By Andy Diaz
“Love, Simon.” You may have watched it in 2018 when it was released. The premise of the movie, directed by Greg Berlanti, is a high school-age, closeted boy, Simon, played by Nick Robinson, develops a love for an anonymous person called “Blue.” Based off of Becky Albertalli’s book, “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda,” the movie made a big splash for some controversial reasons. This movie represented a big step for the LGBTQIA+ community; however, it felt off in numerous ways.
For starters, Simon’s only problem was his own confidence. Other than that, he didn’t really have any issues. He had a kind and supportive friend group, very liberal parents in a stable relationship and lived in a wealthy neighborhood.
Simon even said that he had “the perfect life,” except that he was closeted. Watching him have his fairy tale ending felt unrealistic and problematic. The film seems to gloss over many issues that a lot of closeted people face, and like most coming-of-age films, romanticized the high school experience and further pushed the idea that teenagers need to find love by grad night.
The movie was touching to watch because it was a reminder that a lot of times, the only person holding you down is yourself. Simon knew what he needed to say, and knew he would most likely be fine, but he kept his feelings bottled up because he couldn’t take the next step to accept himself. That aspect of the battle of coming out was fleshed out; however, too many parts were not.
Simon is a very bland character, played by a straight actor, whose storyline is not reflective of many in the LGBTQIA+ community. The big kiss scene at the end, while sweet and very high-school-movie-like, would petrify many gay teens who already fear holding hands with other guys in public.
While “Love, Simon” was a step in the right direction for centering the storyline around a non-straight character, there was a missed opportunity to delve into the harsher realities many closeted teens endure.
Flash forward five years in Simon’s world, and we are introduced to Victor, played by Michael Cimino, a fifteen-year-old Latinx kid from Texas who just moved to Atlanta because of a family issue. “Love, Victor,” a Hulu Original, is a ten-episode series that began airing this year. Very quickly, Victor learns about the infamous Simon, the boy who went to his school five years ago who proclaimed his love for another guy.
After hearing the stories about Simon, Victor messages him that he envies Simon for having everything fall into place, because he couldn’t envision a life outside the closet at that point. Victor begins messaging Simon for high school advice, with a focus on helping him navigate his sexuality. Right off the bat, there are clear contrasts between Simon and Victor’s stories. While both have loving parents, Simon admits his parents are very open, but Victor feels anxious about his sexuality because he doesn’t know how his religious, traditional parents would react.
On top of that, Victor’s parents also go through their own issues rooted in the fact that they married at a very young age and have unresolved marital problems. This puts added stress on Victor who doesn’t want to add any more pressure to an already volatile home situation. His family is not wealthy like Simon’s, and unlike Simon, Victor is grasping onto the idea that if he tries hard enough and wants hard enough, he can settle for being straight.
This is a very complicated mentality that gay people often face — they would rather avoid and ignore their sexuality because they fear not being in the norm. They fear what comes after the self-acceptance. Victor’s dad jokes with him about hoping his little brother isn’t gay when he’s older, and his grandparents’ conservative beliefs certainly didn’t help his parents see gay people as normal as everyone else.
Overall, “Love, Victor” felt more real than “Love, Simon.” Victor’s parents are struggling, religion is holding him back, he doesn’t make any huge declaration of love and side characters are given stories that make them more relatable.
Season one ends with Victor (SPOILER) coming out to his family, then the scene cuts before the audience can see their reaction. It is disappointing that the show delved into these issues yet still didn’t cast a gay actor to play a gay character.
Both productions are steps in the right direction and wonderful to watch for an idealized queer romance, but if it’s emotional depth viewers are seeking, these are probably not the films for them. “Love, Simon” is a very idealized, filtered movie that fails to address a lot of issues and anxieties gay teens feel. “Love, Victor” does a better job at that, and the show is presented in a way that many viewers can actually relate to and understand. The T.V. series took the opportunity to go into complexities and obstacles that hold teens back from coming out other than lack of confidence.
Contact Andy Diaz at [email protected]