As part of its promotion strategy the team behind the Twitter account for the recently released movie Love, Simon was “writing” messages to celebrities that made reference to their recent work and signed each with the hashtag #LOVESIMON. The account tweeted at actors, musicians, online personalities, activist and athletes making reference to each celebrities work. In a tweet to Jane Lynch, an out lesbian actress, the account thanked her for being an inspiration. Many of the tweets were harmless, but one landed the team in some hot water.
In a tweet to singer/songwriter Shawn Mendes the account tweeted a graphic that said ” Dear Shawn, there is nothing holding me back. Love, Simon.” The message is a reference to Mendes’ song There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back but it rubbed some fans the wrong way. Online users called the tweet out for implying that Mendes is gay and is in the closet, which given the movie’s plot of accepting gay youth and the emotional toll of being outed, many felt the tweet was hypocritical. Following the outcry, the tweet was deleted. Now it is possible that the tweet was a simple mistake, however, given the long speculation around Mendes’ sexuality many don’t believe it was.
The Canadian singer has been dealing with rumors about his sexuality for the majority of the time he has been in the public eye, and in June of 2016, he addressed the rumors in a series of snapchats. The singer said he was not angry with the rumors he just doesn’t feel that the speculation is relevant to his music and that he was more upset him being gay was presented as a negative. Despite the singer’s video, the online speculation has continued.
So looking at the tweet and the outcry that is had caused it brings up the danger of using an online newsjacking style promotion. The tweet itself meant no harm but because of the baggage that comes with Mendes’ sexuality the choice to use him for part of the promotion is questionable. Especially with the movie’s theme of coming out on one’s own terms. So who is to blame for the mini-scandal? Is it the team behind the account? The fans for misinterpreting the tweet? Or is it possible that there is no one at fault here? I think that it is also worth mentioning that the tweet directed at Mendes was the only one that could be read as a negative comment. Nearly all of the other tweets were overwhelmingly positive and many praised the celebrities that were used as subjects, even other celebrities that have had rumors about their sexuality in past like Katy Perry.