Heartstopper was recently released as a Netflix Original tv show, based on the graphic novels by Alice Oseman and has swept today’s youth off their feet. This thrilling series expresses the adversities and struggles queer people face on a day to day basis. So why is Heartstopper so important to today’s youth?
Heartstopper is a TV show that focuses on the challenges of discovering gender and sexuality. The main character, Nick Nelson, struggles to find his true identity and meets a wide variety of people representing various aspects of the LGBT+ community. He later finds comfort in the other main character of the series, Charlie Spring, who is openly gay.
While there has been an influx of Queer representation in books, the film industry is taking a much longer time to see any change at all. However when any representation is included, the Queer characters are typically sidekicks or supporting roles, and aren't placed in the spotlight to the degree that Heartstopper puts them in. The Queer liberation movement is occuring, but as people try to embrace and discover themselves the backlash is frightening. In Australia there have been threats that kids may be removed from schools for being Gay, Transgender or Non-Binary, and schools are facing backlash for teaching about gender and sexuality, including having books that have Queer authors, characters or that mention sexuality and gender (aside from being Cisgender/Heterosexual).
Heartstopper takes a close look at how homophobia impacts individuals, with a small number of fights occurring between another character, Harry, and Nick, who defends Charlie. There are a number of homophobic comments in the series from this character, who often uses the word “Gay” as an insult. The comments and the actions of Harry lead Charlie to believe that he is impacting on Nick in a negative way and harms Charlie’s self esteem. At one point, these doubts get to the point that Charlie almost tries to break up with Nick. Those who have read the graphic novels and novellas by Alice Oseman also know that these statements impact Charlie much more in the later two books.
Now I have shown you some of the serious elements of the show, but I want to also shine a light on the superb elements and some good things for Queer youth in society. Heartstopper is incredibly heartwarming and shows the story of Queer characters in a way that isn’t often depicted. The cartoony leaves and visual effects really add to the nature of the show and tie it back into the comics. Heartstopper focuses on the joy that Nick and Charlie experience, how Queer friend groups interact and the sense of calm and acceptance that they bring for the pair. This show has plenty of humorous moments and I can honestly say that it is one of my favourite things that I have watched in the last 2 years! This show is so joyful and I will definitely be rewatching it (even though I have already seen the whole thing 4-ish times). When I first watched Heartstopper, there were literally moments that I was saying things like “Yes!” “Go you!”, and there were more than a few “Pop Off''s in the mix. I was pretty much speechless from the immense feeling of satisfaction that I gained from watching Heartstopper. Another good thing about Heartstopper is that you don't need to read the comics before you watch it, but I highly recommend reading them when you do watch it. They give you slightly more detail and you will notice some hints at the books.
It is so important for Queer youth to be seen in the media, so that there is something to relate to. Being validated by media helps to removes stereotypes associated with being queer and expresses that appearance does not reveal a person’s sexuality. Overall, Heartstopper has such an important role to play among today's media, spreading representation, validation and love where far too often there is so little. Heartstopper is perfect to brighten up your day and I would highly recommend it - 10/10.
Author’s Note: This issue of The Mary Word comes out on June 1st, which marks the start of Pride Month. Pride month is significant for LGBTQ+ people worldwide as it celebrates the importance of inclusivity of Queer People and diversity in society. Queer members of society are still fighting for their rights to be hired or play sports, to break through stereotypes, for the ability to show affection to others in the open and to be themselves, without being scared of the impacts or being judged. So, if you celebrate Pride Month - Happy Pride, and if you don't, you now have some information on the topic!
Find the official Heartstopper soundtrack here: