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Review: Homophobia, monogamy, and northeast elitism dull potential of Love, Victor

by Ollie Donald

*Warning: review contains spoilers for Love, Victor*

The Love, Simon spinoff begins with Victor Salazar’s family’s move to Atlanta from Texas. Victor, a hopeful and caring high school sophomore, is questioning his sexuality, and on his first day at Creekwood High School, he hears the fabled tale of the beginning of Simon Spier’s relationship with boyfriend Bram. Victor finds excitement in a place he hopes will be more queer-friendly than Texas, and throughout his first day at Creekwood, Victor meets two love interests, Mia and Benji. That night, Victor messages Simon on Instagram, and the two strike up a correspondence. Victor shows more vulnerability to Simon than to anyone else in his life, pining for the freedom and certainty of Simon’s life, and Simon in return gives Victor advice.

I hoped that Love, Victor would explore deeper and arguably more interesting aspects of being queer than the tumultous process of questioning and coming out. Instead, Victor grapples with internalized homophobia and the vague question of figuring out what he wants. Casual homophobia from his family and classmates keep the story from moving beyond a tired pre-coming out narrative. Victor begins a romance with Mia, a girl at Creekwood High School, while also being attracted to his coworker Benji, one of few out gay kids at Creekwood. 

When Victor finds out that Benji has a boyfriend, he immediately presumes that any chance of a romantic relationship with Benji is off the table--that is, he assumes that Benji is monogamous. Victor sees this situation as helpful to his “choice” between Benji and Mia: if Benji is unavailable, the choice is made and Victor can settle with having a relationship with Mia. 

Compulsory monogamy assumes that everyone strives to be with one partner and finds complete fulfillment in that relationship. Mononormativity, a related concept, refers to the conception of monogamy as the only moral, normal, natural, and healthy form of romantic relationship (Pieper and Bauer, 2006). Both make up the fabric of romantic relationships in Love, Victor. Compulsory monogamy pervades media and pop culture, particularly media designed for teens--yet I hoped that a new queer show would not fall into the same narrative traps.

Love, Victor also ignores the history of radical Black queer activism in the South. In episode 8, Victor visits Simon in New York City, meets Simon’s queer roommates, and goes to a gay club. Victor says it is the best night of his life. The arc of this episode, in particular, implicitly promotes regional biases and liberal safe haven elitism--in essence, upholding “progressive” northern cities like New York as exceptionally safe and free from racism and homophobia. Doing this overlooks rampant racism and homophobia in these cities--for example, New York has some of the most segregated schools in the United States. Writing off the South writes off diverse communities marginalized by racist systems that white people created.

Love, Victor had the potential to move beyond arduous coming out storylines, and queer youth deserve better representation. By the end of the season of 10 episodes, the plot was so tired and boring that it became painful and uninteresting to watch. Most conflict hinges on poor communication and upholding societal standards. I can’t help but think of the impact the show could have had if Victor’s high school accepted him. What if no one assumed his sexuality? What if Victor’s family viewed queerness as something to be celebrated, not hidden? Experiencing high school as a young queer person is often difficult and traumatic--for this reason, we must imagine and create the better worlds we deserve in our media.

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