Heartstopper - the start of a new era of teen dramas

Netflix's adaptation of the popular graphic novel offers a rare happy ending in queer media

Michael Duckworth
16th May 2022
Image Credit: IMDb
Based on the graphic novels by writer and illustrator Alice Oseman, Heartstopper is Netflix’s latest phenomenon. Telling the story of a growing friendship and romance between two teenage boys, nerdy outcast Charlie Spring (Joe Locke) and rugby star Nick Nelson (Kit Connor). The incorporation of stylistic elements from the graphic novels gives the show a unique charm, little animations show the sparks of excitement when two hands touch or the flutter of leaves when your heart skips a beat, just adding to the wholesome and uplifting atmosphere that encompasses the entire show.

All the hallmarks of a horribly embarrassing teen crush show up in Heartstopper, the eye contact that lasts just a little bit too long, the agonising typing and retyping of a single benign text message, overthinking ever single word of the conversation you just had, so many little details that take you back to when you were tripping over yourself trying to talk to the person you liked at school.

Image Credit: IMDb

The show also tells the unique experiences that come with being queer at school, not just the negatives like the particular cruelties that come with homophobic bullying, but also the positives, finding your clan with other queer classmates and bonding over shared experiences. In episode 3, as soon as Nick typed the letter “A” into his laptop, every single young LGBT person knew exactly what was happening, we’d all been there. The fear and the confusion but also the excitement and joy of realising who you are is portrayed so earnestly by Connor, and his coming out in the final moments of the show was so good it even made co-star Olivia Coleman break into tears on set. Rhea Norwood as Imogen gives the most convincing performance of “clueless straight girl” ever shown on screen, the line delivery of “I’m not like homophobic… I’m an ally” gave me chills it was so accurate to girls I knew from school.

Image Credit: IMDb

The translation of graphic novel to screen has brought a lot of changes, many of the supporting character in the novel are given a bigger role to play in the show, the relationships between Nick and Charlie’s friends is fleshed out properly. Tara (Corinna Brown) and Darcy (Kizzy Edgell) come out as couple and face some online harassment and trans character Elle (Yasmin Finney) starts to have a crush on her friend Tao (William Gao) and they start to develop their own relationship. Bright blues and yellows fill the screen as these young romances begin to blossom across the school year.

It may seem obvious to say that this kind of positive LGBT representation is entirely needed and important, but it really can’t be stated enough. Time and time again queer characters are given tortured lives or are killed off for the emotional development of their straight counterparts. Stories where gay or trans characters are fully developed and complex while also just being happy and content by the shows end are next to non-existent. So I hope Nick and Charlie’s romance can be a beacon of hope for queer people who feel like a happy ending is unreachable for them.

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