Heartstopping Heirs: Exploring the Current Landscape of YA LGBTQ+ Media

by Harper Spits


The screen adaptations of the beloved LGBTQ+ books Heartstopper and Red, White and Royal Blue have seen extremely high streaming charts. Graphic novel turned Netflix original, Heartstopper’s first season was instantly well received with many saying it filled a key gap in LGBTQ+ media, portraying an appropriate yet serious representation of queer experiences. It boasts a 100% Rotten Tomato score, so there was no surprise when Netflix renewed it for a second and third season.

Heartstopper Season 2 even earned the Taylor Swift stamp of approval, after her song “seven” was used in a heartwarming love confession scene between girlfriends Tara and Darcy. A comment on X stated that the song must’ve required “big bucks” to use, but Matt Biffa, the show’s music supervisor claimed,

“No, she (Taylor Swift) just thought the scene was beautiful and we were then able to make it work.” 

Taylor Swift featured on the soundtrack alongside others such as, Beabadoobee, The 1975, Conan Gray, Lucy Dacus and a beautiful cover of the Cure’s ‘Just Like Heaven,’ by Baby Queen. 

This season, like the first, was very faithful to its original graphic novel in relation to our main characters Nick and Charlie. The school trip to Paris allowed ample time for romantic montages now that Nick and Charlie were officially boyfriends, as well as Tao and Elle having further time to explore their romance, and a deeper dive into Imogen’s story. Season 2 also addressed some darker issues as Nick attempted to come out to those around him, reminding Charlie of his damaging experiences when coming out. This led to Charlie’s disordered eating and previous habits of self-harm being addressed, reminding audiences that the show doesn’t exist through rose-coloured glasses.

Amazon Prime’s Red, White and Royal Blue, a standalone novel by Casey Mcquiston, became the service’s number one movie worldwide on release. There were initially worries from fans about the chemistry between Taylor Zakhar Perez and Nicholas Galitzine, cast as the main couple, Alex and Henry. Some cited a particular TikTok clip of the two arguing about height as proof that the adaptation of their favourite book had been ruined. However, in watching the film Alex and Henry felt very genuinely cast, so it was upsetting to see some of the key elements of their relationship development removed. 

The lack of June was very surprising. She is Alex’s sister within the book and operates as a key character in the ‘White House Trio’ who are the support system Alex leans on throughout the story. The crisis Alex experiences over his sexuality represented within the book is also sadly left out of the film. His film-adapted character quickly accepts and moves on with the premise he is bisexual, perhaps reshaping the overthinking persona those familiar with the book perceive him to have. This may be due to the film’s removal of another key character in Alex’s life, Rafael Luna, an openly gay politician, who was a major inspiration for him. His parents are canonically divorced in the book as well, and their togetherness in the movie is just another factor contributing to the recharacterisation of Alex. Red, White and Royal Blue’s original film was actually revealed to be three hours long, with many fans begging to see the extended cut that could provide further development for Alex’s characterisation. It was disappointing to see the removal of key emotional plotlines from the book when Heartstopper demonstrated this can be carried over onto the screen. However, Heartstopper’s author Alice Oseman is directly involved with the Netflix show, so the commitment to its graphic novel can be attributed to that. 

Both Heartstopper and Red, White and Royal Blue demonstrate that LGBTQ+ media is being appreciated and popularised. Casey Mcquiston’s two other queer novels currently have not been picked up for adaptation, but Alice Oseman’s other novels within the Heartstopper universe are expected to have spin-offs produced or be incorporated into the show’s plot itself.

via Twitter

Harper Spits is a current first year student studying a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in English and Creative Writing. She can easily be identified by her pop culture rants, specialised in Phoebe Bridgers and boygenius lore. She has an affinity for buying more books then she can read and collecting pretty vinyl pressings.

Blitz Editor

Anandi Ganguly

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