By now, you’ve probably heard about HBO’s hit show Euphoria somewhere on social media, even if you had no idea what those tweets about Maddy and Nate were about. It took me a while to garner the motivation needed to watch a new TV show. Granted, I’ve been reluctant to binge-watch anything after I unabashedly finished a season of the addicting yet deplorable reality show Love Island (which I ended up watching again through Euphoria because of Rue’s addiction to the show). But alas, after receiving one too many texts from my friends referencing the show, I commenced the binge one random afternoon.
Euphoria hits quickly — Rue’s sharp-tongued narration about household struggles, addiction, and depression are a quick-fire introduction into the intelligent teenager’s life. Chock-full of modern references, pellucid imagery, and brazen writing, Euphoria is a ride from start to finish. As one of my roommates noted, “This show is so dramatic.” Dramatic, yes, but within these theatrical narratives lies a truth about growing up. The characters ride a wave of self-destruction that sometimes feels more concordant with college life, but the show still offers high school kids a chance at viewing real struggles facing young adults today.
The show’s representation of people of color and transgender identities is also axiomatic to the show’s success. Jules, one of the main characters, is trans, yet her identity never serves as a foreground to the show. She is shaped by her identity, of course, but she also suffered the traumatic divorce of her parents and is struggling with her own confidence and self-acceptance. Maddy Perez is Latina and comes from a dysfunctional middle-class family, but her abusive relationship with terrifying jock, Nate Jacobs, is at the center of the show’s conflicts. Euphoria’s star, Rue, is a black teenage girl coping with addiction, depression, family problems, and numerous mental health struggles. Plus, they all have to manage the myriad of problems that arise from just existing in a small suburb full of young people. The show is about real people with different identities and it’s important to see them represented in a show aimed towards teenagers. Personally, I found it refreshing to watch a television show about high school life where characters actually look like people I went to high school with.
The show’s dazzling shots are not the real foreground of the show — instead, they artistically capture the dynamics between the show’s characters. The camera almost seems to embrace the beauty and dimensionality of characters like Rue and Jules; Jules being the colorful, quirky teenager with sharp street style and Rue’s unkempt appearance serving as a gaze into her struggles and carefree personality. The striking feast of visuals creates an other-wordly, lucid look to the show while also maintaining a sheer familiarity in both surroundings and character arcs. This makes for some pretty great entertainment.
So, what should you know about Euphoria before you start watching? It’s equal parts painful, intelligent, and funny. It’s a breathless ride and it can certainly be hard to watch at times. However, I can concur that any time you spend watching the show will not be a waste of your time. Euphoria is exhilarating, which may be an ode to the title itself. But it’s honest and it brings up important issues about high school life that I previously did not dare to reflect upon. I want to believe that we are in an age where discussions about sexual violence, abusive relationships, divorce, drug addiction, and more are paramount to understanding how to help those affected, and this show is certainly a step in that direction.
Cover Photo: HBO