“Heartstopper” Series Review (Ep.1 to 8)

We started this trend with KinnPorsche and the numbers exploded. So, we decided to do the same for the current “Most Popular Gay Drama” on Netflix.

Yes! I’m talking about Heartstopper, because it would be a disservice if we didn’t put in a group effort and dissect the minuscule details pertaining to this phenomenal drama. While typical “Coming-of-age” teenage dramas aren’t anything new, we have very little representation of the LGBTQ community in mainstream media. Mostly attributed to homophobia, queer representation is limited to playing fragmented supporting roles (more so, as comic relief). Heartstopper is like a fresh breath of air braving through the stalemate of old prejudices; offering you an unsolicited glimpse into the world of teenagers dealing with identity crisis. It is sweet, unexplored and definitely unhindered; something that piques your attention from the get-go. Without further ado, let’s step into the Heartstopper universe and reminisce about some of the finest moments in this show!

Krishna Naidu

While most sober people will be raving about the storyline or execution, I’m anything but that. Heartstopper is indeed light-hearted and endearing; it is like drinking hot chocolate on a frosty winter night. You feel warm and fuzzy; comfortable yet morose as the drama strikes a chord with the queer community’s delicate sensibilities. Adapted from the graphic novel series of the same name by Alice Oseman and directed by Euros Lyn, the first season focuses on openly gay student Charlie Spring (Joe Locke) as he deals with homophobia, while falling in love with Nick Nelson (Kit Connor), the star rugby player.

The best part about this series is that it is relatable (even if you haven’t read the original content). The actors seem like they have literally stepped out of the graphic universe and the tone is affectionate yet natural. Heartstopper effortlessly manages to grasp the intricacies of teenage romance; more so when the parties involved belong to the LGBTQ community. Watching Nick fall in love with Charlie was a worthwhile experience; simply because he represents the Gen Y. There are a lot of teenagers as well as adults out there fumbling with their emotions; as they question their attraction to the same-sex. Kit Connor as Nick, embodies their struggles and confusion; as he slowly acknowledges this new reality where he is in love with his best friend- Charlie. His easy acceptance was devoid of any unnecessary drama or gay panic attacks (which mostly happens in the BL world); Nick by far is the most positive representation of a bisexual character in a television series.

We also need to talk about Charlie Spring. Joe Locke’s interpretation is so lifelike that I was ready to battle anyone trying to hurt Charlie. It could be his closeted boyfriend, Ben (Sebastian Croft) or the uppity gang of bullies at school. Playing an openly gay character isn’t an easy job; but Joe grabs your attention and you fall in love with Charlie’s vulnerabilities and his strengths. The drama focuses on the subtle nuances of Nick and Charlie’s budding friendship and ensuing romance; while Charlie grapples with the reality of dating a supposedly “straight” rugby player, Nick tries his level best to develop the trust that Charlie desperately seeks. Both are young and though they struggle a lot; Heartstopper establishes their relationship in a unique way where both parties actually communicate. Charlie and Nick are honestly one of the most uncomplicated couples in the history of queer identities; they fall in love, accept each other’s flaws and are understanding.

While this show is about Nick and Charlie’s journey as they find each other; it would be incomplete without their medley gang of friends. It could be Nick’s intriguing dynamics with the lesbian couple, Tara Jones (Corinna Brown) and Darcy Olsson (Kizzy Edgell); who help him come to terms with his sexuality. I was also pleasantly surprised with Elle Argent’s (Yasmin Finney) storyline. Throughout the series, I avidly followed her journey as Elle starts attending a girl’s school after coming out as a transgender. Though socially recluse in the starting episodes, Elle slowly grows confident as she becomes friends with Tara & Darcy. Her subtle romance with Tao Xu (William Gao) is equally interesting. Insanely protective of his friends (especially Charlie), Tao always takes a firm stance against bullies. Despite that, our prickly porcupine is entirely oblivious about Elle’s feelings for him. There is a bit of romance in store for everyone and this show doesn’t disappoint. It is easily one of the sweetest romances that I have watched in recent times; but don’t let its saccharine quality fool you. Heartstopper at its heart, is a realistic depiction of the problems faced by the LGBTQ people; and yet it will speak to you, even if you don’t belong to the community!

Kdarling

The gay drama Heartstopper is genuinely a heart-stopping, quick watch. It’s so beautifully done and important for teens who are confused about their sexuality. The gay, lesbian, pansexual, bisexual, and trans representation in this is on point. And I related to every single moment of it. I wish there’d been a series like this when I was a teenager. Discovering I was bisexual in a conservative deep southern town in the U.S. was equivalent to standing at the edge of a ravine with two very different paths leading down to the bottom. And I was expected to choose only one way down. This is why Nick is the character I related to the most in Heartstopper.

Like Nick, I didn’t know precisely how to define who I was. I liked kissing boys and girls but grew up in a conservative town in the 90s when bisexuality wasn’t something people talked about.

It wasn’t until years later that I realized the confusing ravine I was standing on the edge of had a third path to the bottom, one that allowed me to love anyone and everyone I wanted to love simply because I could and can.

And that’s the beauty of Heartstopper. While Nick and his confusion are the parts of the drama I felt the closest to, there is diverse representation in this series that speaks to everyone in the community. From the bullying to the confusion to the fear of coming out, all of it speaks to the different stages of coming to terms with one’s sexuality.

There’s so much more I could say about the drama, especially when breaking down each of the relationships. But Heartstopper is a show that should be experienced rather than spoiled. If you’ve ever struggled with yourself and your sexuality, this drama will speak to you.

PotatoBLChild

Some of the most joyful queer scenes I’ve ever come across.

As a person who’s well-acquainted with the Osemanverse (thanks to a wonderful queer friend), I’ve been waiting with bated breath for the release of the live-action adaption of this beautiful comic. Heartstopper—or rather, most of Alice Oseman’s works make me very emotional, especially her books on asexual experiences (or a facet of them). Plus, she writes good prose, so it’s easy to get invested in her works.

Suffice to say, Heartstopper was everything that I’d imagined—from the tiny graphic hearts, leaves, and sparks to the perfect cast. There is not one character who hasn’t been portrayed to the fullest. The acting is on-point; it almost felt like Charlie, Nick, Tao, Elle, Isaac, Tara, and Darcy had come alive. Tori has (and always will have) my heart. The production is fantastic, with each scene unwrapping the story bit by bit and reeling us in.

My favourite bits from the series include the quality time that Charlie and Nick spend with each other, along with Nick questioning his identity and his mother’s response to his coming out to her. Sheer queer joy—as I’ve already mentioned before (at least, as of this season). What I loved even more was the fan response after—with multiple BL fan pages highlighting comparisons between this series and many other coming-of-age BLs such as Bad Buddy the Series. It’s a shame that Alice Oseman’s comments (from 2017) regarding her thoughts on BL resurfaced on many social media platforms. As a fan of her works on one hand and BL on the other, I hope that she has changed her mind and done some reading of her own to inform herself better.

I can’t wait to see the rest of it in the future seasons (not spoiling here!), and I look forward to the day that the series will be renewed (here’s hoping that my opinions on the series as a whole aren’t going to be changed in the future as a result of antifujo nonsense on the internet that stemmed from her comments recently).

Sarinpai

I had been excited ever since the show was announced, having been a long-time fan of Alice Oseman’s webtoon. The casting could not have been more perfect. Not only in terms of how the characters are supposed to look and behave, but the actors too take care in telling the stories, revealing through interviews how important it was to them to embody the beloved characters. All around, it was something I was anticipating for a long while before it released.

But taking away from the original context, it stands on its own legs. Sometimes, I wonder if I am seeing the show with rose coloured glasses, but it made me happy; and it made me cry while being happy. Seeing the overwhelmingly positive response it has received, I know I am not the only one.

Without giving away too much of the plot itself, all I can say is they showed that people who aren’t cis-het deserve to be happy. They don’t live in an insulated world where their sexualities and relationships have no bearing on how others treat them, and had to deal with homophobia from their peers, but throughout it all, there was a ray of hope that they will be happy, both with each other, and with their own identities.

Since its release, Heartstopper has ceased to remain a mere show, and has become a phenomenon. I can’t predict the future cultural impacts of the show, but there have already been instances of people garnering bravery from Heartstopper to come out to their own families and friends.

However, I can’t dissociate Heartstopper the series (amazing as it was) from the controversies of misgendering and delegitimising of the non-white Western BL industry as fetishism. The first controversy needs no explanation, and the person responsible needs to be held accountable; the second, on the other hand, got a lot of mixed responses.

Having consumed BL for years now, I have seen similar conversations around BL which reek of white superiority, claiming that BL is just a tool for straight women to fetishise gay men. Understanding the shift and progress in the industry (multiple transnational industries to be precise) since its inception, and learning about the safe space it has provided not only cis-het women, but members of the LGBTQ+ community as well, watching these reductionist arguments again felt like a shock. I can only hope that those responsible have learnt and changed their opinions by now, and those who haven’t get the opportunity to do soon. That LGBTQ+ people deserve to be happy is a very important message from Heartstopper, and I can only hope that people criticising BL realise that similar messages are espoused from the industry as well.

Rating: 4.75 out of 5

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