By Jessica Johnson
Glitter, spice and everything not so nice, HBO’s ‘Euphoria’ by director Sam Levinson has taken the young adult social media world by storm, and molded the minds of viewers navigating their own lives. The stomach turning show has kept viewers constantly on their toes, not only showing the reality of addiction and the effects these obsessions have on loved ones, but it has also shown the rough reality of sex, betrayal, unraveling darkness in relationships, the struggle of identity and sexuality while juggling friendships and a high school education.
“I grew up in a really small town, and I feel like a lot of kids I went to high school with found partying and drugs as the only way to have fun,” senior marketing major Alexandra Marolf said. “I know there’s a lot of controversy about it, saying the characters should’ve been college-age rather than high school because it would be more realistic. But, I think it’s important to show that these are issues that young teenagers are also constantly dealing with.”
A more adult-esque show, season one of “Euphoria” originally aired June 16, 2019, and left a storm behind it’s release. Social media was buzzing with memes and takes on the characters, as many could relate to the same high school experience being portrayed in the show. Adults 18 to 25 and above were able to sympathize with the blue and purple hued party scenes, where the characters smoked marijuana, drank alcohol and hung out with one another, while others did harder drugs in other parts of the house shown in episode one. Even though some may not relate, this was the classic experience many can look back on, as these things have been normalized and water down to, well — the hard truth.
Viewers are introduced to the main narrator, 17-year-old Rue, played by actor Zendaya, an anxious teen who lost her father at 14, who partied and did drugs as a teen to drag herself out of the fog of her multiple disorders she was diagnosed with as a child.
One night before his death, due to her father being “too out of it,” Rue actually took some of her father’s Oxycontin to get high alongside him. This coping mechanism for her pain of his loss continued, as she ran away mentally from her continuous anxiety and panic attacks.
“And then it happens,” Rue said, tangle haired, eyes caked in gray glitter, swaying at a party in episode one. “That moment when your breath starts to slow. And everytime you breathe, you breathe out all the oxygen you have. And everything stops. Your heart, your lungs, and finally, your brain.”
In order to escape the reality around her, the drugs over time became a euphoria for her, as she became too plagued by her own thoughts. As she would do anything to reach that state, she overdosed in her own home, her sister Gia, played by Storm Reid, finding her unconscious and covered in vomit on the floor of her room. Her mother, Leslie, played by Nika King, sends Rue to rehab, and she returns, only to relapse soon after, snorting a substance in her room before leaving her house.
Many viewers on social media think the show has glorified the use of drugs from the beginning, as the scenes made them look fun with the use of neon blue lighting, and dynamic psychedelic editing in season one.
“I personally don’t think it’s glorifying drugs. I think it shows all stages of addiction. While it does show Rue enjoying the drugs, it shows her hating them as well,” senior criminal justice major Nicole LaBarge said. “I have also seen people share their stories on social media, how this show is triggering to them as they are recovering drug addicts themselves. It is not for the faint of heart as some scenes can be hard to watch. I believe it is very real, especially in this new season.”
As the show continues, we are introduced to more characters who have their own addictions to reach euphoria. Jules, played by Hunter Schafer, a trans woman addicted to over-sexualization and femininity and Rue’s love interest; Nate, played by Jacob Elordi, a narcissistic football player addicted to dominance and control while he navigates his daddy issues caused by his father Cal and blackmailing half the people around him; and Kat, played by Barbie Ferreira, a newly confident dominatrix addicted to online attention through fanfiction and being a cam-girl stuck in fantasy. Also Maddy, played by Alexa Demie, an unproblematic queen who just wants a real sense of love, and Cassie, played by Sydney Sweeney, who is addicted to male validation and attention from men who literally are terrible for her (yet she can’t escape the cycle), and her younger sister Lexi, played by Maude Apatow, addicted to observing and creating her own reality. Lexi has a much larger role in season two, as the drama unfolds between characters.
Lexi also begins to hang out and fall for Fez, played by Angus Cloud, the main drug dealer and caring non-blood brother of Rue. Without releasing any spoilers, in the rag tag group of six girls, Jules, Maddy, Cassie, Kat, Rue and Lexi, s—t goes down. Lexi turns into, as Maddy calls it in season two, episode seven, “a motherf — ing G,” exposing the truth behind their friend group that has seemingly grown immensely apart, as the addictions sadly take over their lives.
“The first season felt like it was more of Rue exploring some different drugs and hiding her addiction, and not coming to terms with it,” LaBarge said. “Then in the new season I believe it really highlights her desperation and how she would do anything to get high, and realizing how she’s hurting people in the process.”
In the season, there is one episode where Rue seemingly has hit her rock bottom; running from the police, making a 10k deal with a highly dangerous drug dealer — who many have the theory is a sex-trafficker in disguise of a quiet, business woman —, rolled out of a moving car into traffic like a parkour pro, and managed to stab deep into her AA sponsor with her words of bringing up his past. As the new season unfolds, there isn’t a single moment that isn’t daunting and shocking.
“I think the character development is increasing this season. I believe we see it a lot with Rue’s mom and Gia as they finally find their voices and speak up about how much Rue is hurting them,” Labarge said. “Also we definitely see it with Lexi. I won’t give any spoilers, but Episode 7 really showed her life and we got the story line she deserved. Also with Rue, since she decides she finally wants to get clean, and seems to mean it.”
However, there are many plot holes this season, leaving many viewers in confusion over the vague character development of Kat, who has minimal lines, and has turned into a mean, apathetic bitch. There has been rumors spread online that behind the scenes, there has been disagreements between the director and Ferreira, explaining why her lines may have been seemingly cut short. Mckay although, has completely disappeared, a story line of internal struggle that should have been continued in this season, as there’s one extremely disturbing scene in season one that had affected him immensely. And affected his previous relationship with Cassie, who has also literally lost her mind in the second season; ruining her closest friendship, basically losing her family, her friends and her self-identity to fit into a man’s mold for more external validation.
This new season is a whirlwind of emotions, of both the characters and the viewers who have to see it unfold. As the season is coming to a close, Euphoria has been renewed for a Season 3, leaving viewers both excited and troubled, as some of the plot lines feel thrown together.
“Like Euphoria is irritating me because we keep getting blue balled every week,” Twitter user ThomasBeautty said. “IDK what the director was tryna do. There might be some deep, artsy reason why he chose to make a story line that could be condensed into 3-4 episodes for the WHOLE season, but I’m over it.”
Hopefully in the next season, we see more of Fez (hopefully he’s okay) and Lexi’s new relationship unfold, Cassie get better and understand her worth, Jules find herself and apologize to Rue for what she’s done with Elliot, Rue finally staying sober and making amends without being kidnapped by the drug dealer, Maddy finding a new group of friends that won’t betray her trust and constant kindness, Nate seeing a therapist, and the director answering a really important question:
Where the hell is Cal?