The following article contains quotes from the reviewed series that address self-harm and eating disorder. If you need help with this topics, you can seek assistance from Psychosocial Counseling, for example: Psychosoziale Beratung Göttingen.
Whether one identifies as asexual, bisexual, or lesbian, Heartstopper beautifully showcases the wide spectrum of love. In its second season, Alice Oseman’s series not only delves into Charlie and Nick’s relationship, but also explores the lives of various supporting characters. From Tao and Elle to Darcy and Tara, the story follows their journeys of discovering the true meaning of love while confronting significant challenges along the way.
By Julia Klumpe
Picture: Cropped photo, Original: Samuel Dore, © 2022, Netflix Inc.
After the magnificent success of Heartstopper season one, Netflix announced in May 2022 two more seasons. The second season of Heartstopper was released on August third, 2023. In cooperation with Alice Oseman, the writer of the original books, fans can now watch how the story of Charlie, Nick and their friend group continues. But the latest season not only shows what is going on in Charlie and Nick’s life, but also focuses on the side-characters like Tao, Elle, Isaac, Tara, Darcy and even some teachers of Truham. Repeatedly, different characters must solve some major problems and often face a seemingly impossible challenge on their own.
Charlie and Nick
One may think that Charlie and Nick can finally live in a peaceful relationship after all the drama they have been through in season one. Season two shows the difficulties for a same sex couple in daily life. Nick faces two major problems in the beginning: first, he needs to pass his finals and second, he wants to come out, so he and Charlie can be together whenever they like. This leads to immense time pressure and the false conclusion that he must come out. The process of understanding that people who are part of the LGBTQIA+ Community do not need to come out shows that being gay or so still is seen as not normal in comparison to heterosexual people who do not need to come out at all. Society still has a heteronormative perspective of the world and coming out is seen as something one needs to do because it is different and must be mentioned.
This sentence from the rugby-coach, who happens to be lesbian, in episode three makes Nick slowly realise that coming out is not necessary for him to be open about his relationship to Charlie. However, he struggles a lot. Charlie tries to make Nick understand what is important by saying, »But why should they have to see? We’ve been so obsessed with the idea of coming out, it’s like we’ve forgotten why we wanted to do it in the first place. It’s not for them«. Charlie tries hard to support Nick, but he simultaneously deals with some intense trauma himself. Through the whole season, the viewer notices that Charlie is not eating enough. Only after a physical collapse, he admits having an eating disorder. The way of handling the eating disorder by not handling it until the very last episode is realistic. In the further course it becomes clear that Charlie does not only have an eating disorder but also tends to cut himself. The reason why he started all of this is made clear.
»I thought things were better nowadays. People would just call me disgusting to my face. And it went on for so long, I think I started to believe what they were saying. It made me really hate myself. So much that I… I used to… I used to cut myself sometimes. I don’t wanna feel like that anymore.«
In this way Heartstopper season two refers to the first season and the bullying and toxic relationship with Ben. Heartstopper shows what hate and homophobia can do to people but also reminds the viewer that there are still good people out there who want to help. The ending of season two also gives a little sneak peek of the third season which hopefully makes Charlie’s healing process the subject of discussion.
Elle and Tao
As said before, Heartstopper also presents the stories of many side-characters such as Elle and Tao. Season one left a lot of questions about the relationship between Elle and Tao. The two seem to like each other but do not want to risk their friendship. Throughout the whole season, small details like lighting, hearts or leaves underline the status of connection between the characters. When Tao finally decides to fight for Elle, things get complicate: He changes too much for her which distances Elle from him. They decide to stay friends, but this decision does not last very long. During the trip to Paris both get closer to each other. The series plays with their relationship in a very cute and innocent way.
Tara and Darcy
Every relationship has its own problems. The seemingly perfect couple Tara and Darcy, who got introduced in the first season are inseparable. At least until Tara first says ›I love you‹to Darcy, but she does not return the gesture. Over time the audience learns about the background for her behaviour, especially about the difficulties she faces at home with her mother. Sentences like »I hide who I am when I’m at home« and »Sometimes my mom makes me hate myself« make clear once more under what kind of pressure people of the LGBTQIA+ Community are standing. Even in her own home, Darcy cannot live her life because her mother would never accept her daughter to be a lesbian. Heartstopper represents the beauty of diversity but also draws attention to social evils.
The introvert Isaac is silently in on everything. First the viewer may think that Isaac finally gets into a relationship as well. Being an introvert, it is hard to make friends or even find love, but Isaac meets James, a classmate. But the attentive viewer should notice no illustrations, and Isaac also seems like he is not fully in love with James. During a talk he admits that he has never had feelings like they described it in books. He questions himself by saying, »I think there might be something wrong with me«. In a society which tends to sexualize pretty much everything, it is hard to not feel the same. In conclusion, Isaac questions himself. But again, Heartstopper shows the beauty of a diverse society. In fact, the show makes people understand that the introverted Isaac is asexual without any words.
Mr. Ajayi and Mr. Farouk
»Well, when you don’t figure out you’re gay until your late 20s, you tend to miss out on those beautiful gay teenage experience … Probably a bit too late for me to have any youthful moments of discovery«: With this sentence Heartstopper not only represents teenage love but also focuses on other generations. Mr. Farouk struggles with him not realising that he is gay until later in life. The show advocates in a loving and beautiful way that it is okay to not immediately figure out one’s sexuality.
»I just don’t wanna annoy you or burden you«
The second season of Heartstopper shows its viewers some severe issues caused by the characters’ own behaviour but mainly by the society. Being queer can be beautiful but also goes along with a lot of problems caused by the heteronormative society. This social evil shows that being gay, lesbian, bi, trans, or asexual is not always easy and surely is not as established in society as being heterosexual. The fact that people feel the need to come out shows those dissimilarities. But the second season not only pays attention to topics like sexuality, but also represents many generations and addresses mental health illnesses like eating disorders or self-harm. People can do evil, and it surely affects others but there always will be good people in the world, friends like Nick, Charlie, Tara, Darcy, Issac, Elle and Tao who support and love each other. However, some questions remain unanswered. The main question is: How is Charlie going to deal with his mental health problems? Will he be okay? Hopefully the third season will answer these questions in such a beautiful way as the second season does.