3 0
Read Time:4 Minute, 48 Second

Donna Ferdinando | May 10, 2022

When the news of Alice Oseman’s acclaimed graphic novels, Heartstopper, receiving its own Netflix adaptation first hit, it was met with unbridled excitement (and several pterodactyl shrieks) from the author and artist’s millions of fans, whom she had amassed since its publication. The so-termed “Oseman-verse” is particularly dear to the global LGBTQIA+ community and, thus, with the excitement of a Netflix adaptation came overwhelming trepidation as well. Would Netflix stay true to the brilliant simplicity of Oseman’s narrative, or would they take the plot into their own hands (see: Riverdale)? Would the incredible queer representation woven into the story be washed out, or worse, caricaturised into a complete farce?

Fortunately, Netflix got it right this time. 

Heartstopper follows British schoolboys Charles “Charlie” Spring and Nicholas “Nick” Nelson, whose tentative friendship steadily blooms into a giddy romance. Their story is studded with ‘rugby lads’, bullies, sassy art teachers, crushes, embarrassing Instagram texts, milkshakes with friends, puppy love, taking impetuous risks, and learning to be comfortable with oneself. Despite the familiarity of these high school romance tropes, each character refreshingly deals with their own individual struggles, which adds a much-needed depth that most other films in this genre often lack. Having been outed as gay against his will and subsequently bullied for it, Charlie (played by Joe Locke) reckons with toxic relationships, anxiety and debilitating insecurity. Nick (Kit Connor), on the other hand, must come to terms with his bisexuality, and overcome peer pressure from his, quite frankly and ostentatiously, homophobic friends. They are accompanied by Charlie’s closest friends, Tao Xu (William Gao), the composed and elegant Elle Argent (played by transgender actress Yasmine Finney), the silent yet deadly Isaac Henderson (Toby Donovan), Kizzy Edgell’s Darcy Olsson (who is chaos in human form), and the last but definitely not the least, Tara Jones (Corinna Brown), the ray of sunshine amongst Heartstopper’s diverse ensemble of characters. 

It’s safe to say that Heartstopper is undoubtedly a story of and for the queer teen. While aspects of its narrative do shed some necessary light on the less savoury aspects of coming out and subsequently living as a queer teenager, this show is more a celebration of queer joy than anything. It stands in stark contrast to the overly dramatic events, toxic relationships brought by miscommunication, and truly traumatising endings usually faced by queer characters in the likes of Brokeback Mountain, Love, Simon and Young Royals. Heartstopper essentially evokes Taika Waititi’s Our Flag Means Death (a.k.a. that gay pirate show), without the chaos and a heavy, heavy dose of wholesome, adorable, awkward, queer teen shenanigans. The characters support each other, they learn from their mistakes and grow into better people, and they discover and learn that it is alright to be themselves. There is no rejection of their queerness, but instead complete, utter and unrelenting acceptance all around. Embodying the queer teen romance that many long for, Heartstopper is a breath of fresh air in a cinematic sphere overly-saturated by the stereotypical queer persona who is seemingly destined only for tragedy. 

The cinematography, reminiscent of the light-hearted hues of Alice Oseman’s own art, fits the joyful, maddeningly adorable atmosphere of the story. Bright primary colours coupled with softer yet distinct hues feature in each shot, and bits and pieces of Alice Oseman’s signature artwork from the Heartstopper comics subtly signal key emotional moments that words are unable to embody: a swirl of cartoon leaves for a crush, spinning neon lights for a hug, and sometimes even a few popping scribbled hearts for bursts of affection. Coupled with the tunes of Baby Queen, Orla Gartland, Girl in Red and Frankie Cosmos, the lighting alternates between soft gold and the entire spectrum of the rainbow. The colours of the rainbow enveloping Tara and Darcy as they dance together, and erNick positively drowning in the cleverly placed deep pink, lavender and dark blue of the bisexual flag is a veritable ode to the queer community and clearly speaks to the effort put into producing this show. The hidden rainbow or two at the backgrounds of several shots only further attests to the creative genius, and genuine understanding of the audience, held by the creative directors, producers, and set designers of the show.

Credit: Netflix

Though many may assume upon viewing Heartstopper that its audience would be pre-teens and/or young adults, the amount of reception received from those far older than the target demographic speaks volumes to the series’ ability to touch the hearts of the global queer community’s members no matter their generation. Nick and Charlie’s story is far from complete, as are the stories of Tara, Darcy, Tao, Elle, Isaac and Tori. In fact, as Oseman stated, she hoped for more seasons to fully wrap up their stories. Considering the Certified Fresh rating Heartstopper received on Rotten Tomatoes mere days following its release, and its overwhelmingly positive reception by the queer community and beyond, I’d say that plan is well on its way to fruition. 

Heartstopper has truly become a breakthrough in the sphere of queer media, a comfort show for many, the equivalent of a warm hug, and a brilliant outlook into the annals of queer culture. It’s quite easy to state that a deeper dive into the Oseman-verse is a certified certainty (with Heartstopper’s views reaching the millions, how could Netflix refuse?) and that Oseman has followed in the footsteps of Skam in giving a raw voice to the queer community as a whole. 

Heartstopper is available to stream on Netflix now.

About Post Author

Donna Ferdinando

Happy
Happy
100 %
Sad
Sad
0 %
Excited
Excited
0 %
Sleepy
Sleepy
0 %
Angry
Angry
0 %
Surprise
Surprise
0 %

Recommended Articles