‘Heartstopper’ tells heartwarming story of LGBTQ+ love

The show ‘Heartstopper’, which was released on Netflix on April 22, follows characters Charlie Spring and Nick Nelson as they navigate a friendship that evolves into something more.

Jami Martin-Trainor, Arts Reporter

The romance genre has been diluted for years by stories that lack representation and heart. While there are absolutely pieces of media that depict romance fantastically, including shows like Jane the Virgin and movies like The Half of It, a vast majority of media tells love stories from a single perspective — straight relationships.

Heartstopper is a deviation from that trend.

Heartstopper debuted on Netflix on April 22. Based on the graphic novel series of the same name by Alice Oseman, the show tells the story of Charlie Spring and Nick Nelson. Charlie, played by Joe Locke, and Nick, played by Kit Connor, are sat together during school, and the viewer is able to watch their relationship develop from friendship to something more.

The Netflix show explores an array of topics, from sexuality and gender identity to mental health and familial support. What makes it stand out in its genre is its incredible representation.

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Identity plays an important role in Heartstopper. With characters that feel confident in their sexuality and others who are just starting to realize who they are, the show portrays all stages of that journey. The show also is sure to include a realistic array of sexualities and gender identities, with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender characters.

In regard to plot, Heartstopper is a classic “meet-cute” story. Locke and Connor have incredible interactions on screen, and while some scenes do feel a bit cheesy and awkward, the energy perfectly embodies a first high-school romance. Taking place over the course of eight 30-minute episodes, the show’s season finale brings the story to a satisfying conclusion while leaving the potential for topics to be further explored.

Charlie Spring is the main character that the audience follows, and viewers can’t help but sympathize with his struggles. Through conversations with friends and a very supportive teacher, the audience learns that Charlie has faced intense bullying in the past year for being outed against his will at his all-boys high school.

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Nick Nelson, Charlie’s crush, subverts the classic jock stereotype. A “rugby lad” with a heart of gold, the character embodies the idea that external looks do not determine internal identity.

These two main characters are starkly different, but their interactions together are nothing but wholesome. The genuine care that these two fictitious students have for each other is heightened by the show’s writing, as well as the acting abilities of Locke and Connor.

Its cast of supporting characters also brings Heartstopper to life. While the exploration of their stories is limited, as the show itself mainly focuses on Charlie and Nick, there is an abundance of scenes where side characters are explored.

Tara Jones and Darcy Olsson are two of note, played by Corinna Brown and Kizzy Edgell respectively. Tara and Darcy go to the same school as Elle Argent, another one of Charlie’s closest friends, who is played by Yasmin Finney. The friendships that these three characters have, as well as the romantic relationships between Tara and Darcy that are explored, are all fleshed out by the excellent scriptwriting. Even though these characters do not receive as much screen time as Charlie and Nick, their relationships are still handled with care and nuance.

Friendship is also a concept that is addressed in Heartstopper. Tao Xu, played by William Gao, acts as one of Charlie’s best friends who supports him through some of his hardest times. There are complications in any relationship, however, and their friendship is no exception. Charlie and Tao’s friendship experiences hardships due to a variety of factors, and their story shows the importance of all relationships — not just romance.

Heartstopper is ultimately a wholesome and occasionally cheesy love story, but in many ways, it represents so much more than that. Just by showing a wholesome and innocent LGBTQ+ love story, positivity is spread for people who resonate with the cast of characters in Heartstopper. For a sweet story and lovable cast, Heartstopper is absolutely a show to check out.