Warning: Spoilers For Season 1 of Love, Victor found below.
With a precedent for bisexual stories in the source material, should Love, Victor have presented a bisexual lead?
Last week, Love, Victor was released on the Hulu streaming service. The story follows a Latino teen moving to Atlanta, Georgia with his family to start fresh. But as he does, he starts to question his sexuality, his relationships, and the conflict going on inside his home.
Now a week in, the show has garnered general praise for its depiction of LGBTQ youth. The show is a spin-off of the 2018 film Love, Simon, which of itself is based on a book series by Becky Albertalli, and is being celebrated for its QPOC lead. While Love, Simon was generally beloved, the movie gained criticism for Simon Spier coming from a place of privilege. From growing up in a financially affluent area to having radically liberal parents, being very masc presenting, and being, frankly, a white man. Because of this, the introduction of Victor Salazar as the main lead for this new series was exciting.
But after watching Love, Victor, there’s a feeling that the show could have missed the chance to present bisexual representation.
Don’t get me wrong. I, and many others, enjoyed Love, Victor from start to finish. Michael Cimino as the titular character was charming, compelling, and sometimes perfectly frustrating. Anthony Turpel’s Felix and Bebe Wood’s Lake were witty and fun. And, Ana Ortiz returned as a mom to a queer Latino teen, after her iconic time on Ugly Betty, which reminded us all why we love her. But it’s the plot that has me feeling unsettled.
From the ending of episode one, Victor is seen hanging out with a girl, Rachel Naomi Hilson’s Mia, instead of the guy, George Sear’s Benji Campbell, he’s crushing on. At that moment, I was up in arms. “What are you doing with her? No, go with him!” But as the next few episodes continued, the idea started to become appealing.
By episode 3, Victor expresses confusion in liking Mia. He then states, correctly, that “sexuality is a spectrum. Some guys like guys, some guys like girls, some guys like both, and some guys like… feet? I’m not even sure what I like, but it’s definitely not feet. So, I think I’m gonna give things with Mia a chance. I feel really connected to her and who knows. I didn’t think I was gonna like the impossible burger until I had one and it was actually pretty good. So, maybe Mia’s my impossible burger.”
After hearing this, Victor spends several episodes happily dating and kissing Mia. Because of this, I, and many other viewers, had the thought, “Oh, he’s bi!” The beginning of Love, Victor established that Victor’s story would not be like Simon’s. Victor was different, and what better way for that to come true than for Victor to be bisexual? Plus, the source material already supports bisexual stories (more on that in a moment).
After coming around to that idea, I recommended the show to a friend. I told this friend, who is bisexual and gender non-conforming, that Victor was bi. The friend, who knew about the show, then said, “Isn’t there a white gay guy?” I said yes and they then replied, “Let’s not pretend like [Victor’s] not going to end up with the basic white gay.” At the time, I couldn’t argue with them. And unfortunately, that’s when the story started to change.
The Shift & Bland Characterization
Around episode 6, the blossoming bisexual representation started to fade away. Benji presented the idea that he’s gay but has experimented with women before. Victor then started to take that on as his own personal truth. Now instead of enjoying his relationship, the writing presented the idea that Victor was just discovering his sexuality. Color me disappointed, and I wasn’t the only one.
ok so i finished ep 2 and i gotta ask, is victor bisexual or do we not know that yet? #LoveVictor
— love, nethmi (@lwtsvelvet) June 17, 2020
Crying over this bisexual representation 😭 💖💜💙 #LoveVictor
— Lauren Marie (@invinsibyl) June 25, 2020
they put the bisexual flag over Victor in the Love, Victor intro n then try to spend the entire show going “what’s hes sexuality?!?!”
— Love, Mason༄‧₊˚. (@fairi_channie) June 24, 2020
|| ya'll Love Victor really did my bisexual ass dirty.
it's erasure at it's finest.
— Clark Kent – BLM (@hopexjustice) June 24, 2020
Love victor was so freaking good all i wish was that they made him bisexual so that we could’ve had that story told
— mariah (@sykoholics) June 24, 2020
I kinda wish he was bisexual.. there’s not a lot of movie or tv shows about us
— Kam😎 (@kam_asf) June 24, 2020
But what’s worse than missing out on the opportunity to present a Latino teen discovering his bisexuality, a story rarely seen in entertainment media, was the idea that Victor ultimately chose the “basic white gay” my friend bemoaned about. Let’s face it, the Benji character is as bland as he could be. His entire purpose is to be the hot gay guy that our main character crushes on. He had no other defining traits in Love, Victor. Where’s his agency? His drive in this story? (Keep in mind, I say this about the character and his lack of storyline & not the actor’s performance).
Compared to that, we had Mia, a young artist who’s struggling with being abandoned by her mother, her father’s negligence, her father getting remarried, unwanted attention from a school bully, a friendship with the school gossip girl, and a blossoming crush on a nice new boy. Why does the show force us to root for Victor dumping such a compelling character? Meanwhile, we’re made to watch Victor choose another person whose only character traits are that he works at a coffee shop, is in a heavy-handed broken relationship, and is gay.
Again, Love, Victor was sweet, charming, wholesome, and a fun watch from start to finish. But, the feeling remains that an opportunity was missed here.
Keep in mind, bisexuality is not out of the norm for the source material and gay men are not the only LGBTQ stories told in this franchise. Love, Simon was based on a novel called Simon vs. the Homosapien Agenda by Becky Albertalli. That novel then had a sequel named Leah on the Offbeat. That sequel followed Simon’s best friend coming out as bisexual herself. When a Love, Simon sequel series was first announced, Leah on the Offbeat was the story attached to the project. That then transformed into Love, Victor instead.
Plus, a bisexual Victor doesn’t mean he couldn’t have ended up in a same-sex relationship. Victor could have still ended up with Benji, despite Beji’s lack of characterization or storyline, and still been bisexual. But instead, they painted over Victor’s seemingly real feelings for Mia as just “experimenting.”
A big factor for why this missed opportunity happened was a set of misguided attempts to help navigate Victor’s feelings. Within the story, there were two misguided influences that come to mind.
“Over the season, Victor and Simon develop a correspondence over Instagram DM, turning the character from the first movie into a gay mentor for the frustrated, scared, and confused Victor. Curiously, by doing so, Love, Victor complicates its own intentions regarding representation, creating and contributing to a mythology of white gayness.”
The editorial then adds, “Victor pines to be what Simon is and has become. As he doles out advice on getting used to high school in a new place, negotiating conservative parents, and figuring out feelings for a guy at school (Benji, also white), Simon becomes one of the primary reference points for Victor’s idea of gayness.”
Within the show, Victor Salazar looks towards the stories of other LGBTQ characters to inform him on his own truth. He reads the words of Simon Spier as if that’s simply how he should be. Then he accepts Benji’s story of having sex with a girl as a precipice for identifying as gay. These two perspectives become the only truth in Victor’s mind. The problem here is the belief that gay stories are the default for LGBTQ stories.
If Love, Victor gets a season two, and I hope it does, I hope that the writing team re-examines Victor’s sexuality. I hope he comes to figure out his truth without the misguided advice of others who came before him and truly explores what he wants without outside bias. I hope Love, Victor truly considers the possibility of its titular lead being bisexual.
If it doesn’t, that’s fair. But then, Love, Victor will have missed out on the opportunity to be different than the movie that came before it.
Writer’s Note: This is the opinion of one Instinct Magazine contributor and does not reflect the views of Instinct Magazine itself or fellow contributors.
Update (6/24/2020): Info about the Leah on the Offbeat novel sequel, the initial tv show announcement, and fan tweets were added to give further backing to this article.