Heartstopper season 2

Last year, I gave a lukewarm review of Heartstopper, including the first season of the TV series, and the webcomic up to that point. Today, I will offer a few comments on season 2. Because despite me being fairly critical, you know that I’m into it.

Coming out

If season 2 has any central focus, it’s on coming out. Nick has committed to coming out to people at school at the beginning of the season, and he only gets around to it near the end of the season.

On the one hand, I appreciate the portrayal of coming out as a long and arduous process. In many stories, coming out is portrayed as a single confrontation, usually with parents. But in real life, there are so many people to come out to, way more than you can reasonably fit in a story. When an LGBTQ person is committed to coming out, it really is a long-term commitment, and you never stop.

On the other hand, a huge benefit of coming out for gay/bi men is that you can actually have a relationship in public. There are just so many things you cannot do in a same-sex relationship while closeted because people would find out. But this does not seem to present much of a benefit to Nick and Charlie, because they’re pretty much already doing the things that you can’t actually do while closeted.  They somehow find an endless supply of private spaces.  Quite a number of these private spaces are actually in public, they’re just treated as private for no real reason.  The low-stakes story seems to remove some of the major issues that motivate people to come out.

Instead, coming out is conceptualized more as a step in personal growth. It’s important that Nick personally comes out to people, in a classic big announcement or confrontation. Other coming out strategies, such as dropping hints, or just being publicly seen in a relationship are totally beyond the show’s imagination. If anyone else finds out on their own, they should never mention it because that’s depriving Nick of his moment.

As I said in my review of Love, Victor, when characters have trouble gathering the courage to come out, I really want them to ask their friends to tell people—a totally legitimate strategy! But that’s because I’m thinking of coming out in practical terms, not as a coming of age narrative. You know, some people just don’t come out, and these narratives would have you believe their growth has been stunted.  But the truth is, coming out is just a thing that opens some doors.

The asexual story

Because I follow news on asexuality, I knew there was an asexual storyline in season 2 of Heartstopper well before it occurred. Alice Oseman is aromantic asexual, and had been saying for many months that there was an aromantic asexual character in the TV show. And then when the season came out, I saw numerous articles praising the ace storyline to high heaven. Despite the buzz, my own expectations were quite low. It is TV after all.

The aromantic asexual character is Isaac, who is exclusive to the TV series. Isaac is all quiet knowing smiles, and he’s constantly reading a book. He even reads books at parties, which is weird to say the least, but also suggests a rich internal world. After all, he could have just stayed home to read, but instead he chooses to hang out with friends, without compromising his own hobbies. I really like Isaac. Good on the actor to make him such a likeable character without hardly saying anything.

In season 2, a new character, James, obviously has a crush on Isaac and assumes he’s gay. They kiss but Isaac isn’t into it and he says he doesn’t really understand what a crush is supposed to feel like. There are a few conversations about this, and at the end of the season we see Isaac take a copy of Angela Chen’s Ace from the school library.

I don’t feel this is good or bad. Mostly, it’s just really short. It takes up a tiny fraction of screen time, far less than either of the secondary couples (Elle/Tao and Tara/Darcy).

I want to say that people who look for minority representation on TV have rock bottom standards. One tiny sliver of representation and they’re all over it. I’ve read lots of books and webcomics centering ace characters that make this look pathetic. There’s also a notable TV series that did way more than this 15 years ago.

On the other hand, this feels a lot like Bojack Horseman, where one of the seasons ended with the implication that Todd was asexual. It wasn’t much, but then there was a lot more in the next season. So, I look forward to seeing more in season 3.


  1. says

    Thanks for this review. I tend to stick with webcomics that have a lot of queer characters so mainstream TV’s idea of “representation” usually underwhelms me. And I’m AroAce.

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