Recently a TV series called Euphoria aired on HBO about a group of high schoolers who are struggling with everything from child pornography blackmail to terrifying rapist drug dealers, and the psychopathic toxic masculinity character has to be mentioned as well. The focus of the series is a 17 year old recovering drug addict named Rue (played by it girl Zendaya), and her relationship with the new girl in town named Jules (played by trans-model Hunter Schaffer). While the show confronts many controversial issues well, such as having a transgender character who is explored as a character far beyond that point, modern relationships, social media, and several other issues, “the series has come under harsh criticism by some, who find its content far too graphic and explicit for the teen audience it seeks to attract….in the premiere one character “commits statutory rape with a 17-year-old trans girl” …overtly, intentionally, marketing extremely graphic adult content – sex, violence, profanity and drug use – to teens and preteens” (Jessica Napoli, Fox News). The show has been accused of using these illegal activities and nudity for shock value. “Within the context of the show, it’s related to a plot tangent about the finer points of sending nude photos. But the point could have easily have been covered by discussing it, not by showing an entire slideshow” (Lauren Sarner, New York Post). While the show has ruffled many feathers, it has also received overwhelming positive support from its viewers, likely due to the popularization of taboo circumstances that many teens find highly relatable. “Even though “Euphoria” showed addiction’s consequences, it still fed the idea that heavy drug use was normal and exposed it to people who otherwise might not have been exposed. “My ultimate hope is to inspire compassion and empathy for those battling addiction,” Levinson wrote” (Cara Buckly, New York Times). Euphoria was inspired by an Israli show under the same name. Euphoria tackles major subjects that modern day teens struggle with and normalizes them, but also may be presenting said difficult subjects to an unprepared audience. Despite all the controversy, the show was beautifully and artistically filmed, with complex lighting and cohesive aesthetics, and is inarguably art on the screen.
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Looking back on this post over three years later, I understand why the show garnered so much controversy back then. There were graphic scenes of sex, violence, and drugs that many questioned would be appropriate for teenagers to watch, but teens loved it because it did represent lives of teens in American high schools. It was also pretty much the first to portray such graphic scenes in American high schools. But, it even has gotten more ridiculous in its third season. It seems like there is a lot of scenes written just for the shock value, and it plays so heavily in the over sexualization of minors. Even though they are played by adults, these actors portray teenagers for a show that teenagers and adolescents watch. Sam Levinson just had another series released, “The Idol,” and reviews have been even more atrocious. Valid storylines in his shows are non existent, and it very much feels like shows made from the male perspective over sexualizing women. With all the negative reviews that this new show has received, it seems like a lot of critics agree.