Hi, fellow queer here!
“Heartstopper” first appeared on Netflix in April, and since then, it has been blowing up the news and igniting hearts. Once described to me as “a warm hug,” this Netflix series lives up to its reputation as wholesome, heartwarming entertainment overflowing with lovable characters and high-quality queer representation.
In “Heartstopper,” based on a webcomic by English writer Alice Oseman, teenage boy Charlie Spring (Joe Locke) develops a crush on his fellow classmate Nick Nelson (Kit Connor) while the two have vastly different high school experiences. Meanwhile, Charlie inadvertently creates rifts in his friendships with Tao Xu (William Gao) and Elle Argent (Yasmin Finney) as he pines for Nick’s affection.
In addition to the main gay male pairing, the show features straight relationships, a transgender teen and an out lesbian couple, showing unique conflicts and successes for each. While the focus of the show is on teens struggling through high school, this series makes sure to put queer lives front and center.
“Heartstopper” has varied and authentic representation, addressing numerous queer issues in thoughtful ways. Instead of omitting homophobia to focus on the storyline, as recent queer shows have done, “Heartstopper” opts for realistically portraying what many young queer folks experience in high school.
Elle comes out as transgender, but this identity is not the focal point of her character; she has a nuanced plotline and connection to the other characters. Avoiding spoilers, there is also a brief dilemma about a certain character being bisexual, a plot point that is thankfully addressed directly rather than being ignored. Instead of focusing solely on purely gay or straight characters, the show sheds light on a spectrum of sexualities. Thus, the show avoids bisexual erasure, which commonly leaves queer characters with only one side of their sexuality addressed.
There is also a closeted relationship between Charlie and his classmate Ben (Sebastian Croft), in addition to multiple other secret relationships throughout the show. While it can be draining to watch characters experience the pain of remaining closeted that is all too familiar to many queer viewers, the closeted relationships are portrayed realistically and with an unexpected depth compared to other shows. Acknowledging the pain of being in a relationship where you remain hidden solely due to homophobia, while also presenting characters who discover their sexuality at their own speed as they navigate other’s potential pain, gave the show realism and thoughtfulness.
These different relationship dynamics prove relatable to viewers, whether in or out of the closet, as the characters learn how to set boundaries throughout the show and check in with one another. For example, Charlie’s relationship with Ben is presented as unhealthy, which introduces a good model for teen audiences.
“Heartstopper” broadcasts a fully developed plotline that does not entirely rely on queer identity to keep it moving. It plays out as both a realistic situation that will feel relatable to many queer people and as something magical and entertaining. Some affectionate moments of the main romance are a little — emphasis on “little” — bit cheesy, and you can identify certain points where the show is trying to adapt from the web drama it was based on. When Nick stood outside Charlie’s house in the rain, for example, I cringed instead of giving a heartfelt sigh.
While certain scenes were somewhat dull, they were mostly unnoticeable, and the cute moments were appreciated anyway. Viewers get to see teenagers fall in love through gentle touches, hand holding and hesitant kissing. Throughout the friendship drama, jealousy and the outsiders trying to intervene, the main relationship between Charlie and Nick had me swooning as I watched them grapple with their own desires. The chemistry between the cast members was necessary for this show to be successful, and it certainly convinced me.
“Heartstopper” certainly makes strong creative choices, as it includes some graphics which are delicately beautiful and not overwhelming to the eye, helping to represent the originality of the series. Viewers can tell that the series was made with quality and authenticity in mind, setting it apart from other queer streaming-service originals, like “First Kill,” which lack such quality.
Overall, “Heartstopper” truly feels like the refined rom-com show that the entertainment industry owed queer people. It set a high standard, and since it’s been renewed, I can’t wait to see how the next two seasons will top the first.
Emily Scheibe is a rising junior in the College. Queer Here will appear online every other week during the summer.