Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Darryl Peers: Let Scotland have joyful Heartstopper moments all of its own

Kit Connor (left) and Joe Locke star as Nick and Charlie in Heartstopper (Photo: Netflix)
Kit Connor (left) and Joe Locke star as Nick and Charlie in Heartstopper (Photo: Netflix)

Newly released Netflix TV series, Heartstopper, has thundered into the national consciousness in recent weeks.

For a sweet, zippy drama aimed at teenagers, it has stimulated a wide-ranging conversation about LGBTQ+ representation in British culture among audiences of all ages.

One of the show’s most powerful assets is its insistence on joy. The blossoming of a teenage romance between two boys is rarely depicted as, at its core, a simple thing.

It is practically a tradition for queer representation in TV shows or film to focus on often harrowing experiences of homophobia, transphobia, and loss. Much as it is important for the negative consequences of these to be depicted, as Channel 4 series It’s A Sin has proven, sadness is only one aspect of queer life.

Among programmes offering more positive narratives, in-built unrealities often blunt the audience’s ability to connect. In the case of Netflix’s Sex Education, for example, its placelessness, its articulate dialogue, its reliance on coincidence for important plot developments, and the casting of adult actors in teenage roles pushes it towards the genre of escapist fantasy.

Feasible depictions of joy

Heartstopper is based on a web comic, written by Alice Oseman, who also adapted it for TV. In interviews, she has emphasised how important she felt it was that the show was “set in Britain” and that its teenagers were played by “real teens”. She writes dialogue for her characters that is frequently spare and awkward.

These choices are important for creating Heartstopper’s “real” feel. And, it’s the real feel that lends power and substance to the “joyful” relationship between Charlie and Nick at the show’s centre.

Happy stories can sometimes feel unrealistic or naïve. In the case of Sex Education, while it offers several positive representations of queer relationships and identities, it does so in a context rifled with improbabilities. In that way, although the show looks as if it is set “in the real world”, it might be considered no less fantastical than a dragon-packed episode of Game of Thrones.

2021 Channel 4 drama, It’s A Sin, was a heartbreaking look back at the height of the HIV and AIDS crisis (Photo: Channel 4)

A sad story often seems more feasible. This is certainly the case with It’s A Sin, which shines a light on regularly overlooked realities in the UK’s recent history concerning the HIV and AIDS crisis and Section 28.

Heartstopper’s achievement is that it offers feasible depictions of joy. It is this quality that has meant adult queer viewers have connected with the series, with many saying that it shows the youth they might have had if not for an assortment of stigmas and laws.

I was able to let my guard down while watching

This chimes with how I felt watching it. A few minutes into the first episode, I realised I could trust it. I could let my guard down and root for the two characters to get together; it wasn’t going to make me feel foolish for becoming invested in that outcome by making one of them straight in the end.

My chest was raw with feelings I didn’t – and still don’t – understand

And, it’s because my guard was down that I reacted to the show so emotionally. My chest was raw with feelings I didn’t – and still don’t – understand. I was able to be immensely vulnerable in front of the programme; to let it affect me without the usual rationalism or cynicism I often deploy to protect myself against series where queerness is tokenised, oversimplified, or ascribed an inherent relationship with tragedy or trauma.


When Heartstopper raises the possibility that Nick fancies a girl despite his chemistry with Charlie, the script nods to a turn it might have taken: introducing an obstacle that reinstates a realistic straightness to an unrealistically queer love story.

Minutes later, the threat is quashed when the girl turns out to be a lesbian who helps Nick explore his own sexuality. I felt so happy, I cheered.

Space for so many more (Scottish) stories

When handling LGBTQ+ representation, in which uncomplicated depictions of joy are so rare, a writer holds a lot of power over their viewers’ perceptions of themselves as they depict queer relationships.

It’s a responsibility that Heartstopper knows it is holding. Even a joyful story like this elicits a lot of melancholy. I felt that, too: a grief for the adolescence that might have – perhaps should have – been.

Scotland’s north and north-east places have many of their own queer stories to be told (Photo: Ross Bullimore/Shutterstock)

That being said, Heartstopper is set in a thoroughly English world. For all the kinship I felt with it, it reminded me that I’ve never seen a story like this in a Scottish context.

Writing a novel, as I am at the moment, set entirely in the north-east of Scotland, it’s not lost on me that perhaps the story I’m hoping will be told is my own. But, there is space for so many more.

The joy of queer Scots takes many forms, and we need stories which insist that this is, and can be, the case.

Darryl Peers is a writer from the north-east of Scotland

Already a subscriber? Sign in





Please enter the name you would like to appear on your comments. (It doesn’t have to be your real name - but nothing rude please, we are a polite bunch!) Use a combination of eight or more characters that includes an upper and lower case character, and a number.

By registering with [[site_name]] you agree to our Terms and Conditions and our Privacy Policy

Or sign up with

Facebook Google



Or login with

Forgotten your password? Reset it