You’ve Never Seen Anything Like ‘Heartbreak High’

heartbreak high

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This generation is painfully self-aware, and that scares the hell out of the rest of the world. 

Sometimes though, it impresses them and they talk about us condescendingly, claiming that “the kids will be alright”, without acknowledging why we have no choice but to dismantle systems that were built before our time. 

Mostly though, comment sections in the stale crevices of the internet are furious that we would like human beings to be treated like human beings. They absolutely hate it when we protest against the government for taking the piss and not doing their jobs. And for some reason, they really don’t like that we care if the planet goes up in flames. They simply can’t stand us! They even come up with cute and frosty nicknames for us — which, ironically, would make the hottest tramp stamps.

Yes, we’re baby vigilantes, born with a disdain for authority and an awareness of the fucked-up world around us. But we’re also just a bunch of kids. We’re really just starting our lives and (for a lot of us) this is our first time on this planet. We’re stretching our Bambi legs and we’re bound to be a little wobbly. Things that seem silly and small can feel like the highest stakes we’ve ever experienced. We’re learning lessons as we go, messing things up, kissing each other and crying about everything. It’s beautiful. And it’s really, really hard to capture the nuances on a screen.

We’ve been spoon-fed countless shitty shows that are supposedly made “for us”, that encapsulate our coming-of-age experience. It often feels like 10 or so people got in a room and yapped about what they think they know about teenagers, and nobody wrote a single note down beyond the baseline archetype. The end product is one-note characters, cringe dialogue and a cancellation (or continually delayed production). 

Heartbreak High is our vindication. We can see ourselves in its layered characters. We can finally feel like our stories are being told with care. 

heartbreak high season 2

Image Credit: Tom Weatherall

In the show’s second season, Malakai (Tom Weatherall) explores a new side to himself as he realises he’s attracted to a new guy. While there’s more than a few moments of him looking for the best way to communicate how he’s feeling, there’s never any shame attached to understanding his sexuality. For a lot of queer people, it’s a canon event that “coming out” is often motivated by wanting to be with another person, so it felt incredibly validating and healing for Malakai to still proudly claim his bisexuality even when his first queer relationship didn’t work out.

Peeling back the layers of Heartbreak High’s antagonist Spider (Bryn Chapman-Parish) reflected a beautifully orchestrated understanding of teenagehood. Although we met Spider’s mum and had a painful dinner with her (where Spider spoke French????) The show didn’t ask us to feel sorry for him, or to believe that his behaviour was accidental. Spider saw his future staring back at him, and he knew that wasn’t who he wanted to be, so he asked for help.

Amerie (Ayesha Madon), Ca$h (Will McDonald), and Quinni (Chloé Hayden) had incredibly tough scenes this season. Amerie (Ayesha Madon) experiences the chilling reality of a medical abortion in the discomfort of a share-house. This is one of the most profound and honest depictions of what a body goes through in that situation, and how a teenage mind processes it. Ca$h (Will McDonald) experiences the emotional lacerations that occur when we’re loyal to people who are no good for us — a lesson that stings extra hard when it’s your first time leaving those people behind. Quinni (Chloé Hayden) brought something incredibly special this season — a true depiction of what it’s like to stop playing by the rules. 

Neurotypical rules and a lot of things that you’re “supposed” to do in this world don’t make sense to Quinni, and they don’t make sense to neurodivergent people. We’re forced to mask ourselves, settle down, bite our tongue because that’s what we’ve taught ourselves to do in order to blend in. When Quinni dropped her mask and was honest when she usually would’ve played along, it made people uncomfortable. It’s in that discomfort that we find the importance of representation — see it, feel it, understand the effort that neurodivergent folks make to accommodate everyone around them.

In the first season, Darren (James Majoos) and Sasha (Gemma Chua-Tran) were boxed into being “sex-obsessed” and “mega-woke” respectively, but that didn’t allow any room for nuance in the characters. But in Season 2, for all the right reasons, we saw their rigid identities crumble before our eyes. Seeing Sasha chucking a tantrum because she had to take the bins out was a very healing moment for her (and us). And although it doesn’t feel like abstinence is going to work for Darren, it seems that they’re actively learning to de-prioritise sex to deepen their relationship with Ca$h – who doesn’t want it at all.

With hyper-Australian references to rage, bin chickens, Clothing The Gaps “Honour Country” posters, and a cameo from Sydney’s iconic Danny Lim, Heartbreak High fucking gets it. They know us, because they are us. The cast is made up of people who look like us. The soundtrack is made up of songs that we have on our playlists (they’re right — we would absolutely say an emotional “bye cunt” and walk away listening to Cub Sport’s ‘Come On Mess Me Up’).

Finally, we have a show that was actually made for us. Ignore the lazy comparisons to Euphoria and Sex Education — you’ve never seen anything like Heartbreak High.

Cover Image: @bryncp [Bryn Chapman-Parish]


Written by Talecia Vescio, your local Aquarius. Find her on Instagram as @taleciavescio if you wanna be friends.