The TV series ‘Love, victor’ shows the influence of culture and religion on LGBT people

Rahim, played by then 20-year-old actor Anthony Keyvan, makes his first appearance in the second season of the TV series Love, Victor. He was initially introduced as Victor’s sister Pilar’s best friend, but as the show progresses, Rahim also struggles with his sexuality, his faith, and his parents’ expectations. Over the course of the season, Victor and Rahim grow closer and in the sixth episode, Sincerely, Rahim, he finally confides in Victor. He says he is afraid to share with his parents that he is gay because it goes against the religious beliefs they were raised with.

Rahim tries hard to hide it from them. For example, to ensure that his flamboyant clothing style does not reveal him, he dresses up every day before and after he sees his parents. So he acts and looks very different at school than at home, and his friends know him as a completely different person than his parents. In the end, Rahim still finds the courage to tell them. Fortunately, they do not react at all as expected. Unlike Victor’s parents, the Rahims are very understanding and say they figured it out for a long time. So he had been worried about nothing all along.

Other rules

Still, his fear of his parents’ reaction is certainly not out of the blue. Other members of his Iranian family have a completely different outlook on life and would never understand it. Many rules apply in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Rules that we Westerners often find difficult to understand. That was underlined again this year with the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini. She was killed after her arrest by the morality police for allegedly breaking the Islamic dress code to cover her head. The idea that something like this would happen in the Netherlands is unimaginable to many Dutch people. It is also hard to imagine that someone can legally be arrested and killed just because they are gay. Yet it is also forbidden in Iran to enter into a sexual relationship with someone of the same sex. You can end up in prison, be tortured or even get the death penalty for this.

In an interview, Anthony Keyvan, the actor who plays Rahim, says he’s had conversations with his own family about what it’s like to be LGBTQ+ and Muslim. His Iranian father told him that it is illegal to be queer in the Muslim community. “Not only is it not talked about, you can even be prosecuted for it.”

Never again

Despite the great understanding of Rahim’s parents, we also see this image reflected in the rest of his family. At one point, Rahim’s uncle, Farzad, comes to visit. Rahim has already reached the point where he is generally proud of who he is and is much better in his own skin than before. His uncle’s arrival seems to undermine this completely. Rahim’s mother, who has been a great support before, insists that he dress differently while his uncle is around. It’s only for a few days, and that way they prevent a lot of trouble in the family. Rahim clearly knows the consequences of his homosexuality for those closest to him; he knows how his parents will be judged by their family and the society they grew up in. So he agrees, even though he feels terrible about it. After all, it seems like a huge step backwards.

To add to that, his mother tells Farzad that Pilar is Rahim’s partner. This leads to an awkward dinner where they have to pretend to be a couple. Rahim plays along, but when his uncle returns to Iran, he tells his mother how sorry he is that he had to pretend to be different. He admits that his parents’ acceptance finally made him feel proud of himself. This was completely undone when he had to hide from her again. He decides that he will stay true to himself from now on. He emphasizes this with the words “never again”. His mother shows that she is now truly behind him by repeating these words.

be yourself

Culture and religion can have a big impact on LGBTQ+ people. The negative attitude towards queers makes it unnecessarily difficult for them to simply be themselves. In the series we saw this first with Victor and his Catholic parents and then with Rahim and his Muslim family. At the same time, we also see that we should not just assume that all believers are black and white thinkers. Both Rahim’s and Victor’s parents are (ultimately) very understanding and supportive of their sons. This helps them grow as individuals. And it gives them the courage to be completely themselves.

This review recently appeared in De Linker Wang. Love, Victor can be seen on Disney+.

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