Heartstopper: redefining queer representation in the media

Samantha Klein, Staff Writer

The Netflix sensation Heartstoppper is the wholesome young adult queer romance we all deserved. Based on the bestselling webcomic turned graphic novel by Alice Oseman, Heartstopper spotlights two teenage boys, Nick Nelson and Charlie Spring, falling in love while navigating the complications that come with being in an openly queer relationship in high school.

Unlike other shows that tend to highlight LGBTQ struggle and the resulting pain (I’m looking at you Pretty Little Liars and Glee), Heartstopper uses the classic coming-out arc as a secondary plot line that is mostly centered around curiosity and self-discovery rather than fear, while the main story revolves around queer joy and exploring a healthy relationship. 

The representation doesn’t stop at Nick and Charlie. Their friend Elle Argent is a trans woman and their friends Tara Jones and Darcy Olsson are a lesbian couple who help them navigate being openly queer.

Most LGBTQ teens are used to seeing themselves as small roles if it all. On the rare occasion that the main protagonist is queer, it’s common for all of their hardships to come specifically from their queerness. In Heartstopper, the main characters struggle with basic high school problems such as cliques and toxic relationships and even explore more serious topics such as eating disorders and mental illness. 

Of course, the writers don’t completely disregard the challenges that come with exploring your sexuality and being out in high school. In one scene, Nick Nelson is seen looking up “Am I Gay?” quizzes. This may seem ridiculous to some, but to many, this was a very real experience. 

Additionally, Charlie Spring opens up about the bullying he has experienced as an openly gay student. He seeks the support of a trusted teacher, another common support system for LGBTQ students. The relatability of Nick and Charlie’s experiences is refreshing, especially for young audiences. 

Positive queer representation in the media is crucial to progress toward normalizing healthy queer relationships. Everyone in the LGBTQ community deserves to experience queer joy without being weighed down by excessive hardships and shows like these act as a beacon of hope for everyone waiting their turn. 

What to watch/read if you liked heartstopper:

Crush

Atypical 

Sex Education

Young Royals 

The Half of It

Love, Victor

Steven Universe

She-Ra and the Princess of Power