‘Love, Victor’ sacrifices nuance to be another feel-good teen show

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Grade: 3.5/5.0

There has always been a need for film and television that centers the narratives of queer people of color. When “Love, Simon” premiered in 2018 as the first major Hollywood film about a gay teen, it impacted many young people. But like much Hollywood content, “Love, Simon” centered the story of yet another white teen. As for “Love, Victor,” a spin-off series that premiered June 17, it strives to showcase a more complex coming out story centering a nonwhite Latinx character. With a diverse cast, the show displays a set of new struggles that were not present in “Love, Simon.”

“Love, Victor” tells the story of Victor (Michael Cimino), a new kid in Creekwood High School, as he figures out his sexuality. Simon (Nick Robinson), now in college, narrates the show through social media direct messages between him and Victor that help the young teen navigate his confusion. 

Simon’s role as a narrator is more just than a strategy to attract “Love, Simon” fans, however; it allows the viewers to see the contrast between the lives of Victor and Simon. The Hulu original show brings light to many different themes beyond sexuality that impact Victor’s journey. Although the young teen comes from a loving family, his parents always fight and are somewhat old-fashioned — moreover, the show attempts to tackle financial inequality with Victor’s need for a job and the clear contrast between the students’ homes.

Furthermore, “Love, Victor” includes several dynamic characters that display and expand the show’s general themes. Mia (Rachel Hilson), for example, one of Victor’s love interests, deals with abandonment with her dad often away on business trips and her mother out of the picture. Felix (Anthony Turpel), Victor’s closest friend, is constantly bullied by his Creekwood peers for being different. Meanwhile, Lake (Bebe Wood), Mia’s best friend, struggles with her self-worth as she seeks approval from everyone around her. Each of these main characters demonstrates a well-written inner journey that does not become a cliche.

A key example is Pilar, who, despite her stubborn troublemaker personality and disdain for her mother, still demonstrates that her behavior stems from love toward her family. The show does a great job displaying the impact parents have on their teen’s lives, particularly with Victor, who sacrifices parts of himself and his life to avoid fights between his parents. 

The central theme — Victor’s struggle with his sexual identity — meticulously displays the internal and external conflicts that make being queer another challenge in Victor’s life. Unlike in “Love, Simon,” the show further explores the complexities of self-identification by giving Victor both a male and female love interest, Mia and Benji. Victor’s confusion successfully translates to the screen, allowing the viewer to witness an honest portrayal of self-discovery.

Although “Love, Victor” intends to highlight the complexity of queer young lives, however, it does not successfully tackle every theme it presents. The show hints that Victor’s parents are disapproving of queer people, but besides a few comments from his father, the writing fails to showcase the everyday aspects that make Victor’s sexuality feel unwelcomed. In addition, Creekwood’s economic inequality is evident when Victor is teased for not being able to afford extracurricular activities. Beyond Victor getting a job, however, the show fails to display other aspects in which economic inequality affects high school students.

Furthermore, “Love Victor” strives to create Latinx representation, but it falls short. The show addresses Victor’s Latinx heritage only slightly: Its attempts to showcase Victor’s culture do not go beyond a few items of home decor and a few lines in Spanish that, at the very least, don’t feel out of place. 

“Love, Victor” is ultimately a sweet teen romance with likable characters. It is fun to watch and has a fresh perspective, highlighting often underrepresented issues and providing young queer people a more complex coming out story to watch. While it does seek to address a lot of important issues, however, its somewhat rushed plot costs the show the opportunity to be outstanding. One can hope that the next season takes a more meticulous approach; for now, “Love, Victor” is enjoyable, but not very memorable. 

Contact Brany Barragan at [email protected].