CP‘R’ you ready for one of Netflix’s best LGBTQ+ dramas?

Nina Geoghegan

Even in 2022, finding a show with a semi-realistic representation of teenagers is almost impossible. Unfortunately, LGBTQ+ representation in the media is even more scarce. Taking a more progressive step forward, Netflix’s new television series “Hearstopper” brings realism, representation and drama to the table. 

First airing on April 22, the show is a highly aesthetic and trend-aware masterpiece. All the visual details and pop culture easter eggs aside, the cherry on top is that the show depicts an underage romance story without capitalizing on sex between minors — an unfortunately common cash cow for teen shows nowadays. With a simple yet wholesome premise, “Heartstopper” is a drama that deserves to be watched across the globe.

The show is based on a series of graphic novels by author Alice Oseman, the first of which was published in 2018. With respect to this, bringing a fictional world into reality often creates backlash over even the slightest details. Regardless, the transition from book to television was made almost flawlessly. For starters, the cast’s physical appearances are accurate  to the illustrations. From stature to hair color, the actor choice for the two protagonists stays true to the original art. 

Resembling the cover art, the show’s casting stays strikingly true to the original novels’ visuals (Image courtesy of aliceoseman.com)

More notable, though, are the magical elements the live-action version of “Hearstopper” included. Novels allow the reader to fill in certain details or interpret things, but “Heartstopper” did more than just make up for the loss of this imaginative freedom. Once again, maintaining its graphic novel roots, the show includes snippets of animation. Wordlessly conveying the butterflies of having a crush, the moving sketches add an enchanting visual to the invisibility of emotions. Additionally, the depth of a real-life set allowed for subtle LGBTQ+ flag color schemes in clothing and background to be scattered throughout. To tie it all together, tracks by trending artists on TikTok make for a more immersive experience accurate to the current world.

Although features like animated sparks or a soundtrack  aren’t a reality, the cinematic universe typically provides a bounty of everything unrealistic. Following shows like “Euphoria,” where supposed high school students roam the halls without a pencil, “Heartstopper’s” qualities are a much-needed breath of fresh air.

Distractingly awful, Tao Xu (William Gao) rocked a comically flat and swooping hairstyle the entire season (Image courtesy of IMDB)

While multiple seasons and zero homework assignments are suspicious, the bigger issue of teen television lies in the material replacing this screentime: sex. “Heartstopper” expertly avoids this more harmful cliche seen in teen-centered media. Although steamy scenes make for great plot accelerators and are guaranteed attention holders, this is only true when used appropriately. Actors portraying minors are shown in sexually explicit contexts to a point of concerning normalization. Every second, millions of viewers turn on their screens to fictional under 18-year-olds getting it on. “Heartstopper,” on the other hand, never crosses that line. By straying away from the typical dependency on a physical connection, the show focuses on the beauty of emotional closeness. 

Featuring the two main characters, Charlie Spring (Joe Locke) and Nick Nelson (Kit Conner), the show’s poster emulates the graphic novels’ design (Image courtesy of IMDB)

Although the show still sets unrealistic relationship goals with romantic rain scenes and “conveniently locked in a room together” scenarios, its exaggerations are entertaining. “Heartstopper” not only teaches youths to chase after what they deserve but also provides a glance into LGBTQ+ romance and struggles. Overall, the combination of vibrant LGBTQ+ color pallets, popular music and graphic novel characteristics make for a unique and heartwarming watch.