Euphoria is a one-of-a-kind show on HBO Max that has attracted an unmatched numbers of viewers by exploring the complex realities of Gen Z. According to HBO Max, Euphoria has an average of 2.4 million viewers per episode, while a comparative HBO teen show, Gossip Girl, has an average of 500,000 viewers per episode. The show stars the renowned Zendaya, and takes place in the suburbs of southern California. In many ways, it is an exaggerated depiction of the teen experience, but it explores important topics such as addiction, heartbreak, trauma, and the modern impact of social media on one’s mental health.
Euphoria’s relatability is the main reason why it has gained so much popularity; teens look to the media for their experiences to be turned into something beautiful. The show’s diverse cast and breadth of issues it attempts to address allow a broad audience to see themselves on the screen. Whether the viewer is exploring sexuality or drugs, having family drama, or conflicts with friends, Euphoria will appeal to almost all of today’s youth. However, it also amplifies the high school reality to a possibly unnecessary extreme. In many ways, Euphoria tends to glamourize high-risk and often unsafe behavior.
In season one and especially in season two, Euphoria dramatizes certain teen behaviors, such as the detailed showing of gratuitous nudity and sex in the show, rather than enriching the plot and characters. Nevertheless, Euphoria is not alone in its representation of nudity; popular shows like Shameless, Elite, and Outlander are also known to frequent this. However, in season two, Euphoria has proven itself to be radical on this front through its unprecedented shots of male genitalia, countering the disproportionate representation of female nudity in American media.
The narrator of the show, Rue, is battling a severe drug addiction, and we see the show through her eyes as she hides it from her friends and family. In season one, the show highlights Rue’s journey through recovery. She stays sober for most of the season, but struggles on the path of sobriety while going through the hardships of life. In season two, Rue’s relapse sends her sinking deeper than rock bottom; it’s not just the drugs that are ruining her life, it’s herself.
There are many concerns for shows like Euphoria, and one very apparent issue is its potential impact on younger teens. By glamourizing drug use, it creates a false narrative of what high school is like. It makes the high school experience seem more adult and scary than it really is, with no support systems for those who need them. This false view of high school might lead to increased fears and worries about the already nerve-wracking transition to high schoolEuphoria is a unique show that explores the Gen Z experience to such an exaggerated extent that it might be better categorized as a show that explores drug addiction and social dynamics, without age being an influential factor. There is undeniable beauty in the cinematic elements and the vulnerability in the acting, but it could also potentially have a harmful effect on viewers.