The following are spoilers for the Netflix series, Heartbreak High.
Heartbreak High is a fresh spin on an established Australian classic, with Hartley High getting a major facelift. This is not a 1990s show, but it is a collection of extremely diverse teenagers worthy of their own deep dives.
Quinn "Quinni" Gallagher-Jones, played by actress and neurodiversity advocate Chloe Hayden, is a minor in a sexual literacy class after her name appears on a map of school hook-ups. She is an intuitive artist with a fair share of flaws and a fairly stable home life. She understands how this affects her from her day-to-day life to her intimate relationships.
Quinni's performance as Matilda in Everything's Gonna Be Okay was wonderful, and Hayden's performance in Heartbreak High was superb.
In the Best Possible Way, Subverting Stereotypes
When Quinni is presented, there are certain stereotypes that are immediately dismissed. Stereotypes about autistic people's disinterest, all tying to the notion that we have a childlike mentality. All of which are entirely untrue, and all of which are unfortunately perpetuated through fiction.
We want her to succeed and pursue the interests she loves rather than conforming to the expectations and desires of others around her. We want her to greet you with compassion rather than dismissal, and we feel bad when she's faced with eye-rolls or ridicule. These are just a few of the things Quinni does well at school. She speaks openly and refreshingly about these situations.
A Realistic View of Relationships
Quinni's development is portrayed in a show about relationships, which includes her love interest Sasha (Gemma Chua-Tran) and her best friend Darren (James Majoos). What is interesting about Quinni's story in the show is that she does not want her relationship to fail.
Sasha's friendship with Quinni starts out quite sweet, but it becomes quite clear how little she understands her. We are all emphatically on Quinni's side because, regardless of whether or not you are autistic, having someone do that to you would be devastating.
Quinni and Darren are incredible close companions who stand up for each other when she needs it the most. Darren, despite coming off as savage and catty, always comes to Quinni's aid when she needs it, and Quinni is Darren's rock through their own tense plot. This friendship is huge in comparison to the one with no conflict or drama.
When I was a queer, autistic kid in my high school musical, Quinni was a melodramatic musical, and I too, experienced the shock of being shut off from people, I too was overprotected, and all the things Quinni embraces with joy I now regret doing away with.
Quinn Gallagher-Jones might be one of the greatest autistic characters ever created on film. I hope to see much more of her, as well as the energetically outstanding Chloe Hayden, in the future.