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Finding Myself

I Have Big Problems With “Love, Victor” But I Can’t Stop Watching It

Spoilers ahead for “Love, Victor” Season 1.

The second season of “Love, Victor” dropped on Hulu today. I’m absolutely going to binge-watch it, just like how I binged the first season and was in theaters days after “Love, Simon,” the first entry in the show’s universe, premiered. But I’m not happy about it.

Last Pride month, the show appeared on my Hulu homepage for the first time. It looked gay: I was in. The plot followed Victor Salazar, a closeted teenager torn between a perfect girlfriend and an openly gay classmate who is tantalizingly unavailable. 

It was … fine. I got through it pretty quickly and didn’t regret it. But on closer inspection, the first season had a lot of issues.

Last Pride month, the show appeared on my Hulu homepage for the first time. It looked gay: I was in.

First, where were the actual gay people? The actor playing Victor, Michael Cimino, identifies as straight (he consulted his gay cousin for help with the role). His love interest Benji is played by George Sear, who has never publicly stated his sexuality. 

There’s been a lot of recent debate over whether cishet actors can or should play queer characters. Personally, I find it a little off-putting, but much more so when straight actors play up gay stereotypes: a straight man doing his best femme impression, for example. That was never a concern with “Love, Victor,” because the characters are nowhere near femme.

Victor and Benji are both painfully straight-passing. On one level this makes sense: Victor is deep in the closet, so a straight presentation is necessary. But why does Benji, the show’s main representation of an out gay man, have to be so masc? Of course, masc gay men exist, but when gay media is so oversaturated with them, it gets frustrating. At times, it feels like this media that claims to be queer is nervous about scaring off straight people.

I remember having almost the exact reaction to “Love, Simon,” the 2018 rom-com that proclaimed: “everyone deserves a great love story” in all of its marketing. At the time, it was lauded for being the first major studio movie to focus on gay teenagers. High school me, who ravenously consumed anything with “gay” as its selling point, was extremely hyped to see it. 

At times, it feels like this media that claims to be queer is nervous about scaring off straight people.

Then the movie started, and almost immediately, I realized what I was getting into. In the opening voice-over, our protagonist Simon says, “I’m just like you. I have a totally, perfectly normal life. Except I have one huge-ass secret.” Sooooo, he’s just like me? But the difference is that he’s gay. Does Simon think I’m straight? He must not have eyes.

Seriously, though, when Simon says his life is “totally, perfectly normal,” what he means is he could stay in the closet forever if he wanted to. Just like Victor, he’s totally straight-passing, and just like Victor, he’s portrayed by a straight actor, Nick Robinson. 

The movie does have one femme gay character: Ethan, played by Clark Moore. But he’s more of a plot device for Simon than anything, to get bullied in front of him and show him that being out of the closet isn’t so easy either.

I still had a good time with the movie, the way I have a good time with any silly high school rom-com. But it left me with a bad taste in my mouth, the same way its sequel series “Love, Victor” would two years later.

When Simon says his life is “totally, perfectly normal,” what he means is he could stay in the closet forever if he wanted to. Just like Victor, he’s totally straight-passing, and just like Victor, he’s portrayed by a straight actor.

So here we are again: “Love, Victor” Season 2 is at my fingertips, ready to watch. If I have so many issues with this franchise, why would I pay it any attention? Because ultimately, I’m desperate for representation wherever I can find it.

I don’t know what it is, but I still can’t help myself from watching anything with a queer character in it, especially if they’re the lead. There’s more gay media now than ever before, but that piece of me who was so starved for gay characters as I was growing up is still alive and well. So seeing Victor and Benji steal a kiss, seeing Benji serenade Victor with a Carly Rae Jepsen song, seeing Victor come out and be happily accepted by his new friends — I can’t help that it still makes me so happy.

Seeing Benji serenade Victor with a Carly Rae Jepsen song, seeing Victor come out and be happily accepted by his new friends — I can’t help that it still makes me so happy.

Maybe someday we’ll get to a point where queer representation is so common and well-executed that all my concerns won’t be issues anymore. Someday, but not today.

So yeah, I’m going to watch Season 2. I’ll probably start as soon as I’m done writing this. I do have hope for the show. Unlike the first season, Victor is now all the way out of the closet and in a gay relationship, so maybe the story will be a little gayer and a little truer to life. Here’s hoping. Because I like hate-watching as much as the next guy, but I like plain old watching a whole lot more. ♥

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