*WARNING: Spoilers ahead*
BY ALESSANDRA VESCIO, IMAGE BY NETFLIX
As it is impossible not to notice among the thousands of posts, pictures and discussions online, Heartstopper is back for a second season on Netflix. Last season had left us with Nick and Charlie, played by Kit Connor and Joe Locke respectively, in love and ready to start and live their new relationship as boyfriends. Of course, that is easier said than done, and the second season of the show created by Alice Oseman and based on their graphic novel focuses on all the struggles the two face as they navigate their feelings and the obstacles of being a queer couple in the real world. Kisses, jokes, laughter, fears, insecurities, hugs and more kisses are sprinkled throughout the season as the two become more confident in themselves and their feelings for each other.
The mere fact that Heartstopper tells the love story between two young queer people and does so in such a pure, sweet and romantic way would be enough to make it clear why Heartstopper is the magical, adorable and moving breath of fresh air that it is for many people. But it is so much more, and the second season proves it perfectly.
It’s the “taking care of each other”, the pure love between all the members of the friendship group, the help and support that everyone shows each other so genuinely that makes this season so special. We see it when Charlie writes his and Tao’s names on a padlock, when Nick notices that Tara is worried about her girlfriend, when a message from Tara asking for help is enough for all the friends to stop what they’re doing and go save their friend.
We see it in Tara waiting for Isaac in the hotel corridor when she feels he might feel lonely; in the love-filled words Charlie says to Tao, even after realising his friend might be the reason he was outed the year before. It is in the haste with which they collect money to help Darcy buy a suit for prom. It is in the hugs, the smiles, the freedom to tell a friend “I do like you”, as Nick tells Tao. It is in the worried look Nick gives Charlie when he realises the trauma his boyfriend carries. It is in the simple question “Is this OK?” Nick and Charlie ask each other as they kiss, because they care more about the other’s feelings than their own desire. It is in the respectful wait that they both feel ready to do more than kiss. It is all in that heart-breaking final scene in which Nick and Charlie express their love, care, involvement in each other’s emotions and pain.
More than romance, more than love: Heartstopper celebrates the deep care, the sense of belonging, the freedom to express your feelings, the responsibility and intention to look after the others. It is a celebration of building a community and relying on your friends without fear of being judged. As Darcy says to her mother when they argue over an outfit: “They will not laugh. My friends are supportive. My friends like me.” More than friends, they are family, especially for those who can’t count on their biological or nuclear one. They are the safe space Elle has painted for her application to a prestigious art college.
The first time I watched Heartstopper season two (yeah, the first time because you can’t watch it one time only and consider your job done), my heart was broken (as the hearts of many others, according to social media), especially because of that. I’m a very introverted person who has always been considered the “weird” one, the most sensitive and ‘overly caring’ person in any group of friends. I also came out late and moved around a lot, so finding my community, a place where I could be myself was always a struggle for me. For a long time I was obsessed with finding my people, without realising that I had to understand and accept myself first. I had to be proud of my feelings and look for people who were similar to me, instead of forcing myself to adapt and fit in where I felt uncomfortable.
Inevitably, watching a group of queer people who are not afraid to care about their friends “so loudly”, to use Nick Nelson’s words, was painful. After all, I was seeing what I missed: the queer joy of discovering your sexuality when you are younger, the pride and celebration of it, as well as feeling safe surrounded by people who understand you and truly love you no matter what.
Then I realised that Heartstopper is not only a celebration of what I don’t have, but also what I have. Thousands, millions of people are watching the same TV show and reading the same graphic novel at the same time. They are sharing the same feelings, seeing each other for the first time on TV and strongly opposing a macho view of society. Thousands, millions of people who live in countries where just being themselves is illegal, where their rights have been overturned and their bodies “debated“’” find comfort in the apparently and yet vital piece of art, as a TV show and a graphic novel. Thousand, millions of people are saying: “We are here, we exist.” And we are all connected and find each other, even if we live far away. It is not just about me then, Heartstopper is about us.
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