TV Review: Love, Victor (Season 1)

“Love, Victor” (2020) is a television spin-off of the 2018 movie, Love Simon. Set in the same town and school as the original movie, the series follows the titular Victor Salazar (Michael Cimino) as he navigates high school, relationships, and sexuality.

While the original movie was well received upon release, there was some criticism that it presented an idealised coming out story, with Simon Spiers (Nick Robinson) friends and family all accepting him, with only a minor bump in the road to his coming out. For many LGBTQ+ teens, this is not their reality.

Love, Victor is the creators answer to these criticisms. This time, we follow Victor, a teen from a half Puerto Rican, half Colombian-American family as he moves to a new city, new school, and his budding sexuality. The choice to have a POC family as the stars of the show is a great choice, as it allows the series to explore the different hurdles and challenges that are faced by LGBTQ+ folk from non-white families and backgrounds. While the original movie had Simon living with a well off, liberal family with activist parents, Victor comes from a family that is almost the exact opposite. His family are not well off, and indeed almost struggling to get by. Victor’s mother, Isabel Salazar (Ana Ortiz) is also shown to be a religious person, making it harder for Victor to open up and connect with her about his sexuality.

The first season of the show sees Victor trying to figure out his sexuality. The show does an excellent job of showing the difficulties with figuring out one’s own sexuality, and the ways that it can hurt people. This is mostly shown through the ongoing relationship with Mia, who Victor has started dating in an attempt to hide and deny his sexuality. While this is happening, we also see as Victor gets closer with his openly gay workmate, Benji (George Sears).

However, it is not just the story of Victor that the show focuses on. The series uses its longer format to tell a range of stories, all about different hardships people face. We see as Victor’s parents’ marriage begins to completely break down and the impact that has on the family. We see the difficulties faced by Victor’s best friend, Felix (Anthony Turpel), who lives with his mother. We find out near the end of the first season that Felix’s mother struggles with mental health issues and that this has led to Felix living in a flat filled with hoarded junk. We are also shown the impacts of parents leaving, with Mia’s mother having abandoned her before the show begins and her father constantly leaving her for his career. And finally, we are shown the impact on a teen’s mental health from over critical parents, as is the case of Mia’s best friend, Lake (Bebe Wood) whose mother is constantly putting her down for her looks, her clothes, her weight and more.

As said earlier, the original movie had everyone accept Simon when he came out. This show shows the other side of the coin, particularly during Victor’s birthday when his friend group, including Benji and his boyfriend, are at Victor’s house for a party. It’s in this episode where we really see the difficulties that come with being gay- Victor’s grandparents are also there and react badly to seeing two men kiss. We also see casual homophobia from the grandparents as they react to their youngest grandson running around with a fairy wand toy, further solidifying for Victor that he cannot tell them. While it does end with Victor standing up for Benji and his boyfriend, it still leaves a bad taste in the mouth because we know that Victor is queer. We know that this is how his own grandparents, and possibly parents, will react to him when he comes out.

We also get some truly heart-breaking moments, such as the first time Victor kisses a man. While on a work trip with Benji, Victor gives in to his urges and kisses the boy. But this doesn’t go as planned. Benji rejects his advances, and Victor suddenly realises he can’t put this back in a box- he kissed a guy. Someone now knows about his sexuality. We get to see Victor freak out, as he flees the room and breaks down crying on his own, afraid of his own feelings and desires. This is a scene that will resonate strongly with a lot of LGBTQ+ folk.

This leads Victor to travel to New York, to meet with Simon for a weekend. While in New York, Victor is shown that there is no one way to be queer. He is introduced to a variety of LGBTQ+ people, from drag queens to professional basketball players, with a strong positive message that while we all have different backgrounds and experiences, we are all part of the same community. That all LGBTQ+ folk share aspects of the same story.

It’s this eye-opening exposure that allows Victor to finally accept himself, and we get to see as Victor comes out to Felix, admitting to someone for the first time that he likes men. The scene is heart-warming and emotional. Felix accepts Victor fully, embracing him in a hug and letting him know that he’s proud of him. It’s just a genuinely lovely scene between friends, and we, as an audience, can feel the stress and weight lifting from Victor’s shoulders, which again, is something almost every LGBTQ+ person has experienced at some point when coming out.

The season ends with some storylines being tied up, while leaving room for others to grow and expand in season 2. The finale sets up how the story will continue, with Mia and Victor having a bad breakup, Victor and Benji getting together, and Victor’s parents separating.

Overall, Love, Victor season 1 was a very strong show. It had great characters and writing, and the performances by all the cast are phenomenal. While it has a few moments that I don’t personally love, those are massively outshined by the wonderful and heartfelt moments throughout. And the season came to a very strong, and rather perfect ending with the famous words: “Mom, dad. I’m gay”.

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