This 2022 British series was an ode to queer Gen Zs. During the entirety of the show, I felt jealous that shows like this did not exist while I was growing up. However, now in my 20’s I can finally fulfill my teenage desire to watch warm, heart-fluttering, gushy queer romance shows all day long.
Heartstopper was, to say the least, an adorable series. It is based on a webtoon of the same name by Alice Oseman. The show is about, Charlie, a young teenager who faces bullying before the show began. The story starts off with him being seated next to Hearstopper, Nick Nelson in class. Nick, is a star rugby player, your typical masculine jock dude, but with a soft and tender heart. Charlie soon develops a crush on him, despite assuming he is straight.
As is a rule with romance/coming-to-age shows, Charlie has a trio of supportive friends, Tao, Elle, and Isaac. Each of these characters are intriguing and unique in their own way.
Things I loved:
#1 Bisexuality exists, and it’s confusing
Heartstopper does a decent job taking us on Nick’s journey of discovering and understanding his bisexuality. In the scenes where Nick was doing his ‘research’, it dawned upon me how intimidating it is to be open about your sexuality, especially as a teenager when absolutely everything in life seems confusing. Every time he navigated through the search engines, I felt fear for him, about the things he might discover, or the traumatizing stories he might read. Additionally, the reality of being an openly queer person can be quite hard for most. Discrimination still exists and reading up about everything might dissuade him from accepting who he truly is. I felt a big sibling urge to protect him at all costs.
#2 The relationship
Another aspect that is refreshing to watch is how Nick and Charlie build a relationship with one another, which makes them fall in love. It isn’t something out of the blue and is more than mere sexual tension. It is the fact that they genuinely like each other and over time have become each other’s favorite persons.
#3 Strong female characters with riveting storylines
Another pivotal character and storyline is Tara’s. Her experience of coming out was very realistic and at the same time painful to watch. It reminded me of comments that are all too familiar, ‘a shame that you are a lesbian’, ‘you don’t look like one’, ‘you just haven’t met the right one yet’, etc. Reading these, makes you dismiss them at first, however, it stays with you. It is hard to ignore the different ways people think and un-hear their strong, homophobic opinions.
#4 Trans representation
It’s here ya’ll! They are becoming more common and it is so exciting to watch trans characters leading normal regular lives; going to school, having supportive friends, and teenagers to have cute-cheesy crushes on.
Elle is the only level-headed and certainly the most mature person in the friend group. They often depend on her sage advice and is a great mirror to the emotional and hyper Tao.
I loved the bright colors and animation. The electricity between Charlie and Nick, the hearts fluttering around them, reminded me of the time me and my friends having our first innocent crushes.
Tao’s behavior might seem immature at first, but it is him being the confused emotional teenager that he is. He goes out of his way to make his friends feel comfortable, cared for, and protected, and he expects the same. He often feels misunderstood, and out of every character, I think I related to him the most. He is a typical 14-year-old who is unable to process his feelings in the right way and say them properly.
#7 Self-love and worth
By the end of the show Charlie learns to recognize his self-worth and comes to terms with himself. Charlie was shaken and traumatized by a previous relationship. We have to understand that Charlie was being bullied at the time. He accepted the relationship he got, simply because Ben was the only person who was good to him at the time. He lived out the relationship with the terms set by him. Hence, it was crucial for Charlie to learn that he is deserving of unconditional love, before being able to establish a relationship with Nick.
#8 The art teacher and parent
The adults in the show are more like mentors and support systems for the teenagers. They help the characters figure out who they are for themselves and are accepting of what conclusion they arrive at. The art teacher rarely gave advice, but instead shared his experience by laying out the options he had available to him, and how he wished he could have navigated through them.
While yes, it isn’t always the case, it certainly does feel good watching Nick’s mother being so readily accepting of her son. The way she leaned in and listened to what her son had to say to her wide-eyed, was a great symbol of support for young queer teenagers all over the world who are watching the show.
Things I want/wish more of:
#1 Building Tao’s character further
It is hard to cram in a gazillion characters in one storyline, however, I wish we saw more of Tao and his growth. His story arrived at a resolution rather too quickly and we failed to see the reason behind his incessant need of wanting his friends to all stick together. (I ship him and Elle together, so I definitely want him to go on a self-discovery journey of his own as well).
#2 The lesbian storyline
I don’t have much of a critique of the show. It’s an easy watch for the most part, but If I had to pinpoint anything particular, it would be fleshing out Tara’s and Darcy’s relationship more. Their storyline felt rushed and often forgettable until the scene with the two of them in the music room.
#3 Tao’s cluelessness?
How was Tao clueless about Charlie and Nick being together? That is the only thing that did not add up for me. The entire time I thought he knew until they explicitly said that he didn’t, and it confused me – what is even happening in this fictional teenage world!
It is by no means an exceptional show, it is just done well. The show simply makes you feel content and whole. The genuine way in which this show has been portrayed is what makes it stand out. I would highly recommend it, especially for young adults so that they can learn to be more accepting of others around them as well as who they are.
To sum it up, it is probably the cutest show to come out on Netflix this year.