TV TATTLE

Hulu's Love, Victor is fascinating for the way it openly grapples with Love, Simon's legacy

  • The Hulu teen coming-out series feels like two shows at once: one that stands on its own and one that feels like a conversation with progenitor movie Love, Simon. "On its own, Love, Victor is a good, pleasant TV show," says Kathryn VanArendonk. "As the frankly resentful follow-up to a similarly pleasant movie, Love, Victor is something much more interesting. All spinoffs are, in some way, in conversation or tension with their parent stories. The Conners is perhaps the most dramatic recent example, but grown-ish’s politics are in direct conversation with black-ish, Law & Order: SVU is a deliberate and focused response to the mechanisms of Law & Order classic, and The Jeffersons is a direct, pointed reply to All in the Family. Even The Bachelorette is an explicit rebuttal to The Bachelor — some sense of reply, of reprioritization, or of conflict is inherent in a spinoff’s very nature. Younger siblings are defined as siblings from the jump, whether they want it or not. But younger siblings grow up, and spinoff shows are usually most successful once they cut themselves free of any obligation they have to what came before. Watching a show that never shakes the long shadow of its origin is rarely satisfying." VanArendonk says "some of the strongest moments of Love, Victor are the scenes when Victor is plainly furious with Simon, when both the show and its protagonist are openly struggling with their complicated, overly simplistic lineage...What sets this show apart, though, is how insistently it continues to grapple with Love, Simon’s legacy, and how it lets Victor stay frustrated by Simon, even when he’s also envious of him, admiring him, trying to learn from him. Love, Victor could have just been a Love, Simon copycat, or it could’ve tried to ignore most of what its predecessor did. Both of those versions would still have had a place on TV, and if Love, Victor returns for a second season, my guess is it may be more along those lines — further from Love, Simon’s influence as Victor becomes more confident in himself."

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    • Love, Victor loses what would've made it special had it stayed on Disney+: The Hulu series "feels entirely too tame for the wilds of the broader television landscape, a quaint and faintly regressive kind of series (would a kid born in 2004-ish and seemingly not penned in by a restrictive family or community really be so wide-eyed about, and ignorant of, gay culture?) that loses the revolutionary aspect of its creation in its migration away from the center of Disney," says Richard Lawson. "The exciting thing about Love, Victor was that it was going to be on Disney+, firmly identified as a Disney product. It was an opportunity for the studio to make up for the embarrassment of proudly touting scraps like the 'exclusively gay moment' in the Beauty and the Beast remake by actually centering a narrative on queer experience. And the show itself would have benefited from its pioneering status. Sure, it’s corny and naive, critics might say, but it’s on Disney! It’s for kids! Stripped of that context, Love, Victor loses a lot of its power. The bold possibility that the show once presented—that it could be accessed by some curious kid somewhere, clickable and watchable right alongside Frozen 2 or, y’know, the Avengers movies—is completely squandered by instead placing it next to The Handmaid’s Tale and The Great. Victor wasn’t ready to skip so many grades; his mission was to be a standard bearer in the land of the young, to challenge the accepted norms of what is suitable content for kids."
    • Love, Victor ambles along, deliberately bland and pleasantly toothless: "Having seen the whole season, it’s completely appropriate for its young adult audience and therefore downright ridiculous that Disney Plus punted Love, Victor to Hulu for sensitive content concerns," says Caroline Framke. "(If Euphoria is a rollercoaster, Love, Victor is barely a paddleboat.) And as with Love, Simon, your interest in it may depend on whether or not you can count yourself as part of that target demo. Victor and the show itself — complete with sensitive jocks, sparkly school dances, and painfully earnest handwritten love letters — just want to be your sweet, and ultimately palatable, teenage dream."
    • Love, Victor meets the expectations of being harmless and kind: "There are far worse evaluations one could assign to a series than being harmless and kind, like a boy your mother would love you to date, which both Victor and Love, Victor prove to be," says Melanie McFarland. "It never gives up on its original mission statement that happy endings aren't as easily attained and painless for most of us as they might appear to be in various legends. Neither does it deflate the notion that everybody deserves them, a token of optimism worth holding close to the heart and maybe even binging upon, depending on your mood. Nice is fine, and we could use more of it. In that regard, Love, Victor meets those expectations."
    • Victor doesn't fit a stereotype, especially the stereotype TV so often puts gay characters in: "He’s a star basketball player who is willing to stand up to bullies," says Amy Amatangelo. "But he’s still afraid of what his Columbian family will say about the fact that he’s gay. More importantly he’s not even sure if he’s gay. He thinks Mia is awesome. He likes kissing her. Her lips taste delicious. She’s funny and one of his favorite people. But what he’s discovering is that Mia does not make him feel the way Benji does. What the show emphasizes is that gay people, like all people, come in all varieties. Some love sports. Some love dressing in drag...So while the show’s message is a great, life affirming one, Love, Victor never feels like work or a pedantic 'very special episode.' The message of the show never takes over the entertainment value. It’s just a consistent hum throughout. Be yourself. Love who you are. Stand up for what you believe in. Although groundbreaking in and of itself in many way, Victor’s story is most special because of how normally the show treats it and its charismatic and adorable title character. There’s just so much here to love."
    • Love, Victor shares many of the strengths, and unfortunately even more of the timidity, that divided Love, Simon's audience: "Yes, Love, Victor is aimed at a younger audience," says Inkoo Kang. "But the surface-level struggles that Victor undergoes — which, like Simon's, seem more about fitting in and giving up the relative privilege of passing as straight — mean the series misses out on a more resonant story about the specificities of the character's fears of coming out, as they pertain to his faith, his relationship to his parents or his self-image (particularly as a popular, clean-cut athlete). Newcomer (Michael) Cimino isn't able to provide the depth lacking in the scripts, which give their protagonist little interiority beyond the terror of being found out. (Victor likes basketball and… buff arms? After 10 episodes, I couldn't really tell you more about him than that.)"
    • Love, Victor's fanfic-y charm comes from its embrace of all the good things about teen romance: "It effortlessly captures the horrifying, ambient horniness of high school and puts its characters in the exact kinds of situations legions of fanfic readers have squeed about for decades," says Alexis Nedd. "Some of them are telegraphed, like when a motel room turns out to only have one bed, while others, like popular girl Lake (Bebe Wood) finally realizing geeky classmate Felix (Anthony Turpel) is actually kinda hot, but they're all so damn cute it's hard to get mad at the predictability. Love, Victor gets the tropes right in the same way Netflix favorite To All The Boys I've Loved Before does, and will likely be a hit with the same audience."
    • Love, Victor is wonderful, but the optics of Disney+ handing it to Hulu are terrible: "Its arbitrary and inconsistent rulings about content telegraph the message that executives deemed a gay love story inappropriate for families," says Kevin Fallon. "Whether or not that’s the truth, that is the loud, unignorable message sent, especially now that we’ve viewed the entire series and found nothing in it more objectionable than any of the properties mentioned above. It’s nearly impossible to not see the justification of “alcohol use” as a flimsy shield for what the service is really saying about what isn’t family-friendly about Love, Victor."
    • Disney+'s decision looks cowardly and homophobic after watching the whole season
    • Co-showrunner Brian Tanen says Love, Victor's move from Disney+ to Hulu extended its life: "For me, it's a great opportunity," he says. "I'm thrilled that we're on Hulu because we want the show to have a very long life. As we progress into future seasons, and as our teenagers grow up, these things that make up the fabric of teenage life – including adult and sexual experiences – are just going to be easier to tell on a more adult network like Hulu." He adds: "In the writers' room, we discussed how one of the biggest problems with LGBTQ+ characters in TV and film is they're almost always neutered. They can be the funny sidekick, they can be the best friend, but you rarely see the narrative center around a gay character having crushes and sexual feelings and sexual experiences."
    • Love, Victor aims to tell "a very, very different story" from the movie: “The one thing we heard was that Simon’s parents are so liberal, his friends are so supportive, his journey was so seamless — Is there a version of a coming out story where the odds are bit harder?” says co-creator Isaac Aptaker. “We didn’t want to lose to love and the hope that existed within the film,” adds co-creator Elizabeth Berger. “Tonally, it was really important to us that this is a show that makes people feel good and makes people maybe want to sit down and watch it with their parents and not feel weird about it.”
    • Why Love, Victor decided to focus on a different character from Simon: “It was exciting to say, <What can we do differently?” said Berger, who assembled a writers' room with Latinx and LGBTQ writers “It felt exciting to delve into the Latinx world, and into representation on that front, and to see different kinds of parents, equally loving, but coming from a different perspective. This was the version of that story that felt worthwhile to explore.” Berger and Aptaker also brought Gay-Straight Alliance members from local L.A. high schools to discuss the show’s plot. “We were wondering if a show like this about a kid struggling to come out would still be relevant,” Aptaker said. “But then we would ask them, ‘What if two guys came into the cafeteria one day holding hands?’ And they were like, ‘That has never happened.'"
    • Michael Cimono prepared for Love, Victor by watching Love, Simon "16 more times": "I just took his earnestness from that," he says. Voiceover talent is so beyond and definitely watching the movie helped me set the tone for what to do. Nick (Robinson) did such a great job at it in the movie, so I took a lot from that, but also from our amazing directors really helped a lot too." Cimino was also able to bring his experience to the role: "When I first got cast, they made it a point to sit down with me and let me give them my perspective on things, and luckily we have Latino writers and writers from all communities, but it was important to sit down and have a conversation about my experience growing up," he says.

    TOPICS: Love, Victor, Disney+, Hulu, Brian Tanen, Elizabeth Berger, Isaac Aptaker, Michael Cimino, LGBTQ




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