Trigger Warning this article discusses addiction, abuse, self-harm and body image so please do NOT continue reading unless you are comfortable doing so*
When Euphoria first appeared on our screens back in 2019 many who read its plotline couldn’t understand the hype surrounding yet another coming-of-age series which attempted to tackle issues faced by a new batch of teens. Highlighting addiction, abuse, love and identity in their rawest of forms, it succeeded in conveying the realism of tackling such issues in a world that is riddled with stigma. Alongside its phenomenal cinematography, soundtrack and performances the series went onto receive its staple recognition and praise, leading to two special episodes and a second season due to air at a later date. Now, a highly anticipated hit series with a new season on its way, it’s the most ideal time to reflect back at the impression the show made by raising awareness on matters our society is facing.
Inevitably, no one will truly understand addiction if they have not been in the position to consume a substance that is causing harm to their lives, while fully well knowing it is doing so and still being unable to stop. It’s a toxic battle between trying to survive day to day and not wanting to face reality, so feeling that relief momentarily becomes the easier option. Zendaya’s character of Rue, who she has performed excellently throughout, is fuelled by exactly that, a moment to escape what she is exposed to. As a viewer, seeing Rue stuck in this dark abyss of her mental illness, addiction and coping with the loss of her father, we are able to show compassion to see her overcome her obstacles when Jules (Hunter Schafer) befriends her, and they become intertwined in an indulging relationship that is strongly dependent on one another for happiness and comfort. Jules’ character development is focused on self-harm and her identity as a transgender girl. Her story is inflicted by a past where she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital at a young age to “treat” her self-harming and gender dysmorphia, and at present where her self-harming continues, and she chooses to have underage sex with an older man. Her decisions are heavily corrupted by the world she has grown up in, where volatile adults have made the decisions for her until now where she attempts to dominate her own worth which at times proves to be detrimental. Her bond with Rue provides a safe haven where the two can vent and show emotions without the fear of what society may think of them as they try to discover their sexual identities.
Kat (Barbie Ferreira) is a body conscience teen who finds her confidence expand when she starts hosting cam sessions to men online to make extra money. Hiding her identity behind a mask, she is able to dominate the men who watch her, boosting her self-confidence rapidly. Her growth is shown when she ditches her wardrobe for outfits that compliment her shape allowing her to feel beautiful in her skin, in a society that would be oblivious to this and regard her transformation as “inappropriate”. Her journey to self-discovery is something to watch with sincerity, as we currently live in a world where the youth are in turmoil with their appearance, as they themselves attempt to accept who they are, in a reality where social media and social pressures them to look a certain way.
Maddy (Alexa Demie) and Cassie (Sydney Sweeney) are two best friends who seek love and acceptance from men who are burdened by their own needs and emotions. Maddy is in a toxic violent relationship, where her strong feelings even causes her to refuse to press charges against her boyfriend after he violently grabs her by her neck. Being in a toxic relationship, love clouds judgment but so does fear of what the other person will do. Especially at a young age, where one is so vulnerable and incapable of expressing such emotions. It can potentially lead to someone getting hurt. The show’s portrayal of this touches reality and the domestic cases that are unspoken of, more so, regarding our young people.
In addition to this, Cassie is insulted by a fellow student after she chooses to reject his sexual advances at a party. Her treatment went from being entirely admired to being treated like she was worthless in a matter of minutes just because she didn’t want to have sex with him. The scene details the impact on a young woman, who just like Maddy has experienced exploitative sexual relationships and is yet comprehending the loss of a father figure who abandoned his family for drugs and makes brief appearances in her life. The male superiority complex is an existing ordeal in society and the show addresses this from the beginning with each character paralleling the reality most women have also encountered in real life. Euphoria is a 21 st century masterpiece that is beyond the coming-of-age tale that has been reckoned with before. It features stories that are graphic and hard to watch but the show isn’t afraid to get its audiences to comprehend the problematic society the show attempts to emerge from and makes the “taboo conversations” the main talking point. Each challenge the characters face will make you feel uncomfortable but that makes it logical and, in this day, and age even more vital for the discussion to be had and more awareness to be raised.