By E.M. Rivera
Love,Victor is Hulu’s spin-off of the successful film Love, Simon and follows a similar narrative; a high-school-aged boy and his coming out journey. The major difference between the show and it’s predecessor is the main character of Love, Victor is Latinx. This is particularly exciting as there are many nuances to Latinx culture, one of which is the heteronormative and hyper-masculine culture that has been around for generations. This was one of the reasons why I was so excited to tune in. The show does a good job of handling both the overt and subtle ways homophobia rears its ugly head in Latinx families. From blatant homophobia from his grandfather, to the more subtle “it’s fine, but just not my sons” pseudo-acceptance from his father; the show’s titular lead Victor has to learn to navigate not only his identity, but also the minefield that is a religious Latinx household. As this is something I have seen with my own eyes, I was impressed with the honest portrayal of the dangers of well-meaning parents/grandparents and the ways in which they weaponize respect. While there are many things to enjoy about Hulu’s Love, Victor, the show still encounters the arch nemesis of representation which Hollywood has yet to defeat. Warning: Mild spoilers below.
Over the course of the show, Victor takes a trip to NYC to see what the LGBTQ+ community has to offer outside of his small town in Atlanta. I held my breath and prepared to be disappointed as someone who is closely acquainted with this community. Unfortunately, the writers did exactly as I expected them to. Victor makes his way to Brooklyn, and though he is greeted by a Black gay man; he is soon introduced to an apartment full of white and white-passing, young queer people who moved to NYC to attend NYU.
Immediately, I was triggered.
I was born and raised in The Bronx, and after attending 7th grade through college in Manhattan; I learned that the one thing you can bond with anyone from any borough about is gentrification. There is nothing more upsetting than watching small businesses and your family and friends getting priced out of neighborhoods that they helped build by white (yes, even queer) college students from all over. Was Love, Victor’s representation of Brooklyn accurate? Yes, but is gentrified Green Point really the representation we’re looking for? Hell no. In all honesty, the shows depiction of queer life in NYC looked like what every middle-american white persons fantasy of “the city that never sleeps” is. Except, as always, it lacks the utter disdain of native New Yorkers.
After the friends take Victor to a gay bar where he is hit on by another guy (freshly turned 16 Victor, being encouraged to flirt with legal adults?), Victor is given a triumphant “we are a family” speech by a White Cis Gay man. Considering that white cis gay men are albiet notorious for gatekeeping, frequently appropriating culture that does not belong to them and crossing boundaries of other queer people, especially femmes (yes, I am speaking from experience) this felt inherently inapropriate. Regardless, Victor feels comforted by this speech and enjoys a 80s-esque dance with his friends and a White (lol) Drag Queen. The entire episode makes a point to show Victor that there is no one way to be gay, and while it definetly shows different experiences; it is simultaneously completely devoid of the leading force in NYC’s LGBTQ+ community. The episode ended, and still; there was not a dark-skinned Black femme in sight.
As a queer Puerto Rican who has always been obsessed with romantic comedies, I excitedly devour any high school-romance trope featuring queer love that comes my way. Movies like Love,Simon and The Half of It seemed like a dream come true in a world of heteronormative romance. While these movies, and others like them, make strides in showing the complexities of teenage sexuality- I find myself asking the same question: Where are the Black people?, usually followed by: Where are the dark-skinned Black femmes? A simple google search would show you that queer liberation, queer culture and queer life as we know it are spear headed by Black Queer, Trans, GNC people and femmes. Shows like She’s Gotta Have it and Pose center queer Black femmes in realistic and delicate ways that show us its really not as hard as Hollywood makes it seem to find directors, writers and actors who know what they’re doing. They’re out there; I can name at least 20 and that’s just the people I know personally. These artists are out there, with heartfelt, meaningful stories waiting to be told and yet I find myself pondering the same thoughts. Why do coming of age Rom-Coms, that pride themselves on diversity, keep completely missing the mark?
The most obvious answer is racism, which can be hard to grapple with when it is packaged in such queer wrapping paper with a pretty, inclusive, bow. Racism, however, is insidious and it doesn’t care who it steps on to succeed. Corporations win the gold medal in mental gymnastics to sell you a product that is devoid of truth. The fact of the matter is, Black Queer, Trans, and GNC people are the blueprint, and any LGBTQ+ representation that does not extensively include and center them is just another cog in the machine. While Love, Victor makes strides in Latinx representation, it takes several steps backward in its LGBTQ+ representation.
Elysa Marie Rivera (She/They), also known as E.M. Rivera, is a queer Puerto Rican writer, actor and performance artist born and raised in The Bronx, NY. Currently, Elysa Marie is the creator and host of the lifestyle podcast Chrysalis on Spotify.