This article contains spoilers for Heartstopper season 2.
Netflix’s second season of Heartstopper is breaking viewership records for LGBTQ+ programming, transcending the typical queer audience it would be expected to garner. Nick Nelson (Kit Connor) and Charlie Spring’s (Joe Locke) deeply romantic teenage fling started to blossom into a real relationship in season 2, and with that development came discussions around coming out, eating disorders, communication, and sexual consent. The series has a unique way of painting every scenario gold that could possibly trouble its characters.
Heartstopper’s eternal queer ecstasy is an absolute Godsend for the LGBTQ+ community, allowing young viewers to see a bright light of possibility and potential for their adolescent romantic prospects and on into adulthood. In a world with so much darkness and depression, having this type of upbeat version of living queer is undeniably vital. This positivity has an odd way of making LGBTQ+ viewers sad at the same time, though. Our real world is still filled with homophobia, discrimination, and even politicians trying to reverse history and manifest regression in the sphere of progression toward an accepting and diverse future.
Even if you live in an area where queer people are mostly free to live their lives, you may not have had the same teen experiences as the kids in Heartstopper. There wasn’t any type of media like this show even a decade ago, leaving many generations before zoomers out in the dark searching for their version of a Nick and Charlie partnership. Kids who grew up pre-2010s and 2020s often stayed in the closet throughout their high school years.
Some kids would pretend to be straight; others would just not even attempt a crack at romance out of fear of being the victim of a hate crime or getting bullied. This created many lost queer souls who long for the type of euphoric epiphanies and dynamic revelations that Heartstopper creates. Fortunately, creator Alice Oseman and the writers behind the screen understand that Nick and Charlie aren’t truly representative of most viewers’ realities. Enter Mr. Farouk (Nima Taleghani).
Nick’s study hall supervisor is initially just seen as an uptight hardass, the stereotypical no-fun instructor who eats, breathes, and sleeps school. When the students take their trip to Paris in the middle of the season, Mr. Farouk is one of the chaperones with Mr. Ajayi (Fisayo Akinade) during the vocational reprieve. The chemistry between the two educators slowly starts to simmer and boil, right up until the big reveal about Mr. Farouk’s past.
The usually barbarically loud teacher has a quiet, intimate moment of reflection on his past with Mr. Ajayi, telling him that he didn’t figure out he was gay until his mid-to-late 20s and therefore is far past the time of youthful first-time gay experiences. Mr. Ajayi could have responded cynically by agreeing with him but instead offered a moment of solace, saying that there is no age limit to sexual discovery. The pair share a night together in bed later in the episode, a much more mature scene than what we’re usually used to with Nick and Charlie or Tao and Elle (William Gao and Yasmin Finney).
For so many older viewers of Heartstopper, this small but powerful side storyline is one of the most impactful on TV this year. A show with nothing but puppy love and playful makeout sessions between 15-year-olds makes sure not to leave behind those who already were for so much of their lives. Mr. Farouk becomes a symbol of queer potential regardless of age, letting everyone know they should never look to the past, only to the future for their Prince Charming. There truly is no time like the present. With so many progressive LGBTQ+ groups and activists trying to open doors for the community, it will give queer people the chance to have butterflies in their stomachs, have their first same-sex kiss, and regain lost years of their lives.
The adorable roll in the hay between the Truham Grammar School teachers actually isn’t the first time TV has tried to give visibility to non-teen gay folks. Always pioneering and never afraid to challenge social norms, The Golden Girls had a storyline in the 1980s about Blanche’s (Rue McClanahan) gay brother, Clayton (Monte Markham), and his journey to self-acceptance and coming out as a middle-aged man. Clayton is closeted until his sister reaches retirement age, finally having the courage to live authentically after years in a bearded marriage to a woman. If Clayton had resigned himself to all the time he wasted in a heterosexual coupling, he would never have experienced true love for the first time.
Hulu’s The Bisexual, released in 2018 and running for one season, comes at this from an entirely different angle. Protagonist Leila (Desiree Akhavan) has lived for years as a lesbian until she reluctantly starts seeing a man. Bisexuality is severely misunderstood in both the straight and gay communities, often leaving a mess of confusion for outsiders in its wake. Heartstopper also addresses this throughout its second season with Nick’s insistence on not letting his friends and peers categorize him as gay. In The Bisexual, if Leila didn’t listen to her gut and open her mind to new experiences at an older age, she would be forever closed off from her authentic self.
The universal feeling that love is tied to youth transcends any sexuality, making all three of these TV storylines that buck this trend both inspiring and the ultimate food. Don’t mope over what is already done. Listen to yourself and how you feel in the moment. You never know how that controlled spontaneity might just change your future forever. You might just get your very own Heartstopper moment!
All eight episodes of Heartstopper season 2 are available to stream on Netflix now.