Love, Victor Shows Taboo Reality Of Gay Teens Coming Out Across US
‘Dear Simon… screw you.’
Resentful, jealous, and indignant; from the moment it opens it’s clear that Love, Victor is a different beast from its ‘parent’ film, but despite the rage at the centre of the series opener, this show is here to tell an important story.
Set in the same universe as the brilliant 2018 film Love, Simon, Love Victor focuses on the titular Victor (Michael Cimino) a new student at Creekwood High School, who like Simon before him is struggling with his sexual identity.
Unlike Simon’s relatively easy coming out though Victor’s path to self-discovery and acceptance seems fated to be an overall more difficult journey because, to be frank, he’s a character stripped of the privilege which insulated Simon from the more difficult aspects of coming out.
Simon was white, rich, and had – to all purposes – a near-perfect life. Victor, on the other hand, is from a poorer, Latinx family, struggling with life in a new city and parents whose relationship is on the rocks. Their lives couldn’t be more different.
And yet Victor is forced to live in the shadow of the boy who came before him, a boy who’s gone on to become a legend at Creekwood High School, no wonder he resents Simon so much. It’s this fact of life, that everyone’s story is different, that makes Love, Victor so compelling and interesting to watch.
Interestingly there’s some fascinating symmetry in Victor’s jealousy over Simon’s perfect love story, as Michael Cimino told me when he spoke to UNILAD ahead of Love, Victor’s debut on February 23. It seems just as Victor is jealous of Simon’s life, Michael wanted Nick Robinson’s job.
I went to watch Love, Simon when I was super, super broke at a five-dollar movie night. I went to see it with some really good friends of mine, and as I walked out of the theatre like, man I can’t wait to be in a project like this one. I swear I actually said that.
A year and a half later Michael was working on the show, but as I explained Love, Victor isn’t content to walk in the shoes of its predecessor instead it seems dedicated to showing us that everyone’s experience of finding themselves is different, and it’s not always easy.
Indeed Simon’s fairytale coming out’ was one of the few criticisms people had with the first film and Love, Victor seems like a reaction to that criticism in some respects.
‘It offers a very different perspective,’ Michael told UNILAD when I ask him if the show is trying to address those criticisms, ‘I think that’s very important because even now I still get messages saying, this is not my story and I want my story to be told, and I think every LGBTQ+ story deserves to be told.’
Ana Ortiz, who plays Victor’s mother on the show, was also keen to address this point, saying that while she loved the first film it was told from a very narrow point of view which Victor expands on.
I love Love Simon, it was great, but it was told from a very specific point of view where the mother was very accepting and all that sort of thing. Whereas being Porta Rican in the Latinx community, at least here in the states I can’t speak to it anywhere else, it’s still quite taboo, it’s still not widely accepted.
Religion is still so big, and a part of who [the Latinx community] are, and that prohibits the freedom to be who you were born to be.
Representation matters, it’s a cliche but it’s true. If a young brown kid or a young gay kid, or Asian kid, or whatever kid, can see themselves represented on a show then they might not feel so alone and we might break down those barriers of isolation and solitude.Stars/Disney+
Of course, when discussing representation, it’s important to note that Michael is a straight man playing a gay character and there’s been a lot of discussion in recent years about the appropriateness of this. It’s something that Michael was very open and honest about when we raised it admitting there were issues.
‘I think if someone’s trying to play an LGBTQ+ person as a cash grab or whatever I think that’s messed up,’ he told UNILAD, adding, ‘these are important stories that need to be told. We need to honour these stories and roles, and if [actors] don’t, then they don’t deserve to play them, and that’s true for any role you have to honour the struggle.’
His co-star and on-screen romantic interest Benji, George Sear, agreed telling us that he works hard to honour the character he’s playing and find some truth in the role.
I don’t like to get into the argument because people feel strongly about it, but at the end of the day I feel honoured to play this character. I feel honoured to have this role, and want to honour Benjy as a real person, and I try not to think about it when I come at it. Instead, I approach it as I’m just a person who’s attracted to another person and I understand that feeling.Stars/Disney+
It is fair to say that both Michael and George work very hard to make their characters believable and both play them with a palpable authenticity. They never cross the line into caricature and, instead, they present Victor and Benji as three-dimensional people.
Ana credits this authenticity both to the boy’s incredible worth ethic and the concern they put into their performance, as well as the show’s diverse writing team, which she tells me come from a range of different communities and sexualities.
Ultimately the reason the show works so well, and it does work incredibly well as a sequel to Love, Simon, is because even when abstracted from its premise of a gay kid coming to terms with his sexuality Love, Victor is about something very universal.
Fundamentally it’s about the idea, that working out who you are is difficult for all of us no matter your sexuality or age.
As Isabella Ferreira, who plays Victor’s sister told us, ‘I think stories like this need to be told so people can see that everyone goes through their own challenges and that’s okay, it’s life but you’ll be okay in the end.’
In the end this central message, that self-discovery is a journey no matter who you are is key to the show’s overall success and is what makes it such a worthy successor to Love, Simon. So please tune in on February 23 when it premiers because Victor deserves a great love story too.
Love, Victor debuts on Disney+ on February 23.
If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
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