Stop and watch Heartstopper

Why you should watch the LGBTQ romance Heartstopper

The+protagonist+Charlie+Spring+%28Joe+Locke%29+on+the+right+falls+in+love+with+Nick+Nelson+%28Kit+Connor%29+in+Heartstopper

The protagonist Charlie Spring (Joe Locke) on the right falls in love with Nick Nelson (Kit Connor) in Heartstopper

Mihir Bhagatwala, Staff Writer

Heartstopper. Dramatic, heartful sigh. That’s the reaction I have after watching the show. Heartstopper is a British Netflix series based on the webcomic and graphic novels of the same name by Alice Oseman. Put simply, it’s a queer love story that feels like a soft warm hug to all the viewers. And if you watch it, you’ll find you’ll fall in love faster than the main characters, Charlie and Nick, do with each other (which doesn’t say much, as the show takes place in a few months). And fair warning: light spoilers are ahead for basically the whole show- nothing major, mostly just defining the characters’ personalities.

One aspect of Heartstopper is how it isn’t driven by plot points—rather, it’s driven by the characters. Who are they? Charlie Spring, played by Joe Locke, is a 14-year-old boy who goes to Truham all-boys school and has more pairs of Converse than a Bishop’s student. He already came out as gay to his family and school. And Charlie is just always charming. He’s smart, a hopeless romantic, and finds time to stick around for his friends and family while juggling his own mental health struggles. Some people, especially at his school, weigh him down for being gay. Locke portrays him with a joyous but conscious presence, and Charlie is always enjoyable to see. But it can’t be a queer romance without the interest: Nick Nelson.

Nick seems to be the most popular with fans. He’s on the Rugby team, he’s sweet, open to everyone, but also awkward. His relationship with Charlie is so fun because it blossoms immediately. In episode one, there’s a montage of Nick saying, “Hey,” to Charlie in hallways. Since Charlie is the main character, we see this from his point of view, but Nick’s perspective is still represented in scenes with him alone. Their first meeting presents their duality of perspectives on their shared love story and the broken ground between the two. 

Heartstopper doesn’t start with Nick considering himself 100% straight—rather, there are hints. Immediately he notices something in Charlie. And the story quickly picks up with one fateful question as Nick asks Charlie if he wants to join the rugby team. His entire character arc is motivated by this, as from there he forms a connection with Charlie and falls in love.

 But the show doesn’t stop at that. Nick actually falls in love with Charlie pretty fast—they kiss in episode three and begin dating in episode four. The rest of the show encounters Nick learning more about being LGBTQ, fighting homophobia from his friends, and dealing with Charlie’s friends’ jealousy. Also, some of the moments of Nick doing “Am I Gay,” quizzes and coming out to his mom are honest and cute. They’re also relatable for a lot of queer teens and are shot in an intimate and slightly awkward way. Unlike a lot of queer media, the show does not have a gay love interest and a questioning protagonist—having it flipped allows the show to give Nick the development he needs.

Other characters include Tao Xu, the self-described “token straight friend.” He actually has a great arc, starting as Charlie’s best friend, becoming jealous and resentful towards Nick for taking Charlie’s time and brewing drama before realizing his mistakes and reconciling with both Nick and Charlie. He could be a favorite character, but his hair is a crime. He’s friends with Elle, who used to go to Truham with the boys but transferred to Higgs, the nearby all-girls school, after coming out as trans. The first few episodes treat her story as adjacent with some connections to the story of Charlie and Nick. But in the latter half, the stories merge and the separation disappears. At her school, she initially has trouble finding friends but then befriends Darcy and Tara, who are in a relationship. After they become friends with Elle, their conversations show Elle’s growing comfort at Higgs. Elle’s scenes were a positive distraction from the love drama between Charlie and Nick. Her feelings of loneliness aren’t really explored after the first two episodes, but they could have been a captivating and relatable subplot. Some more scenes with her in the first 3 episodes could have benefited her character, as she doesn’t really do much besides learning one or two new things each episode or revealing information to the boys. However, the conclusion to her storyline makes me really want a second season, as her ending is quite ambiguous but fun. 

Tara and Darcy have a really interesting storyline in the show, as they encounter homophobia and serve as friends and guides for Nick. They don’t have a huge role in the first half but are still important to Elle’s plot. In the latter half of the show, they have a much larger role, especially in the orchestra episode. They help out Nick as his first LGBTQ friends outside of Charlie and make him more comfortable with queer love. Tara and Darcy could have used a few more adjustments to give them their own identity in the beginning episodes, but still, they feel like they have a purpose in the show.

There are also some minor characters, like Harry, who everyone really wants to punch. He’s another Rugby player who bullies Nick and Charlie. He doesn’t have too much of a presence outside of representing an obstacle for Nick. Nick’s arc is learning his sexuality and who he can love, and Harry shows how Nick is willing to separate toxic people and decide who he wants to prioritize. 

The plot of Heartstopper is not complicated, but still really fun to watch. Each episode has a series of dramatic, happy, and (purposefully) frustrating scenes. The plot is quite contained with each episode only taking place in a few locations, some of which are only one.

The cinematography of the show really draws viewers in. The lighting in places like Harry’s party in episode 3 and Charlie’s party in episode 5 is super vibrant, colorful, and feels Euphoria inspired, but less dramatic and serious. The use of natural lighting in episode four, especially in the rainy scenes, is beautiful and uplifting. Rain is usually something that signifies moodiness, depression, or sadness but the bright sunlight twists it into something uplifting and happy. Also during the last episode, the hallway kiss scene used the windows perfectly. One of the best scenes in the show is when Nick sees Tara and Darcy dancing together in episode 3 as a faded animated rainbow spinning around them appears. It’s just beautiful to watch.

Another aspect that’s really fun to see was the stylized drawn additions. For example, in episode one, Charlie imagines Nick asking him out and Nick is surrounded by pink drawings and warmth before contrasting to the actual, duller message: asking Charlie to join rugby. It’s also used for negative imagination, like Charlie imagining Nick detesting the idea of kissing him. There are also some really fun animated additions, used when love is sparking or characters are getting emotionally closer, like the fireworks when Charlie touches Nick’s hand in episode three or the random seagulls. These additions are small but give the show so much personality and pay respect to its webcomic roots. 

As representation and the treatment of LGBTQ people improves in many places, Heartstopper represents the community without flaw. As Bishop’s builds more acceptance and understanding of LGBTQ people, Heartstopper is a great watch as it features all groups in the community. I could even see the series being used in Health classes and DEIJ spaces as education on LGBTQ people. Especially to introduce good queer representation and understand queer relationships, it could be used to educate middle school. But for queer Bishop’s students who want something relatable, and non-queer students who want a lovable romantic show, Heartstopper is perfect.

Overall, the series is a great watch. It has great representation, perfect casting, and calming vibes perfect to spend a Saturday night. And fingers crossed for a season two since the series only covers the first two of the four graphic novels. So long, Heartstopper. I hope we meet again soon.