High school is a bittersweet time for everyone. Add being queer, confused, or anything that doesn’t fit into our heteronormative society, and you’re bound to end up with a few issues. However, new queer generations have something we didn’t have during these troubling times: representation or better yet, some visibility of queer representation in TV shows, films, and streaming platforms. The shows I enjoyed watching as I was growing up didn’t feature any queer leads or even side characters. We came of age thanks to queer representation in other resources and platforms.
Some of the following “iconic” shows have included queer side characters with significant amounts of screen time, or have even based whole shows on experiences of coming out, sexual assault, or coming-of-age problems that queer youth face. However, most of them have felt short because they’ve failed to depict real queer experiences and some serious challenges queer youth face. While shows like “Love, Victor”, “Heartstopper”, “ÉLITE”, “Atypical” and a few others have shined a light on being LGBTQIA+ in high school… The “Heartbreak High” reboot got absolutely everything right about being queer in a hetero-dominated high school and it’s time that we talked about it.
(Spoilers ahead: read at your own risk)
The show centers around Amerie, a “hook-up” map, as she and a group of students are thrown into a mandated sex-ed class. In this group, there’s a bit of everything. While I won’t get into details about the plot, sex scandals, and overall solution of this first season, I will say that this reboot has a very clear message:
being a queer teenager sucks.
As a queer person, I saw myself represented in almost every character in this reboot. From defined queer characters to those exploring their sexual orientation, some dealing with troubled parents, and even autism, the show gave us a whole variety of characters dealing with difficult problems like sexual assault, bullying, drug abuse, gang violence, pressure, and the lack of proper sexual, consensual, and positive education while struggling to be a teenager and fitting in.
High school me would have understood so much of what I was going through if this type of show was normalized during my formative years. Even as an “adult” I felt myself healing some of those unresolved issues we set aside from high school. This is because the show focuses on normalizing all of these interactions and situations and how they’re just simply out of our control. I saw each character deal with their situations. This show came at a very specific time and it got everything right.
Amongst the message of the show, the fashion was a work of art itself. From designer pieces to Shein & Forever 21 tops, the clothing of the show celebrates everything a teenager resembles: exploration and being all over the place. While the show is based around a public school in Australia, it felt nice to appreciate a queer cast wear everything I would’ve wished to wear during high school casual daysー even some pieces that I would still wear now without a second thought (once I have the budget to dress designer).
If you grew up queer, confused, and maybe still are a mix of both, I highly suggest watching the show. Some teenage dramas can be annoying, but if you focus on the overall message, you might find yourself surprised and identified with some of the issues these characters go through. I don’t know if the original series showcased all of these problems, but this reboot did and all I can say is… when is the new season coming?