Based on Alice Oseman’s popular series of graphic novels, the TV adaptation of Heartstopper was released on Netflix last week on April 22nd. The story follows Charlie’s coming of age story, who was outed in school the previous year, as well as his “borderline outcast” friends and his romance with unlikely friend Nick. As someone that normally reads the book before watching the show, but hadn’t this time, I didn’t know what to expect going in. I was almost instantly endeared by the show and think it deserves all the good reviews it’s been getting. So, here are 5 reasons why you should binge-watch Heartstopper as well!
Heartstopper is a series that examines queer identity and heteronormativity in high school. Most of the show’s main ensemble are queer characters with only one “token straight friend” in the group. While the representation of the LGBTQIA+ community has increased over the past decade, it is important to keep telling stories of people who have always been marginalised and have only begun to see proper representation on-screen. This representation of characters is so refreshing and healthy without resorting to stereotypes. Even the cliches used in this show are used creatively as narrative tools that better the story. There are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans characters, all teenagers trying to figure themselves out and where they fit in. It is through such stories that straight and cis people can better understand and form empathy with people of the queer community.
Aesthetics and Soundtrack
Since the show is based on a graphic novel, the show is littered with little doodles throughout. The butterflies of getting a crush, and excitement, are all drawn in with graphics. Even the little frame divides are seen, and it is a very visually pleasing show to watch. The colours, costumes, and graphics make it stand out from anything else on TV. Only the setting of a small English town makes it reminiscent of Sex Education but this only adds to the charming atmosphere of the show. The soundtrack is also essential to the aesthetic of the show, with lo-fi indie songs playing throughout. This only adds to the enjoyable aesthetics of the show. The songs are very reminiscent of what younger people are actually listening to with the soundtrack consisting of artists that are considered queer icons such as Girl in Red.
Personally, my favourite part of the show is that it didn’t require the sensationalization of drug abuse, alcoholism, and sex to hold its audience’s interest, especially considering it portrays underage characters. An article in The Guardian calls Heartstopper “anti-euphoria” which seems extremely appropriate. The story didn’t need major plot twists to be captivating. It’s just a heart-warming coming-of-age love story, and that’s all it needs to be. With all the bad news we’re constantly being exposed to and the general stress of becoming an adult, it’s a downer to watch dark, edgy shows when you’re trying to take your mind off things. The positive reviews seen everywhere for the show only confirm we need more wholesome teen dramas.
Portrayal of Teenagers
Firstly, it is so important that the teenage characters in this show are played by teenage actors. It is extremely damaging for high schoolers to watch fully developed adults who have physiques perfected by diligent diet and workout schedules play teenagers who are still growing into their bodies, at an age where they are uncomfortable with their own skin. Aside from this, the show depicts teenagers and youth in a way more would remember it rather than the way that media does. The way teenagers use social media, and their relationships with their peers and parents just seem more relatable, more real. I personally didn’t join organ-harvesting cults or dance in front of juvie or whatever it is they do on Riverdale. (I looked up “most ridiculous Riverdale plotlines to make that point and the lists were endless). The show also doesn’t exist in a society with no disclination against trans people or gay people like most shows with queer characters do. The issues they face as queer teenagers, with bullying or the ups-and-down of coming out are depicted and are not erased. But at the same time, the show doesn’t resort to making the lives of queer people an absolute struggle the way a lot of media does.
I don’t think I need to give more incentive other than the fact that Oliva Colman is on the show! She plays Nick’s mother, and her cameo was kept a complete surprise until the show was released. While she doesn’t have a huge role her presence is felt in her subtle but poignant performance and with a comforting air about her. Most of the crew didn’t expect to be able to get such a prolific name for the show but Olivia Colman liked the story and wanted to be involved.