OPINION: ‘Heartstopper’ is the epitome of teenage vulnerability

Emilia McLeod, Chief Social Media and Web Editor

Netflix’s newest original is everyone’s latest obsession, landing the No. 1 spot on Variety’s “Trending TV” chart and pulling nearly a million engagements for its debut week. And the best part? It’s completely deserved.

The British coming-of-age romance is the perfect mix of love and representation that teens are yearning for. It is based on the queer Webtoon comic and graphic novel by Alice Oseman, following high schooler Charlie Spring (Joe Locke), who falls in love with rugby hotshot and fellow classmate Nick Nelson (Kit Connor). With a mix of plenty of other great characters, chaos and romance ensues. However, while the plot is fantastic, it is perfect down to every other aspect as well, and is exactly what every queer (and non-queer) teenager needs to see.

Being a teenager is no easy task, and this was perfectly captured in this show. Teenagers grapple with expectations from others and the search for their own identity, similar to what Nick Nelson is forced to go through. In his search to discover his own sexuality, he is also reeling from the pressure via his homophobic teammates. Amidst this, his panic encaptures the exact feeling so many of us have gone through. The panic of not knowing who you are is all-encompassing, but dealing with homophobia at the same time is debilitating. Kit Connor offers a legendary performance depicting this. However, this show is also so great not just because it represents teenagers well, but a multitude of other sensitive topics, from bullying, to eating disorders, to identity, to coming out, to friendship problems. This is why teenagers are so obsessed with this show right now. In a world where teenagers are played by thirty-year-olds and all they depict are drama and football games, something genuine is so refreshing. Instead of depicting teenagers as ridiculous beings, for once we have been seen and heard. Our struggles are being understood instead of being taken for granted, especially for viewers who are queer.

Now, if you’re someone less interested in messages and more interested in technicalities, know that this show is perfect in that aspect as well. Not only does it follow the comic nearly perfectly (by the frame), but it also has a fantastic soundtrack: bedroom pop to fit the vibe of the show, artists loved by teenagers who in many times, are teenagers. On top of that, the casting is absolutely perfect, matching the illustrations from the graphic novel perfectly; even offering the same multitude of diversity that the characters themselves do.

On the surface, this show may seem like another cheesy coming-of-age film. And honestly, it is. However, there is so much more to it that many others lack, and I just scratch the surface when I say that I can’t remember the last time that I felt more seen. Being a teenager is one of the most vulnerable times of our lives, and “Heartstopper” encaptures this beautifully, with grace and honesty.