If there’s one thing the young actors in the Netflix revival of Heartbreak High know better than the writers, it’s the way the teenagers talk.
They often found words in the script that might have been a bit overzealous in an attempt to capture the spirit of youth. Thank God they were on hand to set the record.
“The amount of slang they put in and we’re like, ‘What is this?’ and they’re like, “That’s slang,” and I’m like, “No one says that word.” Broken heartChloe Hayden told News.com.au about this.
Broken heart writers had an invaluable resource – a group of creative young people involved in youth culture – and they knew how to use this power.
Hayden continued: “We have absolutely contributed to the way we spoke and the words we spoke and the slang we used and the things that are quintessential Australian culture for us because it has changed over the last 10, 20, 30 years. That’s what Australian culture is now.
“During [the writers] would be like “write it down, write it down, write it down!”.
Co-star James Majus chimed in: “We’ve been very lucky with the amount of collaboration and play that we’ve had.”
It’s not that Broken heart the actors were directing the writers, the fact is that everyone involved knew from the beginning that the key to a successful teen series was to be authentic.
If you’re making television for young people, and it’s written so clearly by people who were formed decades ago, viewers can smell something is wrong. Or, even worse, they might smell a geriatric millennial, Generation X or, God forbid, Baby Boomers.
original series Broken heart debuted in 1994 and ran until 1999. Spin-off of the 1993 film. A child with a broken heartthe show was known for being hard and down to earth.
They had sex, took drugs, and even, shockingly, were sometimes culturally diverse. In other words, they were Australian teenagers.
“The show has that kind of heritage and it’s so important to the DNA of Australian storytelling,” said Majus, who plays the biracial, non-binary Darren.
“[But] when was the last time we had a distinct Australian [teen] show? I mean, we have amazing teen shows tonight. There’s so much amazing stuff for young adults out there, but it’s been so long since we’ve had an Aussie that touches on stuff like this.
“He doesn’t shy away from deeper things, but he also has a lot of heart and is wholesome and campy and cartoony. We always say that we’ve never seen characters like the ones we’ve played on screen before in an Australian context, so that’s cool.
“The original had its context, and this one has its context too. This is more relevant. The original really reflected the issues of the time, and we’re trying to do that in this incarnation.”
Broken heartThe ensemble cast is led by Aisha Madon, whose character Ameri sets the events of the eight-episode series in motion. When Amery Harper’s best friend leaves her, she finds like-minded people in Queenie (Hayden) and Darren (Majus).
The trio take on the trials and tribulations of school, family and youthful love, but with each other. This is an inspiring image of friendship and kinship, the joy of finding one’s own tribe.
More important than understanding the slang correctly was gaining experience in correct autistic behavior.
Hayden and her character Queenie are both autistic, but the choice for the latter was made only after the former was cast. The character was originally written as neurodivergent, but after Hayden joined him, he was changed.
“I didn’t see myself growing up and it’s time for people to see themselves. Throughout the process, they called me and asked: “What do you think about this?”. And I told them it wasn’t autism. “You think this is what autism is like just because of what you’ve seen and can hear about autism, which isn’t real.”
Instead, the writers and producers asked Hayden what to do, and when she told them, they agreed.
“The entire writing team worked very well together.
“A lot of people in this industry have told me that I won’t get a job if I can’t shut my mouth about performances we don’t see,” Hayden continued. “And being part of Heartbreak High, when the team says they need my input, [I know] I have the right to vote here.
“This is very, very different from what I expected in this industry based on past experience and I really hope we see a lot more.”
Authenticity is the motto, whether it reflects the experience of an autistic teenager, a non-binary child, or even the way children speak.
But if there’s going to be some moral panic from the more mature crowd, à la Euphoria, the ultra-cool cast Broken heart don’t doubt it.
“I would like to tell them what you did when you were young?” Madon asked with a sly smile.
Hayden chimed in, “But it’s not for them. It’s raw, it’s real and it’s honest. Teenagers should be able to look at this and say, “Oh, okay, I see myself in this.” That’s what it’s about.”
Majus was more diplomatic, adding that there was something in it. Broken heart for everybody.
And that’s true, even for the older generation who are confused by TikTok trends or forced to google what “ashey” is. Broken heartThe bright portrait of Australian teenagers, made by the author, has a dramatic, spectacular and even sociological significance.
But it will mean so much more for the kids, who are still living through all the heightened joys and heartaches of those heady teenage years, and that’s exactly what it looks like and feels like in Australia in 2022.
Broken heart for them. This raw Australian teen experience is for them, not their parents.
“This is for the new generation,” Madon said. “To honestly reflect today’s youth, if it makes people uncomfortable, so be it.”
Heartbreak High is streaming on Netflix now