Review of Love, Victor on Hulu

by Hannah Harrison
Love, Victor on Hulu
Credit @LoveVictorHulu on Twitter

Love, Victor the Hulu series spinoff of the 2018 movie Love, Simon is a story of self-discovery. It follows high school student, Victor, as he moves to a new city and a new school. It takes place in the same universe as its’ predecessor. Victor talks to Simon via Instagram, where Simon gives him advice. The series has its’ bumpy parts, but ultimately makes me happy to see where queer representation can be in the future.

I think where the series struggles is with its’ uncertainty of who its’ audience is. As I said, the series premiered on Hulu, but it was originally planned to be streamed on Disney+. Disney obviously serves “family-friendly” but it is difficult to understand what they were trying to keep clean. There is some light cursing, a marriage that is suffering, and of course, Victor coming to terms with his sexuality.

The last point shouldn’t be a controversial issue on Disney+, but it is my belief that is likely why it switched streaming services. To be fair, it could also be because of the one episode that included teen drinking that is better paired with Hulu. As a result of its family-friendly necessity, the intricacies of sexuality seem glossed over. However, this series is tamer than Degrassi, one of my favorite teen dramas growing up, which was on public television.

Let’s start with what it got right

I said that intricacies of sexuality are glossed over, which was one of Love, Simon‘s biggest complaints from audiences. Simon is white and lives in an upper-middle class house with liberal parents. He is straight passing and is not fearful of physical or emotional harm that could befall him by coming out. But he is fearful of how his relationships could change. That statement is not meant to undermine the difficulty that each coming out situation brings, but to bring light to those whose situations aren’t like that. Not every queer person is placed into the home of accepting parents, and his life felt like an idealized situation, not reality. Which is important, because the film was marketed as Simon being an everyday kid, just like everyone else! Except, he isn’t.

Victor is what Simon isn’t

This is where we cut to Victor. Victor is from a Colombian-American household that upholds Catholic principles (although vaguely). His family is not as affluent as the people at his school. He is struggling socially, as he just moved from Texas. And finally, his parents’ marriage is on the rocks. He seemingly has more to lose than Simon. I feel like the creators of Love, Simon actually took notes on critiques and implemented them.

For example, we know he is less affluent than his school friends, the indicator being that they have McMansions and he lives in an apartment. We do see him have to take financial responsibility for the $500 requirement in order to join the basketball team. Which, sidenote: the price of high school extracurriculars is insane. Anyways, his necessity to work is refreshing because his other friends do not hold a job. Of course, in real life, there are students who have to have jobs to support their family. Money does not simply appear for them. But in the world of affluence we’ve seen from his friends at least viewers can see something reminiscent of their own lives.

Another important defining quality of Hulu’s Love, Victor is displaying that no queer is alike. There are people who are straight passing, like Simon. There are gay athletes who are BIPOC and there people who will proudly wear their queerness. And each one of them is valid.

What makes him different?

On the other hand, it doesn’t really seem as if his life as all different from his friends who are not checking the same social boxes as him.

The intersection of his struggle with his sexuality and his culture is not very fleshed out. We have one episode of his grandfather being blatantly homophobic and we see Victor’s response. At the end of the episode, Victor’s father agrees with Victor that it is not his business what gay people do, giving Victor a gleam of hope. He follows up with stating that he hopes Victor’s brother does not turn out gay. However, we don’t receive an answer to what would happen if Victor told his grandfather and father his secret. Also, this is not until episode five, so it takes five episodes to get a clear answer on the state of his family’s feelings.

So how is he different than his non-Latinx peers? How is this really shaping his identity and decision to come out? We never see him mull over this because outside of his household. He infrequently narrates its’ effects on him. He is usually contemplating his relationship with Mia (we will get to that). We also don’t know much about his personality other than the fact that he is a sweet kid in the closet. The lack of written character is saved by the actor, Cimino, as he makes the shy Victor endearing. But the question is: what does being Latinx mean to him and how does him being gay affect that perception of himself?

The show does not dive deep into the intricacies of coming out because it seemingly is easier to feed to an audience. Because of this, Love, Victor is fantastic representation and a digestible way to demonstrate queerness to non-queer people.

Sexuality is a spectrum

At the beginning of the Hulu series, Victor begins dating Mia, played by Rachel Hilson, out of social pressure and fear of being the real him. It is very clear that he is struggling with internalized homophobia and he does not want to out himself. In order to prove to himself and Simon, that he could like girls, he makes himself believe that dating Mia is the right choice.

This is very realistic, as many queer people have this response when in the closet and not wanting to leave. I believe that they could have fleshed out this story by including the idea that there is a possibility that he is not just gay, but possibly bisexual or pansexual.

Victor has genuine feelings for Mia and is attached. We do learn that it is not a physical attraction, but we can infer that it is emotional. However, never in this time when he is confiding in Simon about his innermost feelings do other possible sexualities appear in the conversation. It does not speculate that he can have an attraction to multiple genders. The show glosses over that sexuality exists on a spectrum. Again, I believe this to be because it makes the storyline easier for non-queer folk to understand. Which, although I would love a queer storyline that sidesteps the needs for an explanation, I’m glad that it can be a teaching moment for many.

Final thoughts

I will state again that I believe that Love, Victor would have been very different, and would have hit deeper, more nuanced issues if not initially meant to be on Disney+. However, Hulu’s representation of a queer Latinx member is very important. It does not succumb to stereotypes or the harmful troupe of the Latinx community.

The show has its’ moments of corniness, but is ultimately sweet and will likely make other forms of gay representation on screen easier to achieve for a younger demographic.

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