Fans Should Not Romanticize Euphoria

Image/ IMDB

Image/ IMDB

Fan-favorite HBO show “Euphoria” has finally returned for a long-awaited season two after almost three years since the series premiere. In case you are not one of the show’s millions of viewers, the plot follows teen protagonist Rue Bennett (Zendaya) and her peers as they struggle with addiction, depression, loss and identity during their time in high school. 

While this plot does make for some very dramatic, must-see television, it also brings about great amounts of controversy. The show does not hold back with its blatant and frequent depictions of nudity and drug use, both of which have pushed the boundaries with rape and overdose. Many viewers, parents in particular, have not hesitated to express their disapproval of the show. However, the graphic nature has never been made a secret. Viewers are warned of the potential violence, nudity and sexual content before each episode. Even Zendaya herself took to Instagram and Twitter before the season two premiere to remind fans that the show is for mature audiences; all viewers knew exactly what they were getting themselves into before watching. 

As someone who has struggled with drug addiction himself, the show’s creator and executive producer, Sam Levinson, took on “Euphoria” with the intention of bringing awareness to teen addiction. What many feel to be overly graphic is really just the most accurate depiction of addiction that Levinson could create. 

What I really wanted to get at the core of is the pain and the shame about what you’re doing and your inability to get clean despite the havoc and destruction you’re wreaking around you,” Levinson said. 

Teen addiction is undoubtedly a massive problem in the United States, and it only continues to grow. Drug overdose deaths among 15 to 24-year-olds have increased by over 500% since 1999, according to a study done by the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics. Furthermore, living in Massachusetts alone leaves teens more susceptible to addiction; Massachusetts teenagers are 33.37% more likely to have used drugs compared to the average American teen. For those facing similar struggles to protagonist Rue, the show may provide an aspect of relatability and comfort. 

“This show is an exact representation of what I’ve been through as a teen addict,” one review on Common Sense Media said. “Without having watched the show it may look like it romanticizes and glorifies drug use but this isn’t the case at all; the whole point is how drugs affect Rue’s life negatively and the people around her…This show overall is a beautifully real depiction of teenage life that continues to amaze me.”

In reality, the actual problem with “Euphoria” is those who do not take it seriously enough. Like many other HBO shows, “Euphoria” is noted for its stellar makeup and costume design, cinematography and soundtrack. Many viewers have seen the show’s high production quality as an added bonus to the dramatic, enthralling plotlines. On the other hand, many have allowed it to cloud the show’s true meaning and intention. 

Since its 2019 premiere, the show has been a subject of numerous TikTok trends, during which users planned parties based on the “Euphoria aesthetic” or tried to relate to some of the show’s most problematic characters. “Euphoria” is unfortunately not the only show to experience this phenomenon. Recently popular teen drama “13 Reasons Why” depicted the effect high school student Hannah Baker’s suicide had on those around her after she posthumously released a recording of the 13 reasons which ultimately drove her to suicide. Similarly to “Euphoria,” the show became a source of online jokes, most notably when users on social media began to refer to minor inconveniences as their “thirteenth reason.”

While these shows were undoubtedly created with the intention of sparking conversations, there are certain boundaries that should not be crossed with shows of such significant nature. By reducing this content to a fun online trend, the real meaning is lost. Ultimately, there is nothing wrong with appreciating the aesthetics of “Euphoria;” in fact, the show’s cinematography and costume work are some of its best, most intriguing aspects. However, viewers must take a step back and ensure that online commentary does not overshadow such an important topic.