Euphoria is one of the most discussed TV shows of 2019. Aside from the wonderful performances that it draws from its young cast, some of the show’s highlights include its kinetic editing and surreal cinematography. It’s also impossible to ignore the large amounts of sex, drugs and alcohol featured in every episode.
You can’t separate extreme behavior from Euphoria. Rue, the show’s protagonist, is a 17-year-old drug addict fresh out out of rehab. Her mission in the show’s first episodes is to find a way to get high again, no matter the cost. Once this is achieved, the show never backs down from the consequences of her actions, or of how awful drug addiction is.
While the appearance of drugs and alcohol on the show is excessive and unlike most shows out there—especially those that focus on teens—there’s a clear purpose to them. There’s also no encouragement of these behaviors. After watching an episode of Euphoria, I’d be surprised if you feel like having a drink.
Despite the fact teens nowadays are drinking and partying less than ever, there’s something truthful about the way the show portrays the teenage experience, which can at times feel like the end of the world. Euphoria‘s characters live in a world that suffocates them with alcohol, body image issues, sex, and drugs. While this may not be true to all teens right now, the ensuing isolation and the refuge that technology and social media provides is a reality for many. There’s an emotional truth in what the show is doing.
Drugs serve a clear purpose in Euphoria, with each terrifying scene propelling the story forward and drawing us deeper into the protagonist and narrator’s headspace. Many critics argue that the same can’t be said for the show’s sex scenes.
Despite the vast range of sex on the show and its welcome focus on penises, female characters appear more exposed and sexualized than their male counterparts. “Most of the young women of Euphoria are sexualized from the jump, given little initial backstory but plenty of screen time to hook up,” writes Kaitlin Reilly on Refinery 21.
While it is natural to flinch when watching violent sex scenes that involves teens, I think it’s important to highlight the good work that the show is doing in that regard. While Euphoria is obsessed with sex, there are no judgements. It devotes several scenes in discussing the importance of nudes and how impactful and sexually charged fan fiction can be for young women. There’s also an entire story line that focuses on porn and on the strange fetishes that the internet community fosters.
In a strange way, by sensationalizing sex, we’re losing our sensitivity to it. While this isn’t good when it comes to violent behavior, there’s plenty of positivity to be acquired from a truthful depiction of nudes and sexting, of seeing young women have sex because they want to or having them wear the clothes they want to wear without caring about what other people think or say.
Euphoria is a mixed bag of story lines and behaviors. Some are better than others, but all of them are worthy of discussion. That makes it a better and riskier show than a large percentage of TV.