[Editor’s note: The following article contains minor spoilers for the Hulu series “Love, Victor.”]
It’s an uncomfortable but inevitable truth of the LGBTQ civil rights movement that white gay men have always come first, even as others were doing the work. From being the face of same sex marriage to most screen representations, cute white boys are always the first to the table. So when “Love, Simon” premiered in 2018, becoming the first major Hollywood movie to center a gay teen coming out, it made sense that it was cutie pie Nick Robinson who got the part. While he was extremely charming in the role, Robinson is smart to take a backseat as executive producer on “Love, Victor,” the adorable Hulu series based in the same universe as “Love, Simon.”
Based on Becky Albertalli’s 2015 young adult novel “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda,” “Love, Simon” follows a closeted high schooler’s secret email romance with a mystery classmate. It’s a modern meet-cute — the two boys fall in love over flirty emails about coming out, before doing it together with a dramatic kiss on the ferris wheel in front of the whole school. “Love, Victor” employs the same letter-writing voiceover, but with new student Victor Salazar (Michael Cimino) seeking a college-aged Simon’s advice over Instagram DMs. Victor and his family have moved somewhat suddenly to Atlanta from Texas, for reasons Victor and his siblings don’t yet know.
Victor is already questioning his sexuality from the first episode, hence his correspondence with Simon, which remains strictly platonic. However, as Victor writes Simon, his Colombian-American family is different than Simon’s. The first episode ends with Victor’s very on the nose reminder: “My story is nothing like yours.” And he’s right, it’s way cuter. Primarily because of the Salazar family — undoubtedly the show’s strongest selling point even if it is suspiciously short on cultural details. (We learn Victor’s grandparents are from Colombia very briefly in the fifth episode.)
There’s Victor’s mom Isabel (“Ugly Betty” royalty Ana Ortiz), old-fashioned but loving dad Armando (James Martinez), moody goth sister Pilar (Isabella Ferreira), and aspiring clown little brother Adrian (Mateo Fernandez). As Victor looks to his parents to emulate loving partnership, they are busy navigating gender roles and past infidelities, which the show handles with relative maturity. Though his dad makes gay jokes and seems a little too excited abut his new girlfriend, it’s clear that the Salazars will always, ahem, “Love, Victor.”
Yes, you heard that right — girlfriend. Victor’s circuitous path to self actualization is a somewhat tiring distraction from the real meat of the story, but all is forgiven thanks to the exceedingly charming Rachel Hilson. The “This Is Us” actress plays Mia Brooks, the prettiest girl at school who wisely sets her sights on cutie Victor. She’s boosted by the comic relief of status-obsessed Lake (a very funny Bebe Wood, who is reminiscent of a young Mae Whitman). Adorably earnest Victor has his own funnyman, Felix (Anthony Turpel, dead ringer for “Riverdale” star Cole Sprouse). In addition to having the funniest lines and being surprisingly self-aware for teenagers, what’s exciting about these secondary characters is that — for once — white people are the sidekicks. (Though Lake and Felix do get ample screen time for their star-crossed romance, which is also exceedingly cute.)
Though Victor convinces himself he likes Mia, he’s really set his sites on shaggy-haired barista Benji (George Sear), the school’s resident hottie who just so happens to be out and proud. He’s so out and proud, in fact, he has a boyfriend. When Victor gets a job at the coffee shop to make a little extra cash, he’s in for late night dancing and frothy latte lessons from Benji, who sweeps his hands seductively through his luscious locks every chance he gets. The show takes its sweet time for anything to happen between the two boys, but Victor’s plentiful swooning over Benji ensures that “Love, Victor” never loses sight of its gay heart.
It wouldn’t be a teen romance without a little cheese, and “Love, Victor” has that in spades. The show is laughably tame, especially in a TV landscape that includes “Sex Education” and “Euphoria,” two shows that feature radically progressive depictions of teenage sexuality. It will probably play better with older kids than actual teenagers, but a fair amount of adults will enjoy escaping into its sweet candy-coated fluff. The episodic format works better for this PG tone, anyway. “Love, Simon” may have been first, but if “Love, Victor” is any indication, it won’t be the last.
“Love, Victor” is currently streaming on Hulu.