Love, Victor, now showing on Hulu, is the TV series sequel to Love, Simon, the successful teen rom-com movie about a gay kid coming out at a suburban high school. There has been some controversy about Disney switching the show from their premium Disney+ streaming service to Hulu—the idea being that maybe an LGBTQ teen comedy wasn’t “family friendly” enough for a Disney audience. My thought is that I have a friend’s Hulu password but not a Disney+ password, so it’s all good.
Love, Victor wins points for addressing some of the critiques of Love, Simon: namely that aside from being gay, Simon (Nick Robinson) had a one-way ticket on the Privilege Express. Simon was white, wealthy, and went to a well-funded public school. His parents offered no resistance to his coming out, except for his Dad’s (Josh Duhamel) awkward crying for not intuiting that Simon was gay sooner. His mother (Jennifer Garner) was a counselor and gave about the best post-coming-out speech a parent could give.
Victor Salazar (Michael Cimino) moves to Simon’s school, Creekwood High, in the middle of his sophomore year, after Simon and his class have graduated. His working-class Latino family lives in an apartment—albeit a spacious four-bedroom one. His siblings are more of a challenge, especially sister Pilar (Isabella Ferreira) who is in a teenage girl death match with their mother (Ana Ortiz). His dad (James Martinez) is more in the macho mold and makes occasional homophobic jokes. Victor’s parents also have nebulous reasons for moving the family from Texas to the Atlanta area that seem to have something to do with the health of their marriage.
Simon continues to be part of the story, but in a Greek chorus role. Whenever Victor reaches a stress point in the show, he sends a text to Simon. Simon’s answers always come to Victor just in time (and come across in Simon’s voice, even though Victor’s never met Simon in person). For Victor, Simon is somewhere between Dear Abby and a fairy godmother.
Continuing in the tradition of the movie, the teachers at Creekwood High are about the same emotional age as the students. Andy Richter plays a coach who’s immediately in love with Victor—for his basketball skills. Ali Wong plays a lovelorn biology teacher. Natasha Rothwell, the scene-stealing drama teacher from the movie, is the new vice principal (replacing the Tony Hale character). She gets off one of the show’s better lines. After she tells Victor about Simon finding love at the Winter Festival, she says Simon’s first kiss on the Ferris wheel reminded her of her first kiss…“Which was also with a gay boy.”
The show also does a good job not rushing Victor’s process of self-discovery. Victor is interested in two students at Creekwood High: popular girl Mia (Rachel Hilson) and openly-gay Benji (George Sear). Although he dates Mia for a while, it seems fairly obvious where he’s going to end up, as Benji gets the thirst-shot introduction: sexy R&B music with slo-mo tousling of his gorgeous hair. But, as with many sixteen year-olds, Victor has a lot of excruciating stuff to go through before he can figure out where he stands sexually. As Benji says to him, “Turns out human sexuality is less of a straight line and more of a Cirque du Soleil show: long, confusing and full of sexy clowns.”
Although Victor’s family is Catholic, it seems like more of a plot complication. (There’s a joke about his mom not watching Jimmy Kimmel Live after having impure thoughts about the host.) The religious aspect of Victor’s coming out seems like it’s going to be an issue for his parents, but not so much for Victor. It would be nice to see a movie or show where religious issues are integrated into a character’s coming out process without sending them to ex-gay camp. But this kind of sensitivity and nuance around religion seems to be beyond the capability of most mainstream Hollywood writers and directors.
The writers of Love, Simon and Love, Victor (Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger) said they were happy to move on from Simon’s story to a new main character and supporting cast for the series. I hope they take the same route with Love, Victor. If Victor gets through his coming out process in the first 2 seasons, I can’t see where things go from there other than turning it into a teen soap opera. And just telling the stories of young cisgender gay men coming to terms with their sexuality will get old fast, when there’s so many other colors from the queer rainbow that could be represented by other characters.
In my review of Love, Simon, I said “There could only be a light teen comedy with a gay character at its center when being gay was within the scope of ‘ordinary’ teen behavior.” But the Love, Simon/Love, Victor approach of making John Hughes-style stories about queer characters could do a lot to expand the scope of what “ordinary” teen behavior looks like. In the film, Simon famously said that he “deserves a great love story.” There are a lot more young people across the spectrum of gender and sexuality that deserve a great love story too.