For eons, representation of positive queer love was few and far between. That was, until ‘Heartstopper’ captured the eyes and hearts of many following its Netflix release.
The TV adaptation of its graphic novel counterpart written by Alice Oseman depicts two boys, Charlie Spring (Joe Locke) and Nick Nelson (Kit Connor), as they navigate school and fall in love. Its cheerful and joyous nature is part of the show’s massive popularity. It’s a breath of fresh air for audiences who are used to hyper-sexualized and depressing depictions of queer love in film and TV.
That’s not to say that “Heartstopper” doesn’t touch on mature topics, but amid the rampant homophobia and transphobia in the news and politics, having a show that boldly states that queerness isn’t “too adult” for young people is valuable for the LGBTQ+ community.
The show picks up where we left off, with Nick and Charlie officially boyfriends. Herein comes makeout scene after makeout scene as the couple sneaks around to visit the other, sacrificing their grades in exchange for teen romance.
But being out isn’t as easy as Nick initially thought. Despite how long he’s known his friends and family, he struggles to find the words, a universally gay experience. Ask any queer person what it’s like to come out and they will describe it like this: Miss a beat and the entire operation is called off. Kit Connor and Rhea Norwood as Imogen act out this moment perfectly. You can almost hear Nick’s heartbeat thumping as Imogen asks him about his “romantic developments.” The silence is SO loud in this scene!
It doesn’t help that Nick doesn’t “look gay.” (Well, Nick will tell you he’s bi, actually.) He’s sporty, sociable, and definitely doesn’t look like he’d be kissing Charlie Spring. People like Ben (Sebastian Croft) and David (Jack Barton) make it harder for him to fully be himself because they think monosexuality is the only correct way to define yourself. One of the constant themes of the ‘Heartstopper’ series is that stereotypes are harmful and that there is not one right way to be queer.
That is why there’s a crucial message Charlie and Nick’s mom, Sarah (played by the perfect Olivia Colman) both want to echo to Nick: You don’t owe anyone an explanation for your identity. However, he keeps trying to rush what is a lifelong process all in the name of showing Charlie his commitment and honesty in his feelings.
“I think there’s this idea that when you’re not straight, you have to tell all your friends and family immediately. Like you owe it to them. But you don’t… I want you to come out when and how you want to.” — Charlie, ‘Heartstopper’ S2 EP3
Nick is not the only person affected by his coming out journey. Charlie, who experienced severe bullying after being outed, wants to make sure Nick’s experiences are as positive as possible. Being compelled to manage something Charlie can’t control, the trauma from his past manifests and comes to damage his physical and mental health. This becomes the central conflict of the season that although dark, isn’t presented in an exploitative way and doesn’t take away from the feel-good essence of the show.
Season 2 shines brightest in its role to amplify the characters introduced in Season 1. Elle (Yasmin Finney) and Tao (William Gao) question whether they can form a relationship while Isaac (Tobie Donovan) starts to learn more about his identity. During their school Paris trip, Tara (Corinna Brown) and Darcy (Kizzy Edgell) face their fair share of relationship problems. Even the art teacher, Mr. Ajayi (Fisayo Akinade), who gave Charlie his room during all those lonely lunches, goes on his own romantic escapade.
My first impression of this season is that it’s unlike anything else. What makes ‘Heartstopper’ so unique is its excellence in portraying teen romance. These characters are unsure about themselves and are heavily impacted by the environments they grew up in. It’s jam-packed with great values and lessons like honoring personal boundaries and having a choice about whether to forgive those who have wronged you. As they learn about the world and themselves, you truly feel like you’re growing up with them.
For the graphic novel lovers, the fifth and final volume is confirmed for release in December 2023. So, we can expect to see the trailer for the next season in the upcoming year as the show is already renewed for a third season.
“Heartstopper” Season 2 is streaming on Netflix.
Knives Nguyen, (he/them/theirs) is a journalist from the Bay Area who covers entertainment and culture. You can connect with them on LinkedIn: @knivesnguyen.
Edited by Nykeya Woods