*As the show does, this article mentions drug addiction, sex, and mental illness. If these topics make you uncomfortable, please do not continue reading. Thank you.
To my surprise, the opening scene of HBO’s Euphoria pilot caught my attention in the best way. Dry humor, nonchalant narration, and an unexplained mental illness. It was as if a huge hand stuck out my television screen to point at me and say, “This is you!”
The HBO original is an adaption of an Israeli series of the same name. Created by Sam Levinson and produced by Drake and Tmira Yardeni, the show follows high schooler Rue (Zendaya) as she struggles with life-threatening addiction and debilitating panic attacks. But she’s not the only one who’s barely holding on. Jules (Hunter Schafer) is adjusting to being the “psycho” new girl, Kat (Barbie Ferreira) is finding out just how cruel high school can be when it comes to sex, and there is something severely wrong with Nate’s (Jacob Elordi) psych that we have yet to get to the bottom of. This is just a taste of the crises.
That’s when I realized it’s not me. It’s all of us. Sure, I can relate to certain parts of certain characters, but there’s something bigger at play here. Euphoria unabashedly shows the dangers of modern American, middle-class adolescence. The anxiety, poor choices, overindulgence, faulty support systems, nihilism, and gossip that comes with being a teenager in any generation is dialed up to eleven when it comes to these kids. This is an element that the show has no problem showing.
The honesty of these portrayals can be shocking for some audiences, but I found it more of a relief than anything. Often times, film and TV tend to glamourize adolescence to instill that nostalgic feeling in older audiences. They focus on the beautiful parts of it all—the friendships, the music, the exhilaration—and just gloss over the ugly parts. Euphoria doesn’t deceive like that. It shows just how detrimental addiction can be to the addicted and their loved ones. It captures how horrific it is for someone to witness an overdose, how painful it is to admit a loved one into rehab, and how addiction leaves relationships tainted with fear and embarrassment.
Despite all this, Euphoria isn’t a drag to watch. It’s riddled with tongue-in-cheek humor that reminds me a lot of Mean Girls. Considering that it’s a high school drama, that kind of comes with the territory. The witty one-liners had me giggling and rolling my eyes at the same time, which is such an impressive feat.
The music is also a blast. It’ll have you bumping and singing along during the opening credits, forgetting that you’re alone on that cozy couch in your living room. The pilot opened up with Beyonce’s “Hold Up”, creating a laid back mood, while the second episode, “Stuntin’ Like My Daddy” went for more of an exciting and mean-mugging tone by opening up with Lil Wayne and Birdman’s song of the same name.
Marcell Rév’s cinematography creates aesthetically pleasing pictures that are just as fun as the humor and music. The color and texture of the scenes pull you in, almost as if you’re feeling the same blissful highs and jarring lows Rue is.
This takes me to my last and most important point. Please, for the sake of your friends, family, and me, do not think these characters lead cool lives. The show and their stars have gone out of their way to make sure its depictions are not glamorizations for a reason. Addiction is not fun. Mental illnesses are not fun.
Zendaya took to her social media to warn viewers that Euphoria is a “raw and honest portrait of addiction, anxiety and the difficulties navigating life” with scenes that are “graphic, hard to watch and can be triggering.”
If you’re struggling with these issues, know that I am here for you and I feel for you. This show reinstates the fact that none of us are alone. There are communities with open arms more than willing to help you grow.
If you feel like you or a loved one needs help, please text EUPHORIA to 741741.
Nothing but love.