Photo: Mitchell Haaseth / Hulu
Hulu’s New Teen Show Love, Victor looks like two shows at a time. The show is his own story, the story of a child named Victor (Michael Cimino) who moves to a new city, struggles to understand his gender identity and lives in intense anxiety about what will happen if he goes out with his conservative parents. Victor’s story is very sweet and engaging in itself; it’s a warm teenage love story that takes place as part of Victor’s self-discovery, and the show skillfully follows Victor and his friends and family as they face their own obstacles. But there is a simultaneous and convincing vein in the series which consists less in telling the story of Victor, and more in putting Victor in conversation with Simon (Nick Robinson), the main character of Love, VictorOffspring film Love, Simon. Only, Love, Victor is a good enjoyable TV show. Like the frankly resentful sequel to an equally enjoyable film, Love, Victor is something much more interesting.
All of the fallout is sort of in conversation or in tension with their parenting stories. The Conners is perhaps the most spectacular recent example, but adultThe policy of blackish, Law & Order: SVU is a deliberate and targeted response to the mechanisms of Law and order classic, and The jeffersons is a direct and pointed answer to All in the family. same The Bachelorette is an explicit refutation of The single person – a certain sense of response, of reclassification of priorities or of conflict is inherent in the very nature of the spinoffs. Young brothers and sisters are defined as the jump brothers and sisters, whether they like it or not. But younger siblings are growing up, and spin-off shows are usually more successful once they free themselves from any obligation they have towards the above. Watching a show that never shakes the shadow of its origin is rarely satisfying.
Rarely, but not always. I did not see Love, Simon before watching Love, Victor, but I had absorbed at least part of the conversation about it: the joy of watching a kind of generally sweet and sweet rom-com movie about a gay teenager; the claim to see parents who are initially surprised but quickly kiss their son; how a film like this can work as a blunt educational tool for uncertain parents of gay children. I also absorbed some criticism of Love, Simon, especially since it is a white and very privileged vision of gay identity which refuses to consider violence and the sectarianism of homophobia. I assumed Love, Victor, a story about a Latinx teenager and his family, might be rubbed against some criticism of Love, Simon, implicitly addressing them or commenting on them once or twice.
Instead, some of the strongest moments of Love, Victor are the scenes where Victor is clearly mad with Simon, when the series and its protagonist openly fight with their complicated and overly simplistic lineage. Victor goes to Simon’s old high school, and like most Love, VictorEveryone at Creekwood High remembers Simon. Victor finds Simon on Instagram and writes him a message. This is an echo of the message writing framework of Love, Simon, where Simon has an email relationship with an anonymous gay child from his school. “Dear Simon,” writes Victor, echoing the film. He introduces himself, explains that he has just moved to Creekwood, and that even if Simon does not know him, Victor has just learned everything about Simon’s history at school. “And I just mean – kiss you! ” He hit. Victor’s parents don’t accept that much. He lost his group of friends. “For some of us, it’s not that simple,” writes Victor, adding, “I just need to let you know that you’re very lucky, Simon. ”
These are the first lines of Love, Victor. Much of the rest of the series becomes the story of Victor – his attempt to have a girlfriend, the stress in his parents’ marriage, his painful crush for his coffeeshop colleague Benji (George Sear) – but Love, Victor feels most lively and remarkable when he grapples with Victor’s setback against Simon’s story. Because Simon rewrites, offering soothing and hopeful images of what Victor’s life might be like. ” Who knows? Maybe your family can also find their way into your business, ”says Simon. Victor is polite and he is grateful to Simon for responding. But he’s not going to coat it. “My story is nothing like yours,” he tells Simon.
In many ways, Love, Victor looks like a well-constructed teen show, starring an upcoming story that is still too rare on television, but has become much more familiar over the past decade. Gentefied, Vida, Sex education, and One day at a time have all included stories about young gay characters. Like Victor, the characters in these shows are queer people whose lives are also framed by not being white. The breadth of queer stories and Latinx stories on television is still far from sufficient, but it is good that Victor is not alone on television.
What sets this show apart, however, is how it continues to struggle with Love, SimonFrom the legacy and the way Victor leaves Simon frustrated, even if he too envies him, admires him, tries to learn from him. Love, Victor could have been just a Love, Simon copycat, where he could have tried to ignore most of what his predecessor did. These two versions would always have had a place on television, and if Love, Victor is coming back for a second season, I guess maybe more in that sense – further from Love, SimonVictor’s influence as Victor gains self-confidence.
For now, however, that’s all that should be a great teen romance show. It’s sweet, funny, awkward, full of emotion, a bit rocky in places, sometimes a bit overloaded with heavy background, and not interested in subtlety. But for a first season in particular, it’s impressive how effectively it turns Love, SimonThe letter structure against itself. Victor’s messages are not love letters. They are a spin-off doing their best to push back the narrow perspective of their original story, through a gay Latinx child with conservative parents trying to open the eyes of a white child at his own privilege.
Correction: an earlier version of this exam was incorrectly referencing adult as young.