I Couldn’t Make Myself “Love, Victor” – Season One Review
In my opinion, Love, Victor ended up offering another trope-filled and safe queer story about a young teen. The 10-episode long season did have some good moments which, unfortunately, the writing team decided to not explore in favor of a predictable narrative.
This Love, Victor review contains spoilers. You have been warned.
Ever since Love, Victor was announced, the series has, more or less, been surrounded in controversy. The biggest of which was whether or not it was suitable to stream on Disney+ and if the House of Mouse moved it to Hulu because it had a queer lead and talked about sexuality. Well, after watching the first season, I will definitely be talking about that issue, but before that, I’m going to cover the overall narrative.
Love, Simon was released in 2018 and while some people liked it, others had issues with the story showcasing an easy coming out journey. Simon’s white, straight passing, belonged to a supportive family, etc. It’s clear that the team behind Love, Victor decided to do things differently. The titular character in this series is a PoC, isn’t from a rich family, and has religious parents. He’s still straight passing though. So, there’s that.
The pilot episode opened with Victor Salazar sending an angry DM to Simon. We then went back 24 hours in the timeline to see Victor (played amazingly by Michael Cimino. The entire cast delivers.) moving from Texas to Atlanta with his family. He has a younger sister named Pilar and a younger brother named Adrian. It’s made clear that the kids aren’t happy about the move. And while their parents want them to think of it as a new start for the family, there’s something just not right between Mr. and Mrs. Salazar.
We quickly get to see Victor joining his new school in Creekwood and this is where the Vice Principal (who was the Drama teacher in Love, Simon) telling him about Simon and how his coming out story was considered legendary by students. As the story progressed I could see Love, Victor beginning to tick (almost) every cliche you can imagine. And yes, his friends (or kind-of friends) are included in this, too.
We have Felix as Victor’s neighbor. Felix’s the type of over-the-top teen you get to see in content meant for a younger audience. Mia’s Victor’s love interest (read ‘his involuntary beard’). She’s also beautiful, popular, and rich. Lake runs the school’s gossip page and is very concerned with what other people think of her. Andrew’s a jock who is also kind of a bully, but he isn’t that bad once you get to know him.
These characters are given certain backstories and problems to flesh them out in a very predictable manner. Mia’s not over losing her mother while her father has moved on. Lake has family issues, too. Felix’s mother has issues, too. Andrew’s in love with Mia and sees Victor as a competitor on the basketball court as well as his love life.
Also, even though the school is said to be very accepting, the ONLY openly gay kid happens to be Benji who is also Victor’s love interest. I don’t know about you, but I was expecting a lot more openly queer kids roaming around in said high school. Maybe seeing more queer kids wouldn’t have made Victor’s unwillingness to come out believable? Maybe it would have taken away from the impact a scene, featuring Victor’s trip to the city, was supposed to have (later in the series)?
Oh! Did I mention that Benji’s in a band? He also works at the same coffee shop Victor works in. The two go on a road trip which leads them to share a bed at a motel. Come through, fanfic energy. Come through!
The entire thing’s so by-the-numbers, I just can’t!
With how the story moved, it’s clear that Love, Victor, while attractive to certain queer viewers, was specifically made for a straight audience. Victor doesn’t know anything about queer life, and through him, the straight audience gets to learn, too. There’s a scene where Victor stands up to the homophobia displayed by his grandparents. There’s a scene where Victor goes to a queer bar and also learns about the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. It’s the usual lessons certain queer-centric media likes to display in a manner that can be easily consumed by straight viewers.
In my opinion, Love, Victor did have some moments which could have opened doors to some great queer representation in media if the writers were willing to explore them. The official trailer implied that Victor might be bisexual. And for a second, due to his interactions with Mia, I thought he was. My assumption made me happy because bisexual teen representation is media is basically unheard of.
However, unfortunately, the writers made the titular character follow a predictable path. This show’s another example of a gay teen using an unsuspecting young girl as a beard and breaking her heart in the process. I felt awful for Mia when she asked if any of the moments she shared with Victor were real. I want this problematic trope in media to disappear already.
There’s a chance the writers might decide to make Victor bisexual in the second season and try to repair the damage. But, that discussion is neither here nor there because the show hasn’t been renewed for a second season yet (after ending on a cliffhanger).
Having said that, I’m kind of glad he isn’t bisexual because after seeing the way the writers handled a gay teen in the 10 episodes, it’s a good thing I didn’t get to witness the likely mess that would have been created if they were writing a bisexual kid discovering his sexuality.
Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the second season of Love, Victor also doesn’t take any risks and offers a queer-centric story that’s palatable to many. I guess that’s the main goal of this series and I shouldn’t be giving it a hard time by expecting more (or even, better)? Hmmm. Let’s see what happens.
Coming to if Disney+ made the right decision to premiere this series on Hulu: well, I have some thoughts. As far as the queer stuff is concerned, it all felt very tame to me. There are definitely some sexual innuendos, but I think they could have been edited out to fit whatever standards Disney+ has.
There’s a weird joke about Felix losing one his b*lls (you know what I mean) and being nicknamed Lone Stone which I didn’t find funny at all. There was no need for it to continue coming up in every episode. But yes, with some cuts, Love, Victor could have easily worked for the Disney+ streaming service (when talking about the queer and teen-centric stuff).
Other things it addressed (which I wish the writers spent more time on) involved racism and homophobia disguised as casual jokes, bullying, and teens feeling pressured to send sexually explicit images to maintain a relationship.
I think the real dealbreaker (which could not have been fixed with simple edits and cuts), was the storyline given to Victor’s parents. As far as I can remember, Love, Victor is the first Disney-adjacent piece of content I have seen that showcased parents dealing with adultery. I know! I was shooketh!
Victor’s mother ended up having a sexual affair with her husband’s boss. That led to the husband beating up his boss. After the encounter, the parents decided to leave Texas. The scenes between Victor’s parents, whenever the topic of cheating came up, were so intense I felt like I was watching a completely different series. In my opinion, that entire storyline was (probably) too much for the Disney+ streaming service. It could have triggered certain kids and parents, and that’s never good.
Anyway, all 10 episodes (each being only half-an-hour-long) of Love, Victor season 1 are available right now on Hulu. If you’re looking for queer content to watch and already have a Hulu subscription or you haven’t tried the free trial, maybe watch Love, Victor to pass the time? If you’re okay with predictable and safe queer storytelling, you’ll likely enjoy it.
I’ll just let out a sigh of sadness for what it could have been.
Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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