TV + Movies

Love, Victor: Disney’s Family Friendliness Is Anti-Queer

The idea that sexuality is explicitly about sexual content needs to be done away with. It’s high time we did away with age-restrictions around what James Somerton has called ‘Queer Fear.’

Hulu’s Love, Victor, the spin-off series to groundbreaking movie, Love, Simon, follows the closeted gay teen, Victor Salazar, as he navigates the ups and downs of high school. The show ran for three seasons from 2020 till 2022 and could be easily placed within the company of shows like Young Royals and Heartstopper. All of these shows explore the intimacies of being queer with an emphasis on problems that comes with everyday life of being young, queer, and often closeted. They deal with the theme of queer joy and optimism which is, for sure, an emancipatory experience of many closeted queers all over the world. In fact, Love, Victor even has a more realistic depiction than these shows. For instance, the plot around Victor’s mother’s difficulty to come to terms with his sexuality has been refreshing, even if tough to watch.

Love, Victor is also peculiar among these shows as it’s not produced by Netflix or other similar streaming services. It comes through Hulu, and was supposed to stream on Disney+ until Disney decided that it’s queer content was not within the limits of it’s family friendliness.

The decision did impact Love, Victor which was almost groundbreaking, albeit a safe bet, in its first two seasons and then came crashing down in its closing third season with a thud. Hulu president Joe Earley said, “We are proud of ‘Love, Victor’ and are excited to bring it to the widest possible audience on June 15 by making the full series available on both Disney+ and Hulu to celebrate the final season and LGBTQIA+ Pride Month.” Unfortunately, a month before its premiere, the show was pulled out from Disney+ and only released on Hulu even though Disney was the parent company that ordered the show in the first place.

According to EW, sources confirmed that the reason the show was being moved from Disney+ to Hulu was because of the depiction of alcohol consumption, marital issues, and sexual exploration. They figured that Love, Victor required a more adult audience, even though it was still a coming-of-age story. This is probably fitting, considering Disney’s got quite the track record with leaving queerness as a large question mark in the air with its history of having queer coded characters, most dominantly villains[1] [2] [3]  and making  movies like Encanto, Luca, and Raya and the Last Dragon and all its Marvel properties with strong queer subtexts, but no confirmation. None of them have been explicit in their portrayal of queerness and sexuality.

Love, Victor, for the most part, follows Disney’s safe formulaic plot of a teenager figuring out his life that people of all ages can enjoy without rolling their eyes. There are elements of alcoholism, marriage and separation, complexity of identity that might seem heavy but they’re also dealt with with care and patience in the show’s first two seasons. When we do talk about making queer friendly content for children and adding queer narratives to family-friendly shows, it’s not about adding elements of explicit sexual content. Disney has more cultural sway over the media than any other organisation in the world and the company essentially shapes culture and it has done so for generations. The idea that sexuality is explicitly about sexual content needs to be done away with. It’s high time we did away with age-restrictions around what James Somerton has called ‘Queer Fear.’ On the contrary, we need more voices like Rebecca Sugar’s Steven Universe  and shows like Adventure Time. However,animated shows can only do so much and that’s where organisations like Disney have a moral obligation to also churn out narratives that are true to what their young viewers might be going through.

As per this review of season 3 on IGN, “For every two steps forward, season three takes two steps back.” It was further rated 5/10 with the synopsis – “Love, Victor final season loses sight of who it was originally for, getting lost in scatter-brain subplots.” The third season utterly fails everything that the first two seasons set up the show for. It’s disappointingly sad that the writing was just quick enough to tie all strands together but not smart enough to sustain the brave themes around exploring queerness from a marginal perspective that the first two seasons curated so delicately. While the writers suggested that season three marked the end, there’s no doubt that support from Disney could have allowed it to bloom more, even into a full-fledged universe.

When Love, Victor was initially announced, I distinctly remember that Love, Simon was banned from release in India and the CBFC’s sole explanation was that films on homosexuality do not have audience in India. I was largely mad at the board’s decision because Love, Simon was something I’d definitely want my parents to watch, to introduce them to how life feels as a queer person and how love, support, and acceptance is all I need from them. So when Disney announced that Love, Victor would be released on Hulu, I was beyond happy as Disney+ Hotstar is something that almost every household watches these days and it could have been the perfect chance to introduce my folks to queer content that won’t put them off.

Love, Victor could have been the perfect chance for Disney to bring to its audience a “family-friendly” show that explores what it’s like being a young queer person in a very realistic sense while also providing a sense of hope, faith, and optimism that we place in our friends, lovers, and family. However, due to Disney’s widely shared notions around morality, respectability, and family-friendliness, the show ended up being a lost opportunity – a messy end on a low note for a series whose origin material still stands as groundbreaking, warm and iconic as ever for queer narratives on the big screen.

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Rajeev completed their under graduation in Political Science Hons. from Sri Venkateswara College, University of Delhi in 2020. They graduated with Masters in Women’s Studies from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai in 2022 and were a participant at the International Writing Program’s Summer Institute, University of Iowa for the 2021-22 session. They have been the recipient of Mavelinadu Collective’s grant for non-fiction for the first issue of Debrahminising Gender. Their work can be found in EPW, Women’s Link Journal, Shuddhashar, Gaysi Family, Feminism in India and Hindu College Gazette among others. Their research interests include queer experiences, feminist ethics of care, and masculinities.

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