over a girl in order to protect his identity.

Keeping one’s identity confidential is a critical motif within the film and leads to the message that the process of sharing oneself with others should always be left up to that individual. For example, Simon attributes the process of coming out with the deeply personal and profound act of self-discovery. Familiarization with oneself is, in turn, connected with identity and how it’s unveiled to the world. This is particularly evident when Simon says, “I’m supposed to be the one that decides when, and where, and how, and who knows, and how I get to say it.”1 Although this statement refers to Simon’s coming out, it’s also applicable to the universal process of revealing one’s identity with others.

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Respecting both your own and others’ identities is arguably the most important message in this film. Love, Simon establishes that numerous elements play a role in one’s sense of self. This is not to say that sexual orientation defines a person, but rather that it’s one of many factors that contribute to discovering, accepting, and loving oneself. While embracing one’s identity can be a painful process—as is the case for Simon—with a bit more love and acceptance, it could be a pleasant and fulfilling journey.

And this has been demonstrated in the free, online comic Check, Please! Written and illustrated by Ngozi Ukazu, Check, Please! is highly supportive of the LGBTQ+ community and love in general.2 The overall story focuses on Eric Bittle (Bitty), a student and athlete at Samwell University. Although readers learn early on that he’s gay, Bitty’s character balances various traits, such as his love for baking and his passion for hockey.

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In fact, every character within Ukazu’s comic is well-rounded. Not only does Bitty defy stereotypes by not acting “girlish,” but even his teammates aren’t the typical “manly men.” Rather than creating characters who match the stereotypes, Ukazu focuses on creating unique personas for everyone. Thus, we find that Bitty is not only challenged to reveal his identity with others, but also with acquainting himself and being accepting of his teammates. As a result, readers follow Bitty’s progression, looking beyond surface values while getting to know each character’s distinctive personality.

Because Bitty has joined a close-knit group of friends, all of whom know each other quite well, it’s clear that in order to get to know his teammates, and thus share his own identity with them, Bitty must first develop and maintain friendships with each individual. In fact, Ukazu notes that this is the basis of the comic itself: “[Check, Please! is] a story about hockey and friendship and bros and trying to find yourself during the best 4 years of your life.”3 Much like Love, Simon, Ukazu’s comic focuses on discovering and accepting one’s personal identity, in addition to loving and supporting the people you meet. In essence, Check, Please! is about life, love, and the progression of self-discovery.

Learning to embrace oneself is a difficult process and becomes even more challenging when one’s identity is threatened. This, as we see in Love, Simon can cause a great deal of pain, for the act of sharing one’s identity with others is a delicate process. Simon’s story focuses on the act of coming out, emphasizing that doing so requires patience with oneself and trust that you will continue to be loved. Bitty faces a similar challenge in Check, Please! though he comes to realize that this acceptance goes both ways and therefore isn’t limited to the process of coming out. Rather, the act of sharing oneself with others is a universal process; thus, it’s important that we support everyone through this journey, starting with a “Bittle” love.

About Christa

I’m currently pursuing my Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Edinburgh. Although presently studying Fiction, I’m also passionate about Literary Criticism and Creative Nonfiction. I’ve published various feminist critiques and creative works, and recently began The Nocturnal Navigator, a blog conveying the turmoil of life in my twenties.

The Nocturnal Navigator: https://thenocturnalnavigator.wordpress.com/
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/christa-burgin-2a059883

Article edited by Mary Pura and June L. Laurenson

Works Cited

  1. Love, Simon. Directed by Greg Berlanti. Performances by Nick Robinson, Jennifer Garner, and Josh Duhamel, Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Logan Miller, Keiynan Lonsdale, and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. 20th Century Fox, 2018.
  2. Ukazu, Ngozi. Check, Please! 2018. Web. 19 Apr. 2018. <http://checkpleasecomic.com/comic/01-01-01&gt;
  3. Ukazu, Ngozi. “About.” 2018. Web. 19 Apr. 2018. >http://checkpleasecomic.com/about&gt;

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