Heartbreak High: a Beautifully Aussie Series for The Teens

Art by Rose Dixon-Campbell.

Netflix’s 2022 reboot Heartbreak High is practically an Aussie Euphoria with fewer drugs and musical numbers. Oh, and instead of Dominic Fike and Jacob Elordi (ironically a SKEVS graduate), we have Josh Heuston and Thomas Weatherall. Personally, I ate this show up and finished it in a grand total of one night, a skill I take great pride in. The niche references, accuracy and authentic representation were only the tip of the iceberg and if Netflix cancels yet another perfectly good, well-filmed, well-cast, diverse, accurate and relatable show I’m going to have to throw hands. The show is quasi-based on the cherished 1990’s series Heartbreak High that featured Australians from a variety of heritages and was later coined a ‘soap opera’. However, the reboot is truly a show for the teenagers of today, and I’m yet to see a more genuine representation of Australian teenage culture in mainstream media.

Creator Hannah Carroll Chapman said it best, “We’re giving this generation their own show” and give is exactly what they did. However, like anything released to public opinion, people had some negative and somewhat constructive commentary. Despite the show’s admirable inclusivity regarding race, gender, sexuality and neurological disorders (Chloe Harden being the first autistic Australian actor to co-lead a TV show), some believe the show lacked political diversity. The Guardian claimed “The new version of Hartley High feels like a school largely populated by the progressive, alternative type…”

The statement ‘new version’ in itself says multitudes about that argument. I do not believe the show was created to provide nostalgia for the once teenagers who watched the original 20 years ago. Chapman borrowed the school’s name, the foundation of some of the characters and the Aussie authenticity, but still aimed to build something completely new for a new generation of viewers. The purpose of this reboot is not to quench the reminiscent thirst of those in their 30s and 40s. It is a detailed and genuine representation of the Aussie high school experience. Perhaps critics of the show who cite a lack of realism are unaware of the norms and stereotypes that current or recent high schoolers are exposed to. I imagine that those suggest the population of Hartley High is unrealistic on the basis of its diversity are ignorant of contemporary high school cultures. This is not to diminish the fact that we as a society, including younger generations, have a considerable amount of improvement needed in regard to inclusion, but I would continue to argue that the show is predominantly realistic. Ultimately, comparing the new to the old is a futile act, especially if that was not a consideration for the 2022 version’s creators.

Nevertheless, I do agree that Chapman brushes past some confronting issues such as police brutality and STIs. However, that doesn’t reduce the worthy and commendable issues it does deeply explore. No one is claiming the show is perfect. There are a fair number of moments that are cringe or cliché, for example the uncomfortable teenage hook-ups that were a bit hard to watch, or at times maybe not the most impeccable acting. Not to mention that the students don’t wear a uniform, somewhat uncommon in most of Australia. However, overall, the ample amounts of accurate representation, entertainment and fresh Aussie TV is enough reason for you to at least give it a go.


Chapman’s audience isn’t searching for a show to run for decades or convey ‘vérité’ as The Guardian phrased it. Chapman’s Heartbreak High provides its target demographic with exactly what they want: authenticity, humour, niche and beautiful Australiana.

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