Heartstopper, the on-screen adaptation of a well-known graphic book by Alice Oseman, debuted its second season on Netflix on August 3, 2023. The television show, much like the first season, reshapes representation by delicately examining topics of love, identity, and friendship while offering a genuine and multidimensional picture of queer lives. Here is a careful examination of some of the themes that the show so wonderfully explores, thereby casting them in a new light.
Heartstopper, the acclaimed LGBTQ+ series, has emerged as a trailblazer in reshaping the portrayal of queer relationships, love, identity, diversity within the community, and friendship in a world where representation and diversity are becoming increasingly important and where representation is based on misconceptions and stereotypes in literature and cinema. The show has challenged these deep-rooted clichés by depicting its characters as diverse individuals whose sexual orientation or gender identity is only one aspect of their existence.
Heartstopper is centred on two primary protagonists, Nick and Charlie, as they navigate their way through love, self-discovery, friendship, and acceptance. However, the series covers much more. Whereas mainstream LGBT representation in films and television shows often focuses solely on two cis-guys falling in love and their sexual relationships, Heartstopper delves deeper. It highlights trans representation, lesbian relationships, self-discovery and acceptance, asexuality, disability, normalising older queer relationships, dilemmas in friendships, eating disorders, consent, healthy relationships and friendships, and highlighting that coming out is a personal choice and that it is not mandatory to come out.
While Kit Connor and Joe Locke steal the show as romantic leads Nick and Charlie, recognition is also due to the creation of characters such as friends Elle, Tao, Tara, and Darcy, perfectly crafted parents, and even attentive teachers. Heartstopper succeeds because it is such a well-rounded and balanced narrative about preteens navigating the challenges of a same-sex relationship.
Transgender representation in both literature and cinema is sorely sidelined or completely absent. Most transgender representation in literature and film only touches the tip of the iceberg, as trans characters are portrayed as “supporting characters” or “the best friends of gay protagonists.” Moreover, trans roles in film continue to be mainly acted by cis individuals, eliminating the very purpose of representation. However, in Heartstopper, Elle was presented as more than that. The series digs into Elle’s life and emphasises that her transgender identity does not define her.
Heartstopper sends the message that trans people are allowed to fall in love and be loved. That they too experience all the wide range of emotions we all do.
Elle and Tao’s tale is equally lovely. The dilemma of admitting your love to your closest friend, as well as the dread of losing them as a result, is well expressed. The bond between Tao’s mother and Elle is one of the most lovely aspects of the story. Tao’s mother’s reaction when she learns that her son and Elle are dating is heartwarming to say the least.
There are many misunderstandings about the bisexual community, both within and outside the queer community. Bisexual individuals are frequently questioned about their sexuality, with the assumption that one cannot be bi if one prefers one gender over the other.
Nick had to constantly tell people he’s bi just goes to show how many people dismiss his sexuality and how disregarded bisexual people are in general within their queer community. He has every right to be loud and proud about his sexuality. don’t take that away from him.
-a Twitter user
This portrayal and discussion of Nick’s bisexuality sends a clear and loud message that bisexual people who have only dated people of the same gender are just as valid as bisexual people who have dated more than one gender or haven’t dated anyone at all.
Queer representation in films and literature has been traditionally dominated by the narrative of two homosexual protagonists. When it comes to WLW relationships, a lot of stigma and misconceptions permeate society. Tara and Darcy’s story is just as important and eloquently depicted as Nick and Charlie’s. Season 2 showed Darcy’s connection with her mother and how queer people face a lot of alienation and hatred from their loved ones.
The reoccurring animation of darker colours flooding Darcy’s house, because it’s such a negative place for her, is so. It’s not safe, it’s not her home; when she’s there, it feels like she has a storm cloud over her head like she can’t be herself at all, and my heart breaks for her.
-Twitter user @spring_nwinter
The portrayal of asexuality and aromanticism is one of the most brilliantly crafted sections of Heartstopper. Isaac’s frustration at his friends for assuming a romantic relationship between him and James demonstrates how asexual people have to go through a lot to come to grips with their sexuality. The series emphasises the value of platonic love, demonstrating that romantic or sexual desire is not constant but fluid.
Isaac getting his own “heartstopper moment” as he clutches a book on being ace means so much to me. As an aspec person seeing that little thing reserved for moments of love symbolises his first steps in working out who he means a lot. self-acceptance is a form of love.
-Twitter user @clingynelson
The Dilemma of Coming Out
Coming out is never easy for queer people. In season one, Nick is coming to terms with his sexuality and is torn between wanting to come out and being afraid of doing so. The best aspect is the support he received from his friends and his boyfriend.
I want you to come out when and how you want to
-Charlie to Nick
Coming out as a part of the LGBTQIA+ community can be a complex and deeply personal process, often accompanied by various emotions and challenges. While it can be liberating and help individuals live authentically, it also comes with potential risks and considerations.
Normalising Older Queer Relationships
Older queer relationships are not free from societal stigma, a stigma they face from not only those outside the community but also from the younger generation of the community.
Queer people of all ages exist. It will always be so important to show that the way Heartstopper manages to pull it off is so beautiful. I love queer happiness. It gives you hope for the future, you know?”
-Twitter user @spring_nwinter
Families and Queer Acceptance, or Lack Thereof
Having a supportive family may be quite beneficial for queer individuals, but it can also be a deep challenge if the situation is reversed. The fact that season 2 gave us a glimpse of everyone’s family, whether supportive like Elle’s parents, Tao’s mother, Nick’s mother, and Charlie’s sister, or not supportive and hostile like Darcy’s mother and Nick’s brother, these small characters had such a large impact on the series and the emotions its viewers felt.
I appreciated that Elle got her stereotypical girl come down the stairs moment while her parents were interrogating her date. She gets to have all of these movie-worthy girl experiences, and it makes my heart feel so full. It’s something so small but so special to me.
-Twitter user @spring_nwinter
Friendships and Queer Platonic Love
Heartstopper discusses not just love and the queer community but also the importance of platonic love and friendship.
I will always praise Heartstopper for how they show such healthy friendships. how they show platonic love can be just as strong as romantic. Charlie and Taos’ bond is something so important to both of them and so familiar. they’ve got each other’s backs and always have.
-Twitter user @clingynelson
Heartsopper discusses the characteristics of healthy relationships, both platonic and romantic. Whether it’s Tara confessing her love for Darcy or Charlie being the shield for Nick when Nick was deciding to come out.
I love you. That’s not me asking you to say it back or anything.
-Tara to Darcy
I am gonna do everything I can so that Nick doesn’t have to deal with what I did (in reference to bullying).
-Charlie to his sister
Heartstopper season 2 slowly introduces the conversation on eating disorders. By examining disordered eating in one of its main characters, who represents a wide range of identities and experiences, Heartstopper Season 2 defies preconceptions. The series deftly addresses compulsive eating, gradually bringing it to light as Charlie’s boyfriend, Nick, becomes aware of his eating habits. Heartstopper explores a variety of aspects of disordered eating, stressing how it affects relationships and loved ones and underscoring the value of open communication and support.
In essence, Heartstopper is more than just a straightforward love story. It represents a push for accurate and inclusive representation. The series bridges understanding barriers, develops empathy, and promotes a more inclusive society with its multiple characters and relevant situations. Discussions regarding the value of recognising queer relationships and people’s freedom to live truthfully are made possible through this.
In both cinema and literature, Heartstopper is a transformational force that has changed how queer relationships, love, identity, and friendships are portrayed. The show sparks dialogue and questions social conventions by emphasising the universal features of human connection while accurately depicting LGBTQ+ experiences. Heartstopper not only presents a moving narrative but also advances a more forgiving and accepting future in a society where varied perspectives are respected evermore.
Featured Image Credits: Heartstopper on Netflix
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