Heartstopper: A Step Forward for LGBTQ+ Representation in the Media

4/5 Falcons

Tavi Pollard, Audio & Visual Editor

Heartstopper is a newly released Netflix Original Series based on a series of graphic novels and webcomics by Alice Oseman. These works were adapted for TV in a season directed by Euros Lyn. The season follows Charlie Spring (Joe Locke), who, at the beginning of his sophomore year at an all-boys school in England, begins to have a crush on Nick Nelson (Kit Conner), the star player of the rugby team. As the show progresses, Charlie’s past and his journey with his sexuality are revealed in tandem with Nick embarking on a similar journey in the present. We also see Charlie navigate his relationships with Tao (William Gao), Elle (Yasmin Finney), and Isaac (Tobie Donovan) as their friend group goes through some tough changes.

Most notably, Heartstopper shines when it comes to the plot and the depth of the characters. The show tells a story that a lot of people may relate to and it allows viewers to see themselves through the characters. This sweet tale of high school romance shows a teen drama from a perspective that many may have never seen before, while still depicting serious topics as Charlie tries to get through his school year through sexual harassment, bullying, and friendship woes. The show also employs characters from all facets of life, and anyone watching is bound to find someone they can relate to on a meaningful level.

Full of representation, the show features many LGBTQ+ actors playing LGBTQ+ characters. This is a great trend that has been present in mainstream media recently, including Euphoria, Young Royals, which has clearly continued in Heartstopper. Fan reactions to these recent LGBTQ+ shows has also shown that people want this content and are willing to pay for it. The gay community is starving for representation, and now that it’s there, the shows providing that representation have proven to be wildly successful. 

The show also employs characters from all facets of life, and anyone watching is bound to find someone they can relate to on a meaningful level.

There are also some impressive technical elements highlighted in Heartstopper. Drawing from its web-comic origins, Heartstopper uses an animation style that adds certain visual elements to the live-action footage during important moments. When characters start to feel romance or attraction, there tend to be animated leaves revolving around them, representing happiness. The same happens with more negative emotions as well. 

However, the acting and character development is where Heartstopper begins to fall short. Throughout the first five episodes of the eight-episode season, the plot is paced well and has a clear purpose. This begins to fall apart in episode six, where the main plotline is somewhat resolved and some of the side characters begin to take over the spotlight. The other characters clearly didn’t have as much thought put into them during the show’s development, and the audience can truly feel the change in quality.

That being said, the characters and the show clearly have a lot of potential. Overall, season one was compelling, fun, and interesting to watch, with a great audience reaction. Since its release, Heartstopper has already been renewed for two more seasons, and I am excited and hopeful for what is in store for the budding series.

This piece also appears in our May 2022 print edition.