I watched Heartbreak High and now I am terrified about what my kids are up to. The Netflix show that I thought would be great for Autism acceptance has me terrified.
Excitedly I began to binge watch this series on Netflix. I was most excited about watching autistic actor Chloe Hayden portray an autistic student. To have an authentic autistic character being played by an autistic actress is ground-breaking. It does so much in breaking stereotypes and promoting inclusion and autism acceptance. Because of this it successfully highlights so authentically the struggles, nuances, and stereotypical views so often encountered by many autistic females.
What I did not expect, however, is the amount of sex and drug taking that does happen in this fictitious high school of Hartley High. Don’t get me wrong; I am no prude or goody two shoes. I had my rebel days as a teenager. I experimented, and I thought I was cool AF (see what I did there?). But, as a parent now, with two teenagers and a child in their 20’s, I am gripped with paranoia and fear. Are kids partaking in this behaviour in real life? As a parent, this has sent me into a fully-fledged ADHD hyperfocus. I need to ensure my kids understand that these behaviours are concerning and dangerous. They need to feel safe in asking us for help, without fear of judgement.
As a family, I’d like to think we are super open, and nothing is off-limits. However, I do remember being shocked by a conversation with my eldest. It was about how they were mortified at being offered Ketamine on a toilet seat, a public toilet seat, gross. Then in episode 5 of Heartbreak high, you guessed it, they are doing “K” in a toilet cubicle. This stuff is happening.
The new series addresses everything from racial profiling of indigenous students to autism and the LGBTQI+ community. The storyline focuses on issues arising from identity and acceptance. For that, this show gets a huge thumbs up!
Challenging Autistic stereotypes and Autism Acceptance.
Chloe Hayden, in this role, is a standout. She addresses autistic masking, and sensory overwhelm, actively stims in scenes, and addresses the conflict around diagnosis disclosure; she even has a cheeky dig at SIA in a scene where one of her school friends tells her she is too emotionally intelligent to be autistic.
I would encourage any parent to watch this show. It highlights the fact that our kids need us, they need our guidance and our acceptance, and they need our unconditional love. It also highlights that autistic kids need opportunities to learn and be open about identity, sexuality, and drugs. You may think your child is not socially active, so THAT talk can wait. I can assure you they probably have already been on that porn site and have an unrealistic view of sex and relationships. We need to navigate that ship to a safe harbour. It may be uncomfortable; I can guarantee it will sometimes be terrifying. If you get my drift, you may also want to ask your kids to put their own socks in the wash from now on.
So, what are the five things I have learned from watching HBH?
- Kids are sexually active at a young age. The kids are very open about sex and their sexuality. For us, Gen x or even millennials, this may be a shock. If you thought the Breakfast club or even 91/2 weeks was racy, hang on to your Highrise jeans because that was tame! Whether you like it or not, you must be honest and open with your kids.
- Kids are very open and accepting of identity. Be it racial, sexual, or disability. This was the most encouraging thing to take away from this series. Acceptance and willingness to embrace diversity is encouraging and can only lead to good things.
- Resilience does not equate to healthy mental health. It is important not to be fooled by their brave façade; it often hides trauma and anxiety. Kids need to feel safe in being their authentic selves. Sometimes you need to listen without offering a solution.
- Schools are often restricted by outdated curriculum and policies. Throughout the series of Heartbreak High, we witness teachers who want to be better but are often limited by policy, quotas, and outdated curriculum. Because of this it is up to us as parents, to keep pushing and advocating for what we know our kids need. We need to keep pushing Autism acceptance.
- We cannot protect our kids all of the time. As terrifying as that sounds, it is true. We must instead ensure that our kids feel safe enough to talk and confide in us without fear of judgment and consequence.