As a 28-year-old, I didn’t think I would have such an emotional reaction to the new Netflix show, Heartstopper. I watched it for the first time one evening. Once it finished, I started it again and again. The next day, all again! So after four watches over the weekend and sore cheeks from smiling, I am here to talk about it!
For those who haven’t seen it (and you most definitely should see it), Heartstopper is an 8-episode British TV series based on a graphic novel series and webcomic of the same name by Alice Oseman. The story follows 15-year-old Charlie Spring (played by Joe Locke) and his unexpected relationship with popular kid in the year above, Nick Nelson (played by Kit Connor). The supporting cast surrounds the main storyline. Charlie’s friendship group, the school bully, the art teacher (played by Fisayo Akinade), and Nick’s mum (played by Olivia Coleman, who was secretly cast!), to name a few, take on equally important roles responding to their relationship.
Heartstopper presents a fresh 2022 take on the common LGBTQ+ romance and coming-out narrative. We can see this in the not-so-typical characterisations of the show’s characters, especially the leads. Firstly, Charlie is established as an out gay character from the beginning. Although a small role in the show, his family is always supportive. Although Charlie experiences challenges due to his sexuality at school, this is not seen at home, which is very refreshing! Secondly, even though the stereotypical ‘high school’ dynamics remain, the most significant resistance to the genre is Charlie’s love interest, Nick Nelson. Kit Connor plays Nick, the ’rugby king’ with softness. He takes on the role with a believable innocence and awkwardness, which is carried throughout. Both Nick and Charlie keep saying, ‘why are we like this?’ after apologising too many times or asking obvious questions (bringing back that 15 year old awkwardness for us). Nick is kind and open-minded during his journey of self-discovery. This counteracts the rest of the rugby team, making Harry (played by Cormac Hyde-Corrin) the homophobic bully, the odd one out.
The innocence of the show is further presented through the supporting cast. We see Elle (played by Yasmin Finney) befriend Tara and Darcy, who are secretly dating. Tao (played by William Gao) trying to protect Charlie from being hurt, and Issac (played by Tobie Donovan) reading a book in most scenes. After some digging, Heartstopper is some of the actors first time on screen. Even the lead character Charlie! This just adds to the show’s lovely and relatable reputation it is currently building online.
Heartstopper is not ashamed of falling into the high romance narrative which is one of it’s strengths. Books falling out of lockers, secrets, snow angels, teenage parties, and milkshakes, it’s got it all. The show’s quirky animations, an homage to the graphic novels, all create a wonderful world the audience can fall into.
While Heartstopper tells a gleeful story of young love in a familiar high school setting, it also includes a pretty accurate (at least for me!) look at British secondary school life- and maybe a painful reminder too. Bullying, lonesome lunch breaks, GCSE coursework, and hectic interpersonal dynamics. However, this story is staged through the 2022 lens, updating the stereotypical high school narrative to fit today’s world. The bullies are called out for their homophobia and transphobia. Their amazing art teacher makes their classroom a safe space and wears a pride flag badge, and we get to see mature emotional understandings between friends and supportive parents of LGBTQ+ kids.
Many people are talking about one of the final scenes with Nick and his mum, Olivia Coleman, a beautifully written scene and basically the perfect example of how to react to your child coming out. Heartstopper deserves to be recognised as a whole for its expansive representation of young characters. Representation is often discussed when talking about LGBTQ+ media because it truly is important. The validation and comfort from seeing characters experience something similar to you is insurmountable when you have felt alone, different, or unsafe.
As a queer person who came out at 19 years old, my inner adolescent self devastatingly pined over Charlie being out at 15. Although being out at school is not without its hardships, watching Heartstopper allowed me to sit with my younger self and give them what they didn’t have- an understanding of who they truly are. I got to have the experience I didn’t have at school, and I am delighted that young LGBTQ+ people have this show to watch.
So after laughing, smiling, gasping, and crying many times over, I can say that Heartstopper is a perfectly made show that demonstrates just how valuable positive young LGBTQ+ stories are. An A+ grade from me!
If you are looking for something to watch after Heartstopper, you can find the Top 5 Most Comforting LGBTQ+ Series here! And if you’re still craving more, we’ll direct you to the beautifully curated Heartstopper Mixtape playlist full of cute queer tunes and a dash of queer teen angst- you’re welcome.
Team Nonchalant x