Why Euphoria is the Show That Has Hypnotized Us Into Wanting More of Its Vulnerability
There aren’t many new breakthrough series that have achieved critical acclaim as fast as Euphoria, the teen-ridden drama that is so forthcoming in its hazy portrait of drug use and sex, that it is the version of the UK’s Skins that America needed. The pilot was a tasteful glimpse and warning: it depicts the world as an Instagram scroll, yet the rewards are vast, particularly in terms of emotional capacity. But early on it highlights, erect penises, nude pics, alcohol, rape, and loving sex, all horrifyingly “normalized”, as if they are a necessary part of these suburban teenagers’ lives.
Euphoria is much better than meets the eye, though. It begins with a monologue of teen-angst that points out one of the most heart-wrenching premise, at least for this particular viewer –the protagonists were born after the 9/11 attacks. Rue is our lead, a preeminent narrator who takes us on a journey in and out of her peers’ lives. She does have mental health issues that are constantly being treated, but which she prefers to self-medicate with narcotics. “I know it may all seem sad, but guess what? I didn’t build this system. Nor did I fuck it up,” she says, with all the might of a 16-year-old trying to sound more mature. The Disney Alumni Zendaya is revealed as the destructive and self-loathing Rue which is such an amazing and deliberate performance that sent all my expectations of how she is an actress through the window into a newfound respect for her.
Rue was in rehab for most of the Summer, following an accidental overdose ( her younger sister found her unconscious in her room), and a little after being sober, her mission is to get so high to a state of euphoria as she possibly can at least once. She pulls it off precisely. Euphoria tends to show dream like states which is quite charming and deeply subconscious. One of Rue’s drug dealers is literally a child with a tattooed face and an encyclopedia vocabulary of drug chemical compositions ; he is yet to be explored in detail, but his presence adds to the overall haziness. Every character here is heavily analytical, hyper-articulate, using superficial tendencies to try to cope with the emotional string of experiences they are going through. “Once he tried to finger me on the dancefloor without my permission, but, it’s America,” says Rue, nonchalantly, of the furious jock Nate, a cold-hearted person whom the words “daddy issues” do not even begin to explain the depth of his complexities.
The drama that coincided with Euphoria's debut on HBO was based on the idea that it was aimed at younger people. If that was so, it makes the alcohol and drug ridden parties look as captivating as chasing after a paper boat because IT the clown told you so. I don’t think this works as good for a younger audience as it would for an audience in their early to late ‘20s who can internalize and reflect on parts of their lives that were painful and downright dramatic. Euphoria is definitely not a series that will appeal to all audiences, but it’s not as audacious as some make it out to be. Euphoria has deep rooted sophistications hidden within its straightforward portrayal of teenage angst. When Rue comes across her new close friend, Jules (Hunter Schafer), who has just moved to the suburban neighborhood, it becomes a bit of a romantic voyage. The series’ ability to showcase the utterly seductive vitality of relationships such as theirs has me awestruck. In addition, when Jules meets up with a man old enough to be her dad for sex, the unequal balance of power is complicated, and the show is all the more powerful for resisting the urge to be exhortative about it. Rue is the definition of a hedonist and a scammer , but deep down she has sorrow for what she put her family though. For all of its grim vision, sympathy is not hard to feel as you begin to hope for these kids to get to a better place ( it’s almost like looking at them as your younger sibling who you care deeply for).
Whether or not your teenage years were spent drinking beer or vodka, playing video games with your friends, or online friends, starting to master a musical instrument, or as expressed in the show dissecting compromising sexual experiences in a culture where everything is under a magnifying glass , there is something truthful worth noting: adolescence is naïve, cruel and is always getting warped between the two. One thing I could say about Euphoria is that it understands these two circumstances very well and isn’t afraid to show the reality of it.
Cover image via Indie Wire