While shows like “Degrassi” and “Boy Meets World” were met with their own less-than-ideal versions of reboots, the production of a modern “Heartbreak High” actually did justice to the original hit Australian series. Loosely basing the plot off of that from the 90s, Netflix decided to create a new and improved version of the beloved show using Gen Z slang, an all-inclusive cast and drama that would shake any of today’s young adults!
The show starts off strong with a friendship betrayal, fight scene and highschool scandal all within the first 15 minutes. The plot follows Amerie and Harper, former besties who created a mural in their highschool highlighting every romantic and casual encounter that has occurred between the student body, mapping everything from one-night stands to secret links. This wall – referred to as the “Incest Map” – has never seen the light of day outside of the two girls, until five minutes into the episode when Harper cancels her friendship with Amerie and announces the map’s existence to the school. Frantic to avoid another district scandal and possible lawsuit, the school principal gathers every student listed on the map and orders them to attend a specialized sex education class to pinpoint the importance of consent, and expose the risks of careless hookups. However, was it really that smart to take the most “troublesome” kids in the school and give them all exclusive access to one another? To make matters worse, the class sessions were referred to as Sexual Literacy Tutorials, or SLTs (pronounced “sluts”) for short. What did the principal think was going to happen?!
The show is a beautiful exposé of common fears of intimacy that many young adults face, essentially providing a safe space for viewers to identify with the variety of characters. And boy, what a variety that was. Not only did the producers do a great job on racial diversity, but they were sure to include many representations of alternative identities while casting, includingindividuals on the autism spectrum, characters who specified pronouns and presented as non-binary and even individuals who were only just discovering their identities as the show progressed. A trigger-warning is needed, however, as the show gave viewers a taste of future episodes with real-world plot controversies like parental neglect, drug abuse, police brutality and sexual assault present throughout the season.
There were moments where you either really resonated with a character, or truly despised another, which demonstrated just how well the producers developed the plot and invested time into the character roles. In full honesty, this show seemed a lot like an Australian version of “Sex Education”, which is another Netflix series centered around British highschool students who navigate their sexual awakenings through drama and other interactions. However, unlike “Sex Education”, “Heartbreak High” did a much better job at becoming progressively deeper with each episode, as well as with relating to the current generation of students we have seen in our own hallways. The wardrobes, dialogue and epic burns exchanged between the characters sounded like quotes from real-life teenagers of today. Of course, the show still had the occasional misogynistic and ignorant characters to fill the roles in appropriate settings, but aside from the Australian accents, I felt like I could’ve witnessed the plot taking place at an actual U.S. high school. This allowed the show to deliver the plot twists and underlying messages of empowerment without coming off as tacky or trying-too-hard to relate.
Now, in terms of explicitness, I have to be blunt. You will witness some steamy scenes, but it really does go hand-in-hand with the plot, and they don’t seem out of pocket like you would feel with the show “Shameless”. It had the same drama-appeal as shows like “Euphoria”, but is more believable to have taken place in a highschool, and more accurate in the representation of kids being kids. This show deserves at least a seven out of 10 rating, and will definitely be worth the second season. It hasn’t been renewed yet, but the original show lasted for seven seasons, so fingers crossed we get to see more of Amerie and Harper.
Photo Credit: IMBd