Welcome to the 22nd installment of our 2021 Pride Month Series! Each day in the month of June, we will be highlighting a different member of the LGBTQIA+ community who we think is a great example of representation and dynamic characterization. We will focus on fictional characters, celebrities, and activists alike — the positive voices within the LGBTQIA+ community and in mainstream media.
Today’s spotlight will shine on Simon Snow and Tyrannus “Baz” Basilton Grimm-Pitch from author Rainbow Rowell’s Simon Snow series.
Warning: Minor spoilers ahead for Carry On and Wayward Son.
Simon and Baz were first born on the pages of Rowell’s 2013 novel Fangirl, a universe in which they exist as two characters in a Harry Potter-esque book series by a fictional author named Gemma T. Leslie. Fangirl follows the protagonist Cath’s journey through her first year of university, while also introducing a key aspect of her personal life: Cath is an avid Simon/Baz shipper, and she dedicates most of her free time to writing fanfiction about them.
When Fangirl came to an end, Rowell decided that she wasn’t quite done with the idea of Simon and Baz, and so she plucked them from that story and dropped them into their own series with a book called Carry On. And whereas the idea of Simon and Baz canonically being in love was but a pipedream in the world of Fangirl, Carry On came barging in to save the day with the perfect enemies-to-lovers tale.
When we meet Simon Snow in Carry On, his final school year at Watford School of Magicks has just begun, and he spends weeks in a huff over the fact that his mortal enemy slash roommate Baz has yet to show up. Though his downright obsession over Baz’s whereabouts is suspicious, we don’t actually have confirmation of what’s been quietly simmering between them until one of Baz’s chapters partway through the book when he thinks to himself, “And I’m hopelessly in love with him.”
Beyond featuring a love story between two male characters, what makes the Simon Snow series a particularly great example of representation are Simon and Baz’s individual experiences as members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Simon’s journey is something that’s still evolving. At the beginning of Carry On, Simon is with Agatha. Their relationship is tepid at best; it’s a childhood relationship that they’re holding on to simply because it’s safe, it’s comfortable, and it presents a secure future. As Agatha herself said, she was his “placeholder girlfriend.” Later, when Simon takes a leap and kisses Baz in the heat of the moment (literally), he’s yet to fully understand that there are far deeper, softer feelings for the other boy that have become entwined in the animosity over the years. This is brand new territory for Simon Snow, because he’s only ever known what he had with Agatha.
What’s really important about Simon, though, is the fact that his sexuality isn’t explicitly defined. Rowell herself stated the following in a Tumblr post:
When people ask whether Simon Snow is bisexual, I always say that I don’t think Simon has himself figured out.
– Rainbow Rowell
I see sexual identity as a fluid, sort-of-amorphous, not-always-obvious-even-to-yourself thing. Most of us still grow up assuming we’re straight because that’s the only option presented to us – or the only acceptable option. (That was certainly the case for me growing up.) I don’t think Simon’s ever considered another path for himself; I mean, Simon tries not to think of his future at all.
But I also don’t think he’s ever experienced real attraction before Baz. Even though Simon’s dating Agatha, he never expresses anything romantic or sexual toward her …
My authorial feeling toward Simon was: “It’s okay. You don’t have to figure this out today. Or tomorrow. And if you do figure it out someday, it’s okay to change your mind. This isn’t easy for all of us. We aren’t all born with clarity. You still get to fall in love, if you want. Is that what you want, Simon?”
Wayward Son, a book in which Simon ponders if perhaps he’s “some kind of Baz-only-sexual,” further explores other aspects of Simon’s sexuality. After the traumatic events that took place at the end of Carry On, a magic-less Simon is in dire need of intervention from the depression and feelings of self-loathing that are steadily eating away at him. His relationship with Baz has hit a rough patch, mostly due a lack of communication (because he clearly doesn’t realize that Baz is still head over heels for him). As it relates to Simon’s sexuality, there’s a point when Simon reflects back on an intimate moment between them and his inability to find the words to explain what he wants in regards to sex and everything in between.
During their road trip, Simon oscillates between shying away from Baz’s touches and running to him like a moth to a flame. At one point, he thinks to himself, “Touching Baz is always good; it’d be easier if I could just touch him all the time. And kiss him. And not have to be kissed. I can’t explain how it’s different. Why kissing is easy, and being kissed is like being suffocated.” Simon notes he hasn’t necessarily been feeling like that during their trip, but it’s something he’s been struggling with in general with nonetheless. Though we don’t explicitly know where Simon falls on the spectrum of sexual attraction, it’s refreshing to see a character that’s experiencing these feelings and questions and trying to understand them.
Now, as for Baz, he’s already well aware of the fact that he’s gay (and his feelings for Simon). There’s a stark contrast between the two, revealed in a conversation early on in their relationship, which represents the importance in recognizing that everyone’s experience in discovering, understanding, and defining their sexuality is different.
“Are you gay?” he asks, looking over at me, still laughing.– Carry On
“Yeah,” I say. “Completely.”
“So you do this all the time?”
I roll my eyes. “No”
“Then how do you know you’re gay?”
“I just do. How do you not know?”
“Dunno,” he says. He laces his fingers in mine and holds my hand loosely. “I try not to think.”
“About being gay?”
“About anything. I make lists of things not to think about.”
So as we dive into Baz’s story and internal thoughts, there’s no dilemma to be had over his sexuality beyond his offhanded comments about his father. While it’s lovely to see a character like Simon who’s taking his first steps in exploring his sexuality, it’s equally significant to have a gay character like Baz whose sexuality is defined and not used as a plot device for drama. The real crisis that Baz experiences is instead over his identity as a magical creature, due to the fact that he is both a magician and a vampire. He’s had to spend almost his entire life hiding the fact that he’s a vampire, because the other magicians would most certainly put him to death if they knew the truth. While juggling his own struggles on that front, Baz remains endlessly patient and devoted to Simon despite the push and pull of their relationship throughout the first two novels.
Overall, the story of Simon and Baz has been a charming, endearing, emotional, and hilarious ride thus far — one that’s equally packed with sarcastic, witty jabs and downright swoonworthy romantic lines. It’s been a joy to watch their relationship blossom and grow and to see the way that they both constantly rescue and support one another throughout the magical nonsense that they deal with day in and day out. It’s easy to see why Rowell couldn’t let go of the concept of the two of them after they made their first appearance in Fangirl.
When Wayward Son came to a close, Simon and Baz still had plenty they needed to talk about, but alas … another problem now awaits back in England. We’ll find out how the trilogy — and the story of Simon and Baz — comes to a close in Rowell’s Any Way the Wind Blows, which will officially be available on July 6. Stay tuned for our review, and make sure to check back daily for the rest of our Pride Month spotlights in the meantime!