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Theogony

The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School

Theogony

The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School

Theogony

Does “Heartstopper” Help or Hurt the Queer Community?

Nick%2C+played+by+British+actor+Kit+Connor%2C+and+Charlie%2C+played+by+Manx+actor+Joe+Locke%2C+stare+at+each+other+during+class+time.+%2F+Netflix
Nick, played by British actor Kit Connor, and Charlie, played by Manx actor Joe Locke, stare at each other during class time. / Netflix

In an era where the LGBTQ+ community is becoming more accepted by the general public, Heartstopper by Alice Oseman has made room for itself as a vehemently wholesome coming-of-age queer drama. The show, an adaptation of Oseman’s 2016 web-comic and later book series of the same name, while not as action-packed as some of its competitors, has since been widely celebrated for its diversity and endearing look at high school life. Now, with its second season dropping in early August of this year, Heartstopper is more popular than ever. But is this popularity deserved? 

 

Season one mainly focuses on main characters Nick and Charlie’s developing romance. Charlie, having faced bullying for being openly gay, struggles with being kept a secret by his closeted lover, Ben. After Charlie meets popular rugby player Nick Nelson, it’s love at first sight. However, things aren’t so simple as Nick grapples in accepting his emerging bisexuality. The season ends with Nick and Charlie finally getting together, and Nick musters up the courage to come out to his mom. Additionally, while not the central focus, Heartstopper‘s secondary characters are not to go unnoticed. Dary, Tara, Tao, Elle and Isaac have their fair share of moments. Tao and Elles’ developing relationship and Darcy and Taras comic relief are enjoyable subplots for the show.  

 

In its new second season, the cast embarks on a school trip to Paris. Now that Nick and Charlie are officially dating, France sees them learn what navigating a romantic relationship looks like. The main couple is far from alone: Darcy and Tara, as well as Elle and Tao, also develop their respective relationships in season two.  

 

If I had to choose one word to summarize Heartstopper, it would be sweet. As someone who originally found the series on the comic site Webtoon in 2019, I’ve been a casual fan of the series for five years now.  However, when initially seeing the public’s overwhelmingly positive opinion, I was confused.  Sure, the show was nice.  Good, even.  But it didn’t make my heart stop.  

 

“I feel like Heartstopper follows a predictable arc, with the plot and character development to be formulaic and empty of surprises,” said an anonymous queer student at ACHS. “…the book overuses tropes and stereotypes, making the characters and their interactions feel stereotypical sometimes.”

 

It isn’t untrue that the plot can feel formulaic. And as a member of the LGBTQ+ community myself, watching the show felt like launching myself into an unrealistic gay fairytale. While Nick and Charlie do face homophobia, these encounters felt more like safe, teachable, moments than they did real traumas.  

 

But why does Heartstopper have to be about trauma?  For many of us, interacting with LGBTQ+ media can be hard. There’s an instinct to say, “Well, I suffered, why aren’t they!” But being in pain shouldn’t be a requirement of being gay. There needs to be room to talk about queer pain in media. But that isn’t the entire queer experience, or at least it shouldn’t have to be. There are a million formulaic, stereotypical straight romances out there. Let’s make room for one gay one.  

 

“I’m not one of those crazy, over-the-top fans. I just think the show is cute, and yes, it’s a little dramatic, but this is how queer people feel 24/7. The show makes a point on how other people’s opinions don’t matter,” said sophomore Lily Clance. Clance identifies as bisexual. “To me, being homophobic makes no sense. There shouldn’t be a rule on who can like who.”

 

Heartstopper is not a deep, thought provoking TV show. But it is an enjoyable one, and that helps the queer community more than it could ever hurt it.

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