My Sunday evening routine has been interrupted by a welcome distraction from skin care and the Sunday Scaries. At 8:55 pm, my 8-man common room fills up with friends and acquaintances, all crowding around the TV. The five minutes spent staring at the HBO home page and catching up on how our week went passes by quickly, and as the clock strikes 9 pm, whoever is holding the remote is berated with comments and is rushed to click play. For the next hour, we collectively experience a form of media that has the ability to alter a generation.
I’m talking about nothing other than the hit TV show, Euphoria. Premiering its second season after a two-year hiatus, the show has been a hot topic of conversation both online and off. If you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, let me catch you up with the gist of the show. They’re in high school, some have substance abuse problems, others are in abusive relationships, almost all of them are figuring out who it is that they are–whether that be in regards to sexuality and gender identity, self worth and love, or just how to be comfortable in their own skin. Their arguably out-of-the-norm high school struggles are overlaid with a remarkable soundtrack, a hyperintense character combination, and unreal outfits and makeup. The premise of the show is rooted in providing a sensory experience of the most inexplicably chaotic elements of high school. It is for these reasons, and unsurprisingly so, that the show has quickly become critically acclaimed.
In my overflowing 8-man common room, we don’t exactly watch and sit in silence; rather, every time a beloved or hated character comes on screen, opinions are made known. Whether it be a light comment on loving Maddy Perez’s outfit, or something more serious, like criticizing Nate Jacobs’ abusive tendencies, it seems as though Gen Z has a lot to say about Euphoria. As a show focusing on youth culture, and doing so accurately as opposed to the millennial interpretation of how young people speak in other TV shows, Euphoria is bound to receive positive feedback from its viewers. And while the show does a fantastic job of capturing the quintessential elements of being a teenager, it is riddled with problematic storylines and character arcs at times—resulting in occasional criticism from viewers.
One of the most poignant elements of Euphoria is the show’s method of capturing human imperfection. Director Sam Levinson manages to artistically portray the respectively painful elements of substance abuse, unrequited love, and teenage angst. But, in the depiction of high schoolers gone wild, the show overwhelms its audience, almost trauma dumping on every imaginable topic. It is because of the show’s scrambled friend group, all undergoing serious issues, that many can feel as though Euphoria portrays an unrealistic high school experience.
One important problem with the show is the glamorization of questionable plot lines. Whether that be an idealization of Maddy’s toxic femininity, Nate’s toxic masculinity, Kat’s questionable online choices, or Rue’s drug addiction, the show does little to deter its young audience from participating in the behaviors they witness. After all, what 14-year-old watching a group of attractive and cool 20-somethings isn’t going to take inspiration? And while plenty of shows arguably glamorize questionable life choices, Euphoria is unique in that it targets a much younger audience, both in its high school setting and its pop culture riddled cast.
Another pertinent topic is the overall use of nudity in the show. Given the high school premise, one would assume there would be a relatively normal amount of on-screen nudity. Euphoria, however, manages to take it to the next level, filming equally male and female nudity, but to an almost excessive degree. Again, in catering to a younger audience, the show arguably introduces nudity far more brazenly than other shows.
With that being said, the fact that the show chooses to depict and address such serious and interpersonal issues allows a younger generation to have an outlet for speaking out about their own experiences. If anything, aside from the glamorization, Euphoria serves as a relatable piece of media that can help destigmatize so many currently taboo topics. In its blatant stray from the binary of "acceptable" and "unacceptable" television, Euphoria makes strides to revolutionize a generation, all the while bringing them closer together over the enjoyable experience of gathering around to watch a show.
So as Sunday evening rolls around, and you curl up to watch the fifth episode of Euphoria, remember that it’s just a show, but it has the power to be something so much more.