“Helps To Undo Years And Years Of Heteronormative Stereotypes” – TV Review: Heartstopper

Izzy Cole

Heartstopper is a brand new 8-episode show streaming on Netflix, following the successful graphic novels of the same name by Alice Oseman. I am thrilled to be reviewing it for Impact -it is a story that has meant so much to me for so long.

The show is about teenagers Charlie Spring (Joe Locke) and Nick Nelson (Kit Connor). We follow them both as they navigate secondary school and all the stuff that comes with being a teenager, such as friendship angst, family frustrations, and trying to ‘fit in.’  On top of that, they’re both struggling with their sexualities in different ways. Their story features so many amazing side characters, and watching it unfold as they’re surrounded by such a good support system is nothing short of heart-warming and beautiful.

It’s so awkwardly lovely

Locke and Connor’s portrayal of the pure and wholesome relationship that Nick and Charlie share is so raw and believable. It’s so awkwardly lovely, and there are a few moments of second-hand embarrassment that translate so well from the page to the screen. Their chemistry with each other is palpable and it’s the same for the rest of the cast too. I couldn’t have imagined a better duo to play these two.

The found family dynamic is always wonderful to see, and when it features such strong characters, it’s even better. Tao (William Gao), Tara (Corinna Brown), Darcy (Kizzy Edgell), and Elle (Yasmin Finney) are wonderful in their own stand-out ways. Tao is Charlie’s best friend, and he is fiercely supportive throughout the show. His jealousy and fear of losing Charlie is so real, and a lot of viewers will be able to relate to that side of him. It would be rude for me not to mention that haircut too – brilliant.

Tara and Darcy are an iconic couple, and I loved how their story translated from book to screen. Their openness allows both Nick and Charlie to accept themselves, too, and it’s lovely to see. They are supportive of everyone and each other; this portrayal of a healthy lesbian relationship is so important to see in media.

Elle is another beautifully written character, and her relationship with Tao is a joy to watch. More importantly, the fact that the show features a trans woman so prominently is amazing. As a cisgender person, I obviously don’t want to speak for the trans community, but I also did want to acknowledge the fact that Elle’s character will mean so much to so many viewers. The diversity in the group of friends we follow throughout the story is wonderful to see. There isn’t a single character or actor that fell short for me, and every one of them was memorable in a different way. As a cast, their chemistry is great, and it definitely showed through their scenes on screen.

I also appreciated the frequent use of LGBTQ+ terms such as ‘lesbian’, ‘transgender’, and ‘bisexual’. This may sound unusual, given that those words are what some of the letters stand for, but bear with me! I struggle to think of many other shows that normalise these words as much as this one did; something as simple as hearing a character say the words “I’m bisexual” is a massive thing that will really bring home the message of the show. It helps to undo years and years of heteronormative stereotypes that are constantly reinforced in mainstream media. It’s so subtle and understated yet can mean so much to members of the LGBTQ+ community.

As a 21-year-old lesbian, Heartstopper is everything I wanted to see on TV when I was slightly younger. It does a beautiful job in not only celebrating queer characters and love, but amplifying queer creators too. It is a story that has been close to my heart since Alice Oseman, the writer of the comics, has been uploading them to Tumblr, and to finally see its screen adaption is incredible.

Whilst I want to acknowledge that my personal experience of watching this show was bittersweet, I am still so unbelievably grateful that it exists for me to watch in the first place. It made me envious of younger people that will be using it to navigate their own sexualities; it is the perfect story of love and friendship that I wish I had had at that age.

only ever seeing idealised versions of how people should be, which almost always feature straight cisgender people, can be so damaging

I cannot stress enough how important it is to me that a younger LGBTQ+ generation will be growing up with shows such as this in mainstream media. It makes me think back to when I was around 14 or 15 and trying desperately to see myself in any of the media I consumed; it’s important to be able to identify with things like this. Growing up and only ever seeing idealised versions of how people should be, which almost always feature straight cisgender people, can be so damaging. Heartstopper is a great contribution to the change that we can start to see in shows and movies, allowing a new generation to feel comfortable and accept themselves in ways maybe a slightly older generation could not.

I have seen a few other reviews and general opinions that the show can be quite ‘cringey’ at times, to which I pose the question: have you never been 14? The show can be cringey at times but in the best way possible; it’s not as though the characters are going to be the “mature adults” that some people clearly expected. They’re still in secondary school and it absolutely shows, which adds to the rawness of it all. It’s relatable to so many people for this reason exactly.

There are so many stand-out moments from the show that I find it hard to choose just one to talk about. The scene in episode 4 where Imogen (Rhea Norwood) tells Tara and Darcy that ‘she’s an ally’ is hilarious, but a slightly more serious scene that resonated with me was the one between Nick and his mum (played by Olivia Colman – amazing). I don’t want to spoil it too much, but it’s certainly very special, and I feel as though it will mean a lot to people.

The soundtrack includes many artists such as Orla Gartland, Baby Queen, Girl in Red, and Dayglow. Each song feels as though it is ever-so carefully selected, as they weave perfectly in with the storyline and dialogue. Similarly, each set creates a dynamic environment for the characters. Charlie’s bedroom, for example, is so intricate that it feels as though you could be right there with him. It’s the same with the outfits that the characters wear, as they also add to the lovely and bright aesthetics of the show. (I was very excited to see that I have the same strawberry coat as Elle!)

a huge part of what made this show so wonderful for me was the passion that you can feel through every detail

Following this, the cinematography of each episode is beautiful, with so many vibrant colours bursting out of every single scene. The small animations throughout the show are the perfect nod to Oseman’s art, without being too distracting. A huge part of what made this show so wonderful for me was the passion that you can feel through every detail; every single person who worked on Heartstopper clearly poured their heart and soul into their craft. It clearly is as important to the cast and crew as it is to the community of fans.

I had a hard time figuring out how to sum up Heartstopper. I genuinely could go on about how much I love it forever. It’s a larger-than-life story that I truly believe should be shown to everyone, everywhere. It sends an important message of love, life, and acceptance; but above all, it highlights the LGBTQ+ community in a way not many other franchises have. If you’re a fan of the books, you won’t be disappointed. I cannot recommend the show enough, and I can guarantee you will be laughing, crying, and cheering along with every single character.

Izzy Cole

Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.

In-article images courtesy of @heartstoppertv via No changes were made to this image.

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