➤ “LOVE ,VICTOR,” from p.34
Duhamel), Simon’s father from the
original fi lm.
Victor seems empowered by his
announcement, and while he is
initially reluctant to tell the school
that he has broken up with Mia
(Rachel Hilson) to be with Benji
(George Sear), he eventually does
so in a big dramatic moment. “Love,
Victor” gets less corny as the season
progresses, though Victor and Benji
are annoyingly cute. They kiss and
are very affectionate in school or
the café where they work. But like
all the other characters, they have
their ups and downs. One occurs
when Victor, a star basketball player,
quits the team because his being
openly gay upsets some of his teammates.
Then, Isabel’s lack of respect
towards Benji leads to fi ghts between
mother and son and causes
tension between the two teens.
The series certainly gets soap-operatic
with these plotlines, but “Love,
Victor” also addresses teenage sexuality
in an episode where Victor and
his friends go to Benji’s family’s cabin
hoping to lose their virginity. Victor
texts Simon (series producer Nick
Robinson) for advice, but he ends up
having to navigate on his own. Likewise,
Victor’s best friend and neighbor,
Felix (Anthony Turpel), is hoping
to sleep with his girlfriend Lake (Bebe
Wood). The show is sweetest when
Victor and Felix talk about their respective
Other involving mini-dramas
develop over the course of the season.
Mia briefl y dates a college guy,
but really wants Andrew (Mason
Gooding). She also has some family
drama involving her father (Mekhi
Phifer) and her absent mother.
Felix’s mother (Betsy Brandt) has
some mental health issues, causing
him and Lake to take a break, during
which Felix bonds with Victor’s
sister, Pilar (Isabella Ferreira), who
has been harboring a crush on him.
And Victor learns one of Benji’s secrets
during an awkward birthday
dinner. These exchanges lead to several
discussions where characters
talk about wanting to fi t in or show
how they evolve and grow.
“Love, Victor” also introduces another
gay character this season in
the form of Rahim (Anthony Keyvan),
a closeted Iranian classmate
who wears fi ngernail polish and
asks Victor for help coming out —
much like Victor asked Simon. Rahim’s
presence is a not unwelcome
addition to the series. Although Isabel
is wary of Benji, she embraces
Rahim, who spends time at the
Salazar’s house to avoid confl icts at
his home. Rahim and Victor become
friendly, and the timing, of course,
coincides with Victor’s relationship
with Benji becoming strained following
a series of fi ghts.
“Love, Victor” also shows how Felix
handles Lake and Pilar, which is
akin to Victor’s situation with Benji
and Rahim. And when Armando
meets a woman at his PFLAG meetings,
it suggests he may be moving
on from his crumbling marriage. The
series certainly milks these romantic
dramas, where many a well-meaning
act is construed as betrayal. Everything
is magnifi ed for these teens
(and their families), but even at its
most contrived — as when Victor and
Rahim sneak into to a gay bar and
perform a fabulous karaoke number
— the show remains endearing.
The cast leans into the material.
Michael Cimino is strongest
when Victor acts with confi dence,
expressing his opinions and demanding
respect. He displays appropriate
vulnerability and anxiety,
too, but it is nice to see him
getting wiser even though he often
makes foolish or impulsive decisions.
The scenes between Victor
and his mother are quite strong,
in part because Ana Ortiz makes
Isabel’s struggle palpable. It is
satisfying that her character has
some trouble with Victor’s sexuality
and that she acknowledges the
work she has to do to deal with it.
And George Sear, as Benji, lends
fi ne support as the initially patient
boyfriend who eventually becomes
justifi ably angry with Victor and
concerned about Rahim. Although
Anthony Keyvan plays Rahim as a
gay stereotype — with deep knowledge
of fashion and Jennifer Lopez
fi lms — it does serve a purpose
when Rahim is rejected by a guy
for being effeminate.
“Love, Victor” raises several issues
of importance to queer teens (and
adults), and while they may only be
touched on in each half-hour episode,
they go down smoothly. Of course,
the show ends with a cliffhanger, but
this binge-worthy season will likely
leave viewers wanting more.
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