Alice Oseman on catharsis of creating Heartstopper after experience with ‘homophobic’ school

On the left, Alice Oseman stands in a blue and yellow jacket, smiling with her hands in her pockets. On the right, a still of Nick and Charlie by the seaside from the Netflix series Heartstopper.

Heartstopper writer Alice Oseman has shared how creating the series helped her to heal from her own experiences of homophobia at school.

Oseman, who wrote the graphic novels and co-produced the seminal Netflix series, said that she wanted to create something that was a “happier version” of her own experience in the education system.

Speaking as part of a Q&A at the BFI Future Film Festival, Oseman, who is asexual, was asked by an audience member about her own experiences at school, and whether creating the series was healing.

“I definitely think it was [healing] because the world of Heartstopper is very based on my school world. I went to an all girls school and over the road there was an all boys school and my school was very homophobic,” she explained in response.

“There just wasn’t any information about queerness at all, so writing Heartstopper, it is the happier version of what my school life was like. Lots of people felt that way.”

Heartstopper gained an overwhelming fanbase last spring, and was critically lauded for its joyful representation of young queer people.

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In just six episodes, Oseman managed to authentically portray bisexuality, a lesbian relationship, and the experiences of being a young trans person.

Oseman has also teased that the upcoming second season will focus on character Isaac’s asexuality.

Alice Oseman is the creator of Heartstopper. (Netlfix/Alice Oseman)

The decision to make Heartstopper largely about queer joy was intentional, Oseman added, with the writer wanting to steer clear of exploiting queer trauma.

Responding to another fan question at the BFI event, Oseman explained that prioritisng queer joy was on her mind “even when initially writing the graphic novels”. 

“I always saw Heartstopper as it explores dark things, it explores quite serious themes, but it’s always with a feeling of hope and optimism and the idea that things can get better and there is a happy ending,” she said.

“There are so many shows that are very dark and have sad endings that I love, and that I think are really important things in queer TV and film, but there should also be a space for joyful shows, particularly for teens.

“I don’t think there is a lot of queer TV for young teens so I was excited about Heartstopper bringing that to the table,” she added.

In addition to being vocal about LGBTQ+ inclusivity in the media, she has also been vocal in her support for the series’ cast.

Reflecting on Kit Connor being forced to come out as bisexual last October, Oseman told Attitude Magazine that she was “so angry” for the star.

Connor, who plays Nick Nelson, revealed he is bisexual after facing queerbaiting accusations.

“It made me so angry,” she said. “I care about this cast so deeply. I feel like a parent figure. What people were saying to him was so anti-Heartstopper.”

“How could you watch the show and then do that to him? Truly idiotic. Why would an 18-year-old know exactly who they are?”

Heartstopper season two has finished filming and is expected to be released at some point this year.

Heartstopper Volume 5 – the final book in Alice Oseman’s graphic novel series – is also expected to be released in the coming months.

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