Why Has Everyone Fallen in Love With Netflix’s ‘Heartstopper’?
If someone asked you to draw a Venn diagram showing the overlap between ted lasso and euphoria, you might think it would turn out to be two circles. Ted Lasso, after all, is the heart-warming fish-out-of-water story of a chronically chipper American coaching a struggling English football team. euphoria, meanwhile, is the glitter-drenched, Extremely Online tale that makes us wonder if we’re more afraid of Gen Z than they are of us.
But the overlap, slight as it may be, does exist—and Netflix’s new series heart stopper you reside solidly and sweetly within that sliver.
Based on Alice Osseman‘s self-published webcomic (and now New York Times best-selling graphic novel series), the series follows Charlie (joe locke), a 14-going-on-15-year-old boy at a British all-boys school. He’s queer, and coming out was n’t his choice of him, but things are going pretty okay, all things considered. Then he meets Nick (Kit Connor), a classmate in the year above him—a rugby player with the demeanor of a golden retriever who is presumed to be straighter than straight. Spoiler: Viewers—and Nick himself—discover that he’s, well, not.
The show, which premiered in late April on Netflix, has a rarified 100% rating with critics on Rotten Tomatoeyes viewers streamed it for almost 24 million hours in the week between April 25 and May 1—a number that doesn’t even count those who streamed the show between its release on April 22 and the 25th. There’s no question that heart stopper you have connected. But why has this show about queer British teens captured audiences who are not necessarily queer or British, or teen?
que heart stopper posits, far beyond the reach of a teen romance, is this: What if the kids are actually alright? The show combines the kids-these-days reality of euphoria but colors it with ted lasso–esque optimism. According to heartstopper, people are good at their core, even when they’re behaving badly. The show is also part of the recent TV-rom-com wavejoining surprisingly sweet stories like Our Flag Means Death. Just as that pirate comedy exudes sweetness despite the number of lives and limbs lost at swordpoint on the show, heart stopper stays positive as it tackles potentially traumatic issues like bullying, homophobia, coming out, and the age-old general angst of being a teenager. When Charlie’s friend Elle (Yasmin Finney) transfers to the all-girls school after she transitions, for example, she agonizes not over whether her new classmates will “find out,” but the loneliness that comes with being the new kid—and suspecting that she’s catching feelings for her friend Tao (William Gao).
that heart stopper hews so closely in tone and content to the original comic is no doubt thanks to Oseman’s involvement. She is the credited creator and writer on all of season one’s eight episodes, a role she’s had since optioning the series to See-Saw Films in 2019.
“I’m not the sort of author who could just give away my story and just let people do what they want with it,” she tells Vanity Fair. and heart stopper is unmistakably her story, from the animated leaves that occasionally blow across the frame—a signature of the comic—to shots that carefully recreate panels of the comic. That hopeful spirit, the idea that characters can bear burdens and not break under them, is also an Oseman trademark.
“[It’s] kind of the core concept of what heart stopper is, and it’s exactly the same in the comics,” she says. “It’s always about exploring real issues that can be dark issues—real, serious things that happen to people—while also keeping the tone so positive, so optimistic. It’s really difficult to get that balance.”
Yasmin Finney, who plays Elle in the series, is 18 herself. “I literally screamed when I saw [the casting call], because I was like, What is going on? Ella it’s like, a trans girl of color, she’s brown, she’s in school— she she’s me, basically, ”she says. The actor “truly fell in love” with the material during her auditions, which were all on Zoom until the final chemistry read.
“It was just an overwhelming sensation of like, This is my time. This is the trans community’s time to have somebody that they can look up to in the media,” she says.