You get to exhale now

Importance of entertainment for self-acceptance


Ryan Kim

With the pressures kids and teens face in their lives, entertainment can be a much-needed source of self-acceptance. The Sidekick editor-in-chief Anthony Cesario emphasizes how important entertainment, including the 2018 film Love, Simon, was to his own self-acceptance.

Anthony Cesario, Editor-in-Chief

“These last few years, more and more, it’s almost like I can feel you holding your breath,” Simon’s mother tells him in the 2018 film Love, Simon, shortly after he comes out to his parents. “You get to exhale now, Simon. You get to be more you than you have been in a very long time.”

Love, Simon is more than just another cheesy rom-com for me. For the first time, I actually saw myself on the big screen, and it was one of the most emotional and validating experiences of my life. Burying an aspect of my identity for years greatly harmed my mental health, but I didn’t realize just how much weight I had been carrying on my shoulders until I was able to finally exhale.

Like many others, I was not exactly a fan of middle school. Combined with all the social and developmental pressures that already make it such a brutal time period, I heard homophobic jokes and comments on a daily basis. Being the type of person who needs to fit in and please everybody, as I grew up hearing there was something wrong with being gay, I started believing them. So I tried to change who I was: the feelings I felt, the way I talked, the songs I liked. And in the process, I lost myself.

I didn’t talk to anyone about what I was going through until sophomore year. It was my own secret for almost five years, and it practically tore me apart. I used to be the kid who was always happy, who always made other people laugh, but day by day, it got more difficult to fake a smile. It got more difficult to get out of bed. It got more difficult to keep going.

But there was one thing that made me feel a little less alone through it all: entertainment.

Entertainment gave me a home. When the world felt hopeless, like there was nowhere I truly belonged, Lady Gaga’s album Born This Way taught me the beauty of individualism. When I needed a break from the exhaustion of life, the Percy Jackson series let me escape to Camp Half-Blood for a little while. When I felt like nobody liked me for who I was, “Friends” told me at least I would always have Rachel, Chandler, Phoebe, Joey, Monica and Ross.

I don’t know what would have happened to me if I wasn’t able to plug in and play Taylor Swift or Avril Lavigne or lose myself in the universe of Star Wars after a bad day. All the forms of entertainment I loved became a part of who I was and who I am today. They helped me accept myself. They reminded me that there would always be something to look forward to, that even the most painful obstacles could be overcome.

Some may see entertainment as an important form of representation, while to others, it may simply be a much-needed source of escapism. Either way, for many people, myself included, it is one of the most powerful and vital means of self-acceptance. Entertainment can literally save your life — it saved mine.

So before judging someone’s favorite songs, shows, movies or books, remember the form of entertainment you invalidate may be another’s respite, the one thing that keeps them going, the one thing that allows them to exhale.

And just like Simon, we all deserve to exhale, too.

Follow Anthony (@anthonycesario_) and @CHSCampusNews on Twitter.