Hulu’s new series is a bit of a departure from Love, Simon, but it’s still a lot of fun. A spin-off of the 2018 film, Love, Victor shares the story of another teen on his coming-out journey in a way that is just as charming as the first. There are some key differences of course, and many of them seem to stem from the criticisms of Love, Simon. More on that later.
The show follows Victor, a 16-year-old boy that is a new student at Creekwood High School, the same location from the original film. He is on a journey of self discovery, dealing with family troubles and navigating the social scene at his new school. When things get complicated, Victor reaches out to Simon in a moment of frustration. The two become pen pals after that, with Victor turning to Simon for advice in navigating his love life and other problems he faces.
There is a lot this show does well and overall I think it’s super cute. It has it’s fair share of emotional moments but I never found it to be too heavy. It is something that feels grounded in reality. Even in the most cliche moments, it doesn’t feel like any situation is farfetched. Although there is plenty of depth behind it, it still wants to be uplifting and make you feel good.
The insert of Simon Spier into Victor’s world seemed a little heavy handed at first, with a teacher literally telling Victor Simon’s story on his first day at Creekwood. From that point on though, their exchanges feel a lot more natural. The messages and narration helped audiences better understand Simon’s motivations and they do the same here for Victor. They are an insight to his inner thoughts and struggles, and Simon’s guidance allows him to take action.
Did they take enough risks?
A common criticism that comes from shows dealing with LGBTQ+ themes is that they play it too safe. I do think that is a bit warranted here. It is of note that this series was initially produced for release on Disney+, who eventually passed on it. It would be interesting to see how different the show could’ve turned out if it wasn’t developed under the watchful eye of a company that has consistently refused to push boundaries in terms of LGBTQ+ representation in their content.
However, the tameness of the show does help it appeal to a wide audience. This is something you could watch with your parents and never have to cringe at an awkward or inappropriate scene. Drinking and drug use is pretty minimal for a show about teens. There is also very little sexual content which I appreciate. So often teen dramas will sexualize their characters (who are often played by actors in their early 20s) when they are meant to be 16 year olds. These actors are in the early 20s age range but the difference here is they aren’t presented in ways that are overtly sexual. Yes, plot lines involving sex and hookups are explored, but it isn’t excessive. They’re just kids figuring themselves out, and the show treats them as such.
For those who wanted something a little more adult you may be in luck. Co-show runner Brian Tanen actually has stated the decision made by Disney execs was the right call, and now he feels empowered by Hulu to explore “more adult stories” in a second season.
A revision of the first?
While the original movie was well received, Love, Simon did receive its fair share of criticism due to its protagonist being an upper middle class white kid with a stable family life. I do understand this point, but it is also important to understand that LGBTQ+ folks may not get an easily digestible romcom as frequently as a heterosexual audience. We’ve been watching cheesy straight films for years, not every coming out story has to be incredibly painful and traumatic.
Love, Simon was good and aware of what it was, but if it was going to continue into a spin-off it needed to go deeper, tell a different kind of coming out story, and I think they accomplished that. Victor, while like Simon in many ways, also has a million other things factoring into his coming out journey. He comes from a religious working-class Latino family that is also struggling with their own internal issues throughout the series. Victor’s journey is a lot more complicated due to these factors. The show directly addresses those criticisms of its predecessor, sometimes it isn’t that easy. And it’s not, as much as we need sweet rom coms we need realistic stories too. This show balances both lines well, keeping it real while still giving us those sweet moments we loved from the first.
It is not just a retelling of Love, Simon and it’s aware of that. It does hold on to the core principle, giving audiences something that is accessible but will also open your mind. If you want a light-hearted watch in a time where everything feels heavy, this is the one.
Cover Photo: via IMDb