What is heartstopper, and why should I watch it?
Heartstopper hit Netflix in April 2022 and took the world by storm with its success. It’s one of those shows which is instantly comforting to far more than just the LGBT community and you just can’t help but talk about it. There’s a true timely feel to both the show and the characters and though very romanticised, it’s a welcome break to the coming out story after so much realism we see in cultural programming, which focuses primarily on how things were back in the 80s and 90s. Not to say those narratives aren’t immensely important, but I think what’s fresh about Heartstopper is seeing what 2022 and beyond can look like for teens struggling with their identity.
If you haven’t already seen it, you can check out the Heartstopping story of Charlie, Nick and their classmates on Netflix. It’s well worth a watch to get a new perspective on what coming out and identity can look like in a much more inclusive setting than perhaps some of us are used to. That’s not to say the entire series focuses on this aspect, every character develops and the plot covers far more issues including family, education, beliefs and deviance, however subtle these may be. Plus, Heartstopper does have a distinct British feeling to it, in a more overt way than other Netflix programming such as Sex Education.
The series also has wonderful animation throughout whenever a character gets the feels, those butterflies in their stomach are symbolised on screen. More magical for us is that Google has also added this cute little animation to the SERP for anyone looking for Heartstopper:
Who are Charlie Spring and Nick Nelson, and why are they different from what we’ve seen before?
Charlie is the main character in the series, and in year 10 he is the only boy in the year currently out as gay, we see him struggle with bullying before befriending a year 11, Nick Nelson who becomes the straight love interest. This story is nothing new and is arguably the same one that was told in Love, Simon, but what Heartstopper does have is a host of additional characters that cover so much more than just boy meets boy.
I’ll focus on my favourite character, Elle, who moved to the girl’s school after the bullying became too much at the boy’s school she had attended prior. This is an interesting development as it’s not something which is given the airtime it deserves, particularly of a character of this age. It’s important to note how supported Elle remains by her previous friendship group and her friend’s family and what steps she has to take to integrate into her new school. I think another important aspect of Elle’s journey is her interaction with her teacher.
Additionally to Elle, there is Isaac, Tao, Ben, Tara, Harry and Darcey – all with varying levels of airtime in the series, but each complex and distinct. It’s important to note how all of these characters interact, whether they are part of the LGBT community or not and how each of these stories is given time in this series, resulting in something far deeper than the headline boy meets boy.
Why is LGBT programming so important in 2022?
This question is asked a lot, particularly online. It gets a response every time and is always destined to find people on both sides of this to clash. But the long and short of it is that this is still important and I think it’s highlighted in Heartstopper, which is based in a hugely accepting world that most people would like to think is actually a reality. The truth is that this isn’t a reality, and even if it was, there is still a key need for it.
Let’s look at Charlie Spring for this bit, he lives in a very accepting family (and his sister Tori is a big series highlight FYI) and has a great group of supportive friends, seems great right? More than a lot of people have and all you may need. We see in the first episode why the story needs to be told though, the first boy he has a relationship with ensures it’s kept a secret to avoid bullying and dealing with his own feelings, additionally Charlie faces harsh bullying in later episodes which makes it difficult for Nick to explore who he is feeling. This is very real, and although in law there are far fewer blockers for LGBT people and the whole society is becoming inclusive, it’s these dialogues that need to be addressed, and if we keep talking about it, we may get there one day.
What else can I watch if I loved Heartstopper?
If you’d watched Heartstopper and absolutely loved it, then it’s time to get something else lined up. Chances are you may have already seen all of these recommendations, but if you have they are always worth a rewatch. The first I’d point everyone to is Sex Education. This brilliant series deals with a lot of issues facing teens as well, as teenager Otis sets up his own advice client at school after learning from his mother who herself is a sex therapist. This deals with all types of sex and issues that can come with it and is a delight to watch. Renewed for another season, season 4 of sex education is due to be back on our screens later in 2022.
If you’re more of a movie person and want an entry into LGBT programming then Pride, released in 2014 is a definite must-watch. Additionally, if you want something more closely related to Heartstopper, then Love, Simon which came a while before is a good one to watch. Feature-length, the main storyline is similar but I feel it’s great to see the difference that just a few years demonstrates and see some of the US / UK differences.
For even more of Heartstopper in your day-to-day though, this playlist of all the music from the Heartstopper series is a great place to give yourself that little boost you might need, I often put this on in the background and allow my subliminal monologue to think about Heartstopper and it’s wonderful characters.
Who can help if I’m unsure of my sexuality like Nick Nelson?
This is absolutely not an area that I can help with, the only advice I have is to speak to those closest to you that you are confident won’t judge, will be patient, listen and keep things to themselves. There are some great online resources I’d suggest reading to see how they make you feel, such as this article on understanding your feelings as a teen on the support line.
Be strong in knowing however you feel and identify, you are wonderful, amazing and an asset to the world. Take insight from these stories, reach out and talk, but make sure everything is always on your terms and you protect yourself first and foremost.
If you want to read more from Team Embryo about our thoughts this Pride Month, we have another great piece on the 50-year anniversary of Pride, written earlier this month.