Euphoria: Keeping It Real or Too Raw?

When the HBO original Euphoria premiered in June of 2019, it was met with high praise from both critics and fans alike. When the long-awaited season two premiered in January 2022, the show became the second most watched show on the site, after Game of Thrones. With one episode coming out at 9pm EST each Sunday, millions of people tuned in to not only watch the show, but also discuss it across various social media sites like Twitter and Instagram. The show focuses on a group of suburban high schoolers as they make their way through the trials and tribulations of being a teen. No topic is too sensitive, with addiction, self-harm, gender identity, sexuality, trauma, relationships, sex, love, and family at the forefront. Their stories are narrated by Rue, played by Zendaya, a young drug addict fighting to find her place in the world. Scored by English singer, songwriter, and record producer Labrinth and featuring popular songs from various genres and artists like Billie Eilish, Lana Del Rey, and Lenny Kravitz, the soundtrack alone is worthy of a fan base. Euphoria inspired makeup looks and outfits featured on the show have become a huge genre in pop culture. Despite all its success and praise, the show still faces significant backlash.

One of the most common critiques is the age of the characters in relation to the subject matter. The show portrays high schoolers, who around the ages of 16 and 17, having sex, doing drugs, and engaging in other illicit behaviors. Obviously the actors are all of legal age, but it can still be unsettling to viewers to see children doing and experiencing these things. Some people argue that the show would have been better and more ethical if it had been based on college students. There is also the issue of nudity. In each episode, especially the second season, there is at least one scene with some sort of nudity. Both male and female genitalia of all forms are shown throughout the seasons, and there are arguments that it is only done for shock value and does not add anything to the actual plot. One actress in particular, Sydney Sweeney, had multiple topless scenes and there was a lot of discussion about whether or not the director, Sam Levinson, was exploiting her. Lastly there is the show’s portrayal of drug usage. Groups like the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program (D.A.R.E), have called out Euphoria for how it depicts drug use. They claim that drug use is glorified and elevated in the show, and others share this complaint. Drug use is featured heavily in the episode, but so are the negative effects of it.

Despite all the controversy surrounding Euphoria, HBO has renewed the show for a third season. It will be interesting to see the direction the show takes and if the writers, producers, and directors will take these critiques into consideration. Millions of people tuned in for season two, and are anxiously awaiting to do the same for season three.

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2 thoughts on “Euphoria: Keeping It Real or Too Raw?

  1. When I first saw Euphoria trending on social media, I wanted to watch it but was quickly surprised by how graphic it was once I started the first season. What was particularly shocking is that this is a show meant for teenagers. If you can get past that, it’s a great show. I think it really captures the experience of depression and addiction well. Since the show has such great cinematography, it attracts a lot of viewers but it does contribute to the feeling that substance use is romanticized. I think some aspects of the show would be helpful for viewers that may have loved ones experiencing addiction and may want to understand more about what they’re going through. This is evident in the special episodes, such as Rue and Ali conversing at the diner.

  2. I have seen the show Euphoria and would watch the episodes when they would premier with a friend of mine. While the show is an incredible production in the sense of acting, makeup, and music, I do think there are some problems with it as the author mentions. I’ve had multiple conversations with friends about how we find it odd that the show takes place in high school and not in college as it reflects more adult-like issues and shouldn’t focus on nudity in minors. I agree that I think the nude scenes don’t add to the plot and could be done away with, especially since they are all supposed to be depicting younger people.

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