Why Cash and Darren's Queer Love Story On Heartbreak High Is So Important In A Teen Show

Will McDonald and James Majoos in Heartbreak High
(Image credit: Netflix)

Representation has always mattered. However, this truth has not always been reflected in pop culture. In recent years, television shows and movies have made diversity and representation a priority. As a former diehard Dawson’s Creek fan, I remember the attention and praise Jack's (Kerr Smith) coming out story brought to the series. It remains one of Dawson’s Creek’s best episodes. In 1999, it was rare to see a gay or queer character on television, but in 2024, the TV landscape has grown to include so many different identities and sexualities. There are many great LGBTQ+ characters in film and television. Cash (Will McDonald) and Darren (James Majoos)  from Heartbreak High are now part of this list. 

Darren and Cash are not only great queer characters, but they showcase a teen romance not often seen. They highlight a love story between a nonbinary character attracted to men and an asexual character. It’s so important that shows like Heartbreak High exist to spotlight this type of love story. 

Warning minor Heartbreak High spoilers are ahead. Proceed with caution.

James Majoos, Will McDonald, Chloe Hayden, and Ayesha Madon in Heartbreak High

(Image credit: Netflix)

Darren and Cash Showcase A Queer Love Story Not Often Seen On TV 

I have seen a slight increase in nonbinary characters on television and in LGBTQ+ books. However, it’s still not common to see nonbinary characters represented in fiction. Therefore, it’s great to have Darren, a character that loves and embraces their identity. Heartbreak High Season 1 deals with Darren’s parents learning to use the proper pronouns and not making them feel like they’re too much for their identity. It’s a very moving storyline.  

Nonbinary characters are rare, but asexual characters are almost nonexistent in the TV and film landscape. I only know that Sex Education and Heartstopper have had minor or supporting characters who are asexual. Reacher also has an asexual main character. It’s not common for teen romance shows to even discuss asexuality, but usually if the show has ace characters, they fit one definition of it. 

Asexuality exists on a spectrum. There is the common one where someone has no sexual or romantic attraction. Then there are other ones, like Cash, who may have a romantic attraction but no sexual, or ones who have a sexual and romantic attraction but not consistently like non-asexual people. 

Pop culture can just be silly fun but it can also help people feel less alone and find community. Cash has yet to define his sexuality, but his behavior leans towards being an ace character. His not stating it also is such a good direction because he’s still a teen figuring himself out. This may help others struggling to understand their sexuality take the journey with him. I believe young asexual or nonbinary teens who watch Heartbreak High will appreciate stories that could represent them.

James Majoos and Will McDonald in Heartbreak High

(Image credit: Netflix)

This Heartbreak High Couple Highlights The Importance Of Representation 

Some teens will see themselves in Cash or Darren. Before watching Heartbreak High, they may have never read a book, or seen a movie or TV show with queer characters who are asexual or nonbinary. Maybe there is an asexual person who wants a relationship but feels no partner will accept the lack of or limited sex in a relationship. Cash could be an inspiration to them.

The same can be said about Darren who represents a nonbinary character that’s very proud of themself. They don’t change or compromise their identity for anyone. They’re inspirational queer characters.

James Majoos in Heartbreak High

(Image credit: Netflix)

It Highlights Underrepresented Queer Identities

As stated, I can only think of two teen shows that I have watched with asexual characters. According to Williams Institute, studies show that only about 2 percent of adults identify as asexual. That’s a small percentage but in the overall population way, it’s still a lot of people. Also according to Williams Institute, 1.2 million people identify as nonbinary. 

Both identities represent a large group of people but pop culture doesn’t often spotlight these humans. I have seen probably thousands of shows throughout my lifetime, and this is the first show I have seen with an asexual main character in a romance. I hope in the next 20+ years, more ace representation happens that also reflects the spectrum of it. 

James Majoos and Will McDonald in Heartbreak High

(Image credit: Netflix)

The Problems In Darren and Cash’s Romance Are Realistic And May Be Relatable To Many 

Heartbreak High Season 2 tackles a lot of Cash and Darren’s struggles to find a sexual situation that works for both of them. Darren enjoys and craves sex. Cash doesn’t enjoy it but has engaged in it before. Cash worries he’s holding Darren back by not having sex with them. 

However, Darren loves Cash so much, that they are willing to give it up to be with him. I can imagine that this is an issue that many couples face when one is asexual and the other is not. How do they compromise to make the relationship work?

Heartbreak High also doesn’t create perfect characters. Humans are complex and far from ideal, so they make mistakes and don’t say or do the perfect thing always. Teens have even more complexities. They are also more likely to act on emotions and not engage in sophisticated behavior. Therefore, Heartbreak High takes a realistic approach by having Darren and Cash not always behave most healthily to their partners’ needs and desires. However, they make an effort to keep their relationship strong and lasting. 

This could inspire teens (and even adults) who are going through a similar situation to feel encouraged that they can find a solution for their romantic dilemmas. They don’t have to always make the perfect choices or say the right things to fix relationship issues. It could also just inspire those who felt they couldn’t have a relationship because of their identity to take a chance on love if that’s what they want.

James Majoos and Will McDonald in Heartbreak High

(Image credit: Netflix)

It’s A More Mature Love Story Than Seen On Most Teen Shows 

Teen TV couples often make the worst decisions. I can name so many teen fictional couples who make the worst possible choice when their relationship gets hard. They don’t have the communication skills to address the issue. Cash and Darren do some things in Heartbreak High Season 2 that drive me crazy because it’s shades of typical teen TV dramas. 

However, overall, I ended Season 2 impressed that they were both mature enough to continue to fight for their romance. They both were willing to sacrifice, but not change, to make it work. It wasn’t an "I want this thing and you don’t give it to me, so I am out" situation. It’s a "how do we figure this out to be together" thing. That’s such a mature reaction that I wish more shows emulated. Drama can be found in other places than relationship issues. 

I hope Cash and Darren can one day represent a new era of teen TV couples. Ones that are mature enough to address their problems. They still might not last and still have drama, but it can show that maturity can work within the world of teen shows. 

Will McDonald in Heartbreak High

(Image credit: Netflix)

It Hits The Romantic Teen Themes & Tropes That Fans Already Love 

Cash and Darren's relationship delivers all those swoon-worthy romantic moments we love. In fact, in Heartbreak High Season 1, Cash says a speech to Darren that could rival any of my favorite romantic movie quotes. It’s so freaking romantic and sweet.

Cash and Darren are kind of the opposites attract trope. Their love story also follows the pattern of many great TV couples. I began the show because I saw a comment suggesting people who liked the almost-romance between Lexi (Maude Apatow) and Fez (Angus Cloud) from Euphoria watch Heartbreak High. It has a similar storyline with a criminal character with a heart of gold falling for a more innocent character. 

Queer love stories are just as captivating and beautiful as non-queer love. They should have the same romantic milestones and epic moments as any TV couple. Heartbreak High overall is a really good teen dramedy, and Cash and Darren’s love story is one of the things that make it so good. Thankfully, Netflix renewed it for a third and final season because it has more profound storytelling left. 

Stream Heartbreak High on Netflix. 

Jerrica Tisdale
Freelance Writer

Spent most of my life in various parts of Illinois, including attending college in Evanston. I have been a life long lover of pop culture, especially television, turned that passion into writing about all things entertainment related. When I'm not writing about pop culture, I can be found channeling Gordon Ramsay by kicking people out the kitchen.