Trigger Warning: This blog post contains mentions of eating disorders and self-harm.
In early 2022, Netflix premiered their original series, Heartstopper, and it immediately became a hit. With its queer cast of characters navigating adolescence, early relationships, and the hardships of coming of age, many viewers found that these stories resonated with their own lives. Although the main characters in the show are high-schoolers, the show gained viewers from multiple generations. The show has become a comforting place for queer audiences of all ages. Heartstopper is one of the most important shows airing today because of its relatability, its diverse cast of characters, and its resistance to shy away from topics that other shows may be weary to address.
Heartstopper follows Charlie, a high-schooler who was recently outed as gay which resulted in extreme bullying from his classmates, as well as Nick, a popular school athlete who begins to question his sexuality as he grows closer to Charlie. The series also follows their group of friends, who mostly identify as part of the LGBT+ community. While the Netflix series is how many were introduced to the story of Nick and Charlie, it is actually based on a webcomic by Alice Oseman who began posting their series in 2016. The series grew a cult following online and the comics were eventually published and sold in stores. As the comics continued to grow in popularity, Oseman was approached with the idea to turn them into a television series. She immediately expressed interest in this idea as she thought about the lack of wholesome and positive representations of LGBT+ teenagers on TV. Oseman absolutely lived up to their goal of creating wholesome representations, as the characters in Heartstopper exhibit queer joy and what it feels like to find a group of people who understand and accept you for who you are. The characters do experience hardships due to their identities, but this is contrasted by the love and acceptance they experience from those close to them.
The positive interpretations of this large cast of queer characters is what makes Heartstopper so important and a must-watch for audiences today. Most of the main characters in the show are part of the LGBT+ community, including openly gay, bisexual, lesbian, transgender, and asexual characters. One of the most important storylines in the show is Nick’s coming-out journey. Near the beginning of the show, he begins to develop what he thinks may be a crush on Charlie, and he’s unsure of how to handle these feelings. He had never thought about the fact that he may not be straight and he initially struggles with this. He isn’t sure what his feelings for Charlie might mean, but through the show’s positive portrayal of self-discovery, Nick realizes that he may be bisexual. He tells Charlie this, and Charlie is immediately supportive of him. He doesn’t pressure Nick to tell others or force him to come to a solid conclusion. He simply shows support for him. Charlie’s response to Nick’s news provides him comfort. This portrayal of self-discovery is so important because it shows how much impact just being a supportive friend can have on someone’s mentality. Charlie’s support helped to ease Nick’s anxiety over this situation and helped him to take the time to try and fully understand himself. This storyline was also important because it showed that understanding one’s own identity can take time. There should be no pressure or timeline for figuring out who you are.
Apart from stories revolving around their sexualities and gender identities, the show also explores issues of mental health and the effects of bullying within school. After Charlie was outed to all of his classmates, he experienced intense bullying. The show depicts how bullying can take a toll on one’s mental health and as well as the long-term effects that it can have. When we meet Charlie in the show, most of the bullying has stopped by this point but he is still struggling with the aftereffects. It is revealed in the show that the bullying has led Charlie to develop an eating disorder as well as cause him to self-harm. Even though the bullying has mostly stopped, he still struggles with urges to starve and harm himself because of the bullying. The show spreads a powerful anti-bullying message and advocates for acceptance across communities, even if you differ from those around you.
Heartstopper currently has two seasons but has already been renewed for a third. I hope that this show can continue for many seasons to come as it’s so important for audiences of all ages to watch. The success of shows like Heartstopper can pave the way for other shows with a diverse cast of queer characters to be made. There are so many stories out there still waiting to be told.
Hi! I'm Megan and I'm a fourth year English major. This is my first year writing for WEW and I'm really excited about it! Some of my favourite things to do in my free time are watching movies, reading, and baking. My favourite movies are La La Land (2016) and Little Women (2019) and my favourite book is The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. I'm looking forward to sharing my ideas with everyone and also learning about new topics from the other writers!