May 13, 2022 | LIFE | By Hannah Van Zandt | Illustration by Sydney Morris
Netflix’s new television series “Heartstopper” was released on April 22. Everyone has been talking about it ever since.
Based on a webtoon series created by Alice Oseman, the story centers around characters Charlie Spring (Joe Locke), a 14-year-old who attends an all-boys British school, and Nick Nelson (Kit Connor), a classmate who is a year older, and their friendship that blossoms into a romantic relationship. It explores topics such as finding yourself and the intricacies that come with being young and in love.
This show has received a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has been watched for 23,940,000 hours from April 25 to May 1, which has undoubtedly increased in the past few weeks. So why has this show been received so well by its audience?
“Heartstopper,” from the get-go, has an excellent cast, with representation that stays true to the comics. As someone who has been a fan of the series, nothing is more satisfying than seeing characters truly jump into life, and having the plot stay relatively the same. Not only are the actors’ exact cutouts of their respective characters, but they are all similar to their characters’ ages as well.
It’s refreshing to see teenage characters being played by actual teenagers, when too often they are portrayed by 30-something-year-olds who look too perfect to be true, setting unrealistic expectations. Having this casting makes the plot authentic, and as viewers, you can see yourself in each character.
With this, having representation plays an integral role in characters such as Elle Argent (Yasmin Finney). Elle is a transgender girl of color, who is being played by a transgender actress of color, who is also a teenager. For her character, there is only one way she can be represented, and having someone to truly embody the role is so important for queer youth to see. Having a truly diverse ensemble of people represented in a positive light allows viewers who don’t feel seen to feel seen.
What sets “Heartstopper” apart from other queer media is it is filled with hope, joy, acceptance, and love, rather than being a story that ends in heartbreak and tragedy. Although there are themes such as bullying, harassment, and homophobia present, it isn’t portrayed in a severely dramatic way. Instead, it shows how casually these instances can occur, and how they don’t stop each character from getting their own happy endings.
At its core, the show is a cute romance story, while also emphasizing the importance of platonic relationships and other queer relationships.
Though Nick and Charlie’s relationship is at the center of the plot, there are still other LGBTQ+ relationships that are equally as special and have their own journey. Oftentimes, there is just one queer couple for the sake of representation, but Alice Oseman incorporates others in the comics just as it is done in the show, which is seen through the lesbian couple Tara (Corinna Brown) and Darcy (Kizzy Edgell). Media doesn’t often focus on lesbian relationships and having one that is wholesome and sweet is so important.
Having multiple characters who have their narratives and who find themselves in their own ways resonates with many viewers, particularly with Nick’s coming-out story. As an audience, we see his journey of him figuring out what his initial feelings are for Charlie, and in later episodes, seeing him taking ‘am I gay?’ quizzes online, doing more research, and later coming to realize that he is bisexual.
At the end of the episode, Nick comes out to his mother, played by Olivia Coleman. It was heartwarming and emotional, filled with so much love and acceptance. Many individuals relate to him coming to terms with his sexuality as well as his coming out story, creating a comforting and safe atmosphere for watchers of the show.
One person on Twitter posted how Nick coming out to his mother was so important to them that they used the same format to come out to their parents. It is things like these that come to show how poignant a story like “Heartstopper” is, and just how much of an impact it has on the audience, and queer youth.
“Heartstopper” is a refreshing story with a focus on queer positivity that paves the way for many future movies and comics. Not only is the story itself important, but the media representation itself will undoubtedly change queer media as a whole. These stories are about normal people with genuine connections that everyone can relate to whether you identify as part of the community or not.
Each character is strong and significant, and the fact that this show did everything it could to make everyone feel represented even through its soundtrack, which has increased artists’ sales tremendously. It is no wonder that “Heartstopper” had the impact that it had on the public, and we can only hope that more shows like this will follow suit.
“Heartstopper” is available to stream on Netflix.