Let’s take a look at the importance of Heartstopper, the hit series from Netflix.
The first season of Heartstopper was released on Netflix on April 22nd. It was an overwhelming success leading to a renewal of not one but two seasons. The series is adapated from the graphic novel and webcomic ongoing series of the same name by Alice Oseman. Undoubtedly, it deserves all the success it got. Indeed, it is such an important series for the LGBT community. And this is what I want to talk about. Because there is a lot of things to say on this matter.
A POST-COMING OUT STORY
First of all, Heartstopper is about Charlie Spring played by Joe Locke and Nick Nelson played by Kit Connor, two high school students at Truham Grammar. Charlie is a gay boy who was recently outed. While Nick is a kid who throughout the season is going to search for his sexual identity. What is important here is that with Charlie, we get a post-coming out story.
Unfortunately, in Western media when it comes to LGBT characters, we often get the coming out story or a story that has to do with AIDS. I have talked about this before in other reviews. Honestly, it is becoming annoying. I am not saying coming out stories are not important. They really are impotant. Love, Simon means so much to me. It felt great to have a rom-com/coming of age movie about a gay character. But after a while, always seeing the same thing feel reductive. Especially since these stories mostly end after the coming out. It leaves an hopeful message and tells you that everything is going to be better.
However, this is not the end of the story. Coming out is just the beginning. And yes, it gets better afterwards. But it does not happen magically like this. There can also be troubles along the way. Consequently, there is a lot of story to tell after the coming out. So starting the series with Charlie already having come out is incredibly refreshing. Here we have him trying to navigate through life – surviving high school, finding love, spending time with his friends…
At the beginning of the series, Charlie is in a relationship that clearly does not work. It is a secret relationship. Ben played by Sebastian Croft is too afraid to be seen in public with him even if it is just in a friendly way. It definitely hurts Charlie as he is falling in love with him. But it is clear that Ben does not feel the same way. He is literally a bully and does everything he can to hurt Charlie. Obviously, that relationship comes to an end.
Then, Charlie has a new love interest – Nick. But does Nick feel the same way about him? That is the question of the first few episodes. They get closer and closer. Once Charlie has the answer to his question, it is a new chapter that debuts as the two try work through what their relationship is. As you can tell, there is a lot to tell in Charlie’s story. And so it is for any character after their coming out. If studios can make romance movies and series of straight characters, they should do the same for LGBT characters.
Furthermore, I think Charlie’s story works so well because it is relatable. And seeing the comments on social media, it is clear that a lot of people in our community relate to Charlie. So do I. I have seen a lot of myself in Charlie and his experiences. Accepting what we get because we think we don’t deserve better or falling in love with a guy and worrying whether he is straight or not … it is all part of the universal experience for queer people. True story, in college I did fall for a guy who turned out to be straight. And yes, I have also been in some shitty relationships because I thought I didn’t deserve better.
Charlie’s post-coming out story is portrayed in an authentic way. Alice Oseman is an excellent writer. In fact, I find that women more easily write queer stories especially stories featuring two men who fall in love. Moreover, Joe Locke’s acting skills also have a lot to do with it. He is a newcomer with a lot of talent. Indeed, he delivers an heartfelt performance. It is so touching to see him play this character.
In addition, as queer people, we share a common experience of school with some differences depending on where we live. For example, I did not suffer from bullying as Charlie did. There were a few people who were mean to me in high school but nothing like bullying. Like Joe Locke who plays the character, I have lived on a small island for most of my life. Thus, I think that is also why it was different on that part. Plus, not being in an all-boys school surely helped a lot.
Moreover, Heartstopper is a celebration of queer love. In many ways, it is a coming of age story but it is also a romcom. This is an heartwarming series. And I love how positive it is. I honestly wish I had this series growing up. I literally had tears of joy flowing on my face during many scenes. Growing up as a queer person is not all dark, there is a lot of positivity in it as well.
I think this series is great for the younger LGBT generation. It sends a beautiful message. Overall, it is also an important series for people of all ages in the LGBT community. This series is pure queer joy. It empowers us. And it says that we exist, we are there and we should be proud of who we are. We deserve real love and we deserve to be happy. This series gives the happy ending queer characters deserve.
What’s more, this series represent a lot of different people in the LGBT community. There is a Charlie a gay boy but there is also Nick who is a bisexual guy, Elle (played by Yasmin Finney) a transgender girl, Tara (played by Corinna Brown) and Darcy (played by Kizzy Edgell) who are two lesbians. It is undeniably wonderful to see all these queer people being celebrated in this series. I think there is definitely a character for everyone to relate to. We live a time when our community is finally on the way to get the representation we deserves on screen.
FINDING THE RIGHT TONE
I love how Alice Boseman is able to tackle issues in a lighter way while still being meaningful in how she addresses them. She knows how to write deeply moving scenes without them being overdramatic and then rebound with more lighthearted scenes. Plus, she knows how to find the light in the dramatic situations that happen to the characters. I think this is also what makes this series so inspiring and powerful. Alice has found the right tone to tell an authentic story. The audience can really see themselves in the characters.
The 30-minute format just feels right for an uplifting story like this. It is easy to watch. There are eight episodes. So it is roughly four hours. It is neither too long, nor too short. A series like this, that is so heartwarming, heartfelt and positive, you can only want to watch it over and over again.
Furthermore, it is simply incredible to see the impact this series has on people. Kit Connor who plays Nick said that someone came out to her mother with the scene of Nick’s coming out. Whether, it helps young people come out or just helps them with who they are … this series is doing a lot for queer people. This is a reminder that we do need more series and movies like this. There are so many queer stories that are yet to be told.
The final big point I want to address is bisexual representation. Bisexual people are not often represented especially men. When it comes to bisexual male representation, it is almost non existent. And that is a shame. Marvel Studios made little steps last year when Loki acknowledged he was bisexual. It was a line of dialog. Sylvie asked him “How about you? You’re a prince. Must’ve been would-be princesses. Or perhaps another prince.” And he replied “A bit of both.” So it was not much but it still mattered as it was more than we often see. However, Nick in Heartstopper is proper bisexual representation.
Just like Charlie’s story, Nick’s story feels so authentic. In season one, he slowly finds himself attracted to Charlie, that leads him to search for his sexual identity. His identity search is universal and is so relatable for any queer people who was born in the age of internet. Because typing on Google ‘Am I Gay’ and taking tests is definitely something that I did back when I was a teenager. Nick’s journey is about finding who he is. On the way, there are a lot of doubts. It shows that it does take time to figure things out and it is alright to take your time. This is the type of message that the younger queer generation needs to hear especially the ones who may still be struggling. Undoubtedly, this is a beautiful and powerful journey.
Nick’s story is also a coming out story. It all leads to Nick embracing who he is. The last ten minutes or so of the season are a real tearjerker but in all the good ways. It is not sad but quite joyous, so these are all happy tears. It is all about Nick being proud of who he is and celebrating his love with Charlie.
Nick is ready to come out. I absolutely love the scene where he talks about it with Charlie. This is incredibly sweet. And Nick does come out to his mother played by the brilliant Olivia Colman. This scene is delightful. It feels so natural. I could not have thought of a better way to end the season. Nick’s coming out story is not completely over yet. It is one thing that next season should complete while launching Nick’s post-coming out story. It will surely be different than Charlie’s as he is already in a loving relationship but also connected as the two are together.
Moving forward, I think that Heartstopper has opened the way for more series and movies to tell LGBT stories the way Alice Boseman did. By that, I mean more stories that deal with post-coming out and that depict the different people of our community. And just as important, stories that are inspiring and positive. This is what we deserve. Representation matters.
Also the fact that we are going to spend two more seasons with Charlie, Nick and their friends makes me extremely happy. At the end of season one, there is still so much to tell with these characters. After all, there are four volumes of the graphic novel and a fifth and final one coming out next year. Thus there is a lot to explore!
If you have already watched Heartstopper and don’t know what to watch next, you can definitely rewatch it again. This series has a great rewatchable factor. And there is also another queer romcom on Netflix to discover. It is Uncoupled with Neil Patrick Harris, a series about a single gay guy in his 40s in Manhattan.
All episodes of Heartstopper season 1 are streaming on Netflix.
Feel the Force on Social Media.