I still remember the marketing for Love, Simon back in 2018. Living in NYC at the time, one couldn’t ignore it. The subway platforms, street corners, and city tops were covered in it. And thanks to a raffle, I secured a ticket for a free advanced screening. First in line, I found a seat that didn’t squeak and when the credits rolled, I loved it. The film was a feel good, hopeful “coming out” story, something I wished my own self could have watched back in high school. And it was from a major Hollywood studio. Another bonus. However, with the film’s critical and commercial success aside, there was still something left to be desired.
The film, an adaptation from the novel, Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, follows Simon Spier, a white teen, as he grapples with his sexuality and searches for a way to “come out” to his family and friends. Right away, Simon states that he is not that different from everyone else. More specifically, he isn’t too gay. And to bring that point home, we have Ethan, a black, femme student at Creekwood High and a supporting character just barely above the line of being an extra. Ethan is the type of openly gay character, that when he “came out,” his friends had to hold in their sighs of, “Well, duh.” And later when Simon is outed, the two share a moment together. Here, Ethan poses the question: “You could have told me you were gay.” Never mind there was no previous relationship shown between the two and Simon would definitely not had associated with Ethan due to how open he was in his sexuality So as much as I adored Love, Simon, I couldn’t ignore its faults. It could have been better with its diverse queer representation, especially being such a mainstream flick. The queer spectrum isn’t limited to only gay identities or masculine or femme-leaning mannerisms.
Enter Love, Victor. A sequel of sorts, shifting away from a film format to a 10-episode season. This time we follow Victor Salazar, who enters Creekwood High as a new student and already has a lot on his plate. He takes on the stress-management role in his Colombian-Puerto Rican family. If his younger siblings or parents are having a problem, he’s the one to figure out a solution. But who helps Victor out? And of course in the first episode, we know what Victor’s main problem is. He’s beginning to question his sexuality. And while he crushes on one of his classmates, Benji, he ultimately decides to start a relationship with Mia, the one who warmly welcomes him on his first day at school.
Not everyone can have it easy like Simon. The show’s creators and writers attempt to emphasize that right away. A school classmate targets Victor’s Latino identity as if it’s evidence of a lower social class and starts a GoFundMe page to mock him. This is where the series benefits in being told within an episodic format. We get to explore the additional conflicts Victor has to face beyond his sexuality and also explore the issues his new group of friends have to deal with. The show doesn’t settle for teen-angst and heartbreak drama either. The topics range from hoarding, body image, and even trust issues between Victor’s parents. But it also bites more than it can chew and some more nuance would do wonders.
Now this is not a negative review. I really enjoyed this show and with each episode’s barely half hour runtime, it’s for sure binge-worthy. I just wished it stuck the landing better. For a queer series, especially a contemporary one, it holds onto the relationship between Mia and Victor too long. Due to the length, I actually thought Victor would come to the realization he was bisexual, or maybe even another less represented identity in the LGBTQ+ community. But, no. He’s just gay. And c’mon, the year is 2020. You’re telling me Victor and Benji are the only queer students at Creekwood?
By the end of the season, we get an episode where Victor travels to NYC to escape frustrations at home and here is where I saw the potential of where this series could go. It expands upon its cast of queer characters, inviting some back from Love, Simon, and introducing some new ones. The episode even sets up a conversation about queerness and masculinity and how one shouldn’t have to feel those are two separate identities.
Originally intended to be on Disney+ until they considered it too mature, I say good riddance. With a home on Hulu and a second second already in development, here’s hoping the limits put upon the creators and writers are unshackled. The need to broaden queer representation, is what Love, Victor attempts to various degrees of success but just like its predecessor, it needs to step up its game. Within the past few years, there’s been a range of queer characters and narratives put onto television, streaming, and film. So with this boom in content, Love, Victor has to recognize its strengths and improve its weaknesses. I remember high school and freshman year wasn’t particularly my strongest. My sophomore year was certainly better and for this show, I hope it will be something we have in common.