‘Heartstopper,’ the aspirational LGBTQ+ series every adult should watch
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On April 22, a new series of teenagers arrived on Netflix that is already endorsed by a great phenomenon of literary sales. ‘Heartstopper’ adapts Alice Oseman’s webcomic that made the leap to paper and has already sold more than a million copies. The story centers on Charlie Spring, a gay boy who strikes up an unexpected friendship with his classmate, Nick Nelson, and gradually begins to grow into something more. For fans, the cartoons became a safe and welcoming place to talk about identity, love and sexual orientation without running away from the most negative sides or the most difficult conversations..
The series, which currently covers the first two comics in the collection, precisely seeks to take us to an environment in which we want to stay and live so that conversation and debate are always led along the path of optimism. It is one of the biggest keys to the success of ‘Heartstopper’. It is not a story that ignores the problems that an LGTBQ+ teenager still has to face today, but he prefers to hold out his hand and tell him that everything will be fine. instead of wallowing in suffering.
Everyone at his school knows that Charlie (Joe Locke) is gay, because to this day he remains a subject of gossip in the halls. He has no problem with his sexuality, but he does have a problem with the harassment he suffers from some of his classmates. or by the boy (Sebastian Croft) with whom he has a thing, a boy who still does not accept that he also likes boys and who forces Charlie to carry him secretly to the point of not even looking at him if he passes him in the corridors. Nick (Kit Connor) hadn’t considered that he might be attracted to someone of his own sex until he meets Charlie. He is the star of the rugby team and constantly feels pressure from his team and his friends, who expect him to be a certain way. Elle (Yasmin Finney) has had to change schools to an all-girls school after transitioning. She is alone and doesn’t know anyone, and she misses her friends. Tao (William Gao) sees how his lifelong group is not having its best moment with Elle away and Charlie absent because of her love life. Tara (Corinna Brown) decides to announce how happy she is to have a girlfriend and, suddenly, everyone starts treating her differently even though she doesn’t feel like she has changed.
In ‘Heartstopper’ conflicts common to any adolescent are mixed with more specific problems of a young homosexual or transsexual. The problem of bullying or mental health is not reduced, nor is the intensity with which love and friendship are experienced at these ages. A rosy world is not created in which everything works out the first time. But unlike what we are used to with this type of series, ‘Heartstopper’ presents a reality in which these boys and girls feel heard and the world reacts with tolerance and empathy. That aspirational touch is what makes it the perfect tool to create positive conversations not only between the generations the series directly speaks to, but also with the adults around them..
The series is a first class material for any teacher who wants to deal with diversity and identity, it is a perfect starting point for those parents who want to understand what their children may be going through, whether they are LGBTQ+ or not, they are absolutely “homework” accessible that many young people will be able to put to their parents to start conversations that they are not yet ready to open directly. Perhaps we are more used to talking about bullying, but not so much to talking about how bullying does not end with the harasser and the harassed, how it affects everyone around them, how it affects those who decide to stand up to it and what happens to those who choose to stay out of it. Elle is a trans girl, but the problem she has is as common as feeling completely alone in a new place. Already more focused on diversity, it is often said that in countries like the United Kingdom, where the series takes place, LGBTQ+ youth have a completely clear path but ‘Heartstopper’ wonderfully recreates that feeling that everything changes around those who decide to “come out of the closet” and it’s not because of their sexuality, but because of how others end up making their sexuality something much bigger. How to fall in love with someone of your same sex involves many more steps, many more conversations, many more gestures than any heterosexual person will ever have to do or live.
A happy place, but not utopian
But ‘Heartstopper’ puts the focus of all these themes on characters who are, above all else, good people. To begin with, How wonderful that they have finally looked for actors and actresses with ages very similar to those of the kids they play (almost all of them are 18-19 years old). That helps much more than it seems to create that image of innocence and vigor that makes the conflicts that happen completely believable, and even more the goals that they conquer. Charlie, Nick, Elle, Tao, Isaac (Tobie Donovan) are ordinary kids, who go to visit their grandmother on a Sunday morning and do their homework on the way to class. They are, yes, quite idyllic, but they are not perfect. They doubt, they suffer, they make mistakes and they still have a lot to learn. But they are authentic, they are noble, they brim with empathy, and that is why the viewer does not react with rejection to an excess of optimism. rather, they experience every good thing that happens to them as a real triumph in their lives. At those ages it is.
The series manages to fully repeat the cozy feel of the comic thanks to an insane level of detail from Alice Oseman, who has served as creator and writer of the series, and her production design team, who have created scenes full of life. , bathed in pastel colors that embrace the viewer and do not let him go. The most intense moments are highlighted with a very bright musical selection and by small animated winks to the vignettes, a cucada that goes straight to the heart so that we sigh as if we were fourteen again. And that magnificent duration of 30 minutes per chapter makes ‘Heartstopper’ a delight that is devoured almost without realizing it. Everything works and everything is fine in this little Trojan horse that brings a story full of lessons to so many homes in such a non-aggressive way that it is absolutely irresistible.. You would have to be a monster not to want these boys and girls to do well. And that is its power.
‘Heartstopper’ is one of the most important series of recent years because it manages to give LGBTQ+ boys and girls, and the adults around them, new tools to deal with the most important changes related to their identity and sexuality without turning them into protagonists of dark and gruesome stories, choosing to give hope and the message that everything will be fine. That no matter how much hatred seems to be around us, it is possible to find people who are not going to judge us for who we are or who we love, adults who are going to understand and help us. That only we decide who we want to be and that we can take the time we need to discover it. It is a happy place and at the same time very enriching, a series that is easy to watch but much more complex than it appears at first glance. An LGBTQ + story that speaks in such a universal way that it is inevitable to fall into their networks. I invite you to give it a try if you haven’t already. For those of us who have already left high school far behind, it is another way of experiencing adolescence that we would have liked to have, the one that we deserved but that they did not let us enjoy. That there is ‘Heartstopper’ for all the new generations is a sign that, little by little, we are taking steps forward. For adults who have children in their care, at home or at school, it may serve to help them help, to be guides towards a more positive and tolerant path, to understand without feeling overwhelmed. And for those who are in full adolescence, or about to reach it, it is another example that they are not the only ones to have doubts. That growing up, especially when you are not part of the majority group, brings disappointments and tears. But that there are good people out there who will help them find their place in the world. that they are not alone. That they can aspire to have a story like Nick and Charlie. A friendship like that of Elle and Tao. That everything is going to be better.