TV Show Review: Netflix’s Heartstopper

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If you’ve read my other reviews, you probably already know that love the Heartstopper comic series. It’s cute and wholesome, as opposed to a lot of other LGBTQ+ media which can be rather sad. So of course, I was elated to hear that it was being adapted into a tv show on Netflix. I watched the trailer and it looked so similar to the images in the comic. I knew it was going to be a good one.

The animated elements like leaves, and hearts give the show visuals that match the graphic novels. It was a stylistic choice that reminded me of Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse, another wonderful comic adaptation. These animated motifs also are effective at signifying the actors feelings, like attraction. YouTuber Rowan Ellis, made the astute point that the natural visuals like leaves, and nature murals also reaffirm the idea that queerness is perfectly natural.

Another great aspect of the television adaption of Heartstopper, that Rowan has also mentioned was that that it focused on the side characters more than the books did. This allowed the show to go more in depth to queer identities, outside of Charlie and Nick’s gay and bisexual cisgender male identities. For example, viewers get to know Elle, Tara, and Darcy. Elle is a transgender girl. Tara and Darcy are a lesbian couple. The characters are also racially diverse.

Charlie’s friends, Elle and Tao.

My one complaint about the adaptation as compared to the book series, was the addition of the character Imogen. Imogen has a crush on Nick, who knows he is attracted to Charlie, but is still figuring out his sexuality. The presence of Imogen does successfully complicaet the the plot and heighten conflict, but I wondered if it was necessary. The book series already had enough conflict when you combine homophobic bullying, questioning your sexuality, and having a secret relationship.

But all in all day, the show was very faithful to the series. This is probably due to the author, Alice Oseman, being very heavily involved in the project. I could tell a lot of heart (pun intended) went to the creation of this show, from the writing to the acting. Also, can I just say that I was delighted to see Oscar-winning actress Olivia Coleman as Nick’s mom?

Olivia Coleman as Nick’s mom.

In addition, the soundtrack gave us a series of bangers by LGBTQ+ artists, like girl in red and Frankie Cosmos. Spotify link to the show playlist here: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/37i9dQZF1DX5KARSfd7WcM?si=430a661cffd64a11 . And the sense of humor was great, from Tao threatening to send Nick a strongly worded DM if he ever hurt Charlie, to Charlie having fantasies about Nick asking him out, only to be asked to join the rugby team instead. Also Nick was the most relatable bisexual character I have seen, first doing an “Am I Gay?” quiz online and realizing that he’s attracted to all the characters in Pirates of the Carribbean.

TikTok reaction to Heartstopper here: https://www.tiktok.com/@letsnottalkincode/video/7090591431852625157?is_from_webapp=1&sender_device=pc

Like many other queer viewers, watching Heartstopper was a bit bittersweet for me. There was a tinge of yearning that I felt when I remembered that I was closeted in high school. What would it have been like if I had been out and in a relationship? Would I have shared a milkshake with my partner or gone on a beach date with them? What would it have been like if the LGBTQ+ representation I saw on television went beyond the gay side characters? Would I have had the confidence to embrace my bisexuality if I had seen Nick onscreen? Bittersweetness aside, I am happy that that will be teenagers watching Heartstopper. I hope they don’t feel like they have to hide. I hope that they thrive. Heartstopper is available on Netflix. Please give it a watch.

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