Euphoria, Not For Everyone: The hit show Euphoria explores the dark side of high school life


HBO’s popular drama, Euphoria, provides an unfiltered depiction of teenagers and high school as the show follows Rue, a young teenage drug addict who meets her new friend, Jules, as they and other characters navigate life with substance abuse, depression, and sex. The show is rated mature and each episode is introduced with a warning because of its adult content, adult language, mild violence, and nudity. With so much adult themes overriding a show depicting children, Euphoria has gained equal amounts of criticism and praise, with many people attacking the show for its unrealistic display of high school life and it’s harmful portrayal of drug abuse.

People tend to call many shows that portray teenagers in adult–like situations unrealistic because they don’t want to acknowledge the fact that these situations do unfortunately happen to kids our age. Shows like Euphoria and 13 Reasons Why are not too far off from reflecting the life that many teenagers go through. Not all teenagers, but many. When McKay is violated by his fellow fraternity members I remember hearing many viewers state that it was uncomfortable to watch and questioned why the show would include that. But this show is supposed to be depicting real life, and in real life situations things are not sugar-coated. The victim doesn’t get to escape their situation and pretend that it’s not happening to them, that is a luxury only available to the audience, and that’s the point that graphic shows like these are trying to execute. These scenes are uneasy and triggering, that’s the point. You shouldn’t be watching these scenes with a smile on your face. You should be uncomfortable. I’m not saying it’s always necessary or should always be graphically shown but I understand the intent.

People forget that while Euphoria is supposed to be a representation of teenagers, it is also still television. It is still entertainment. It’s supposed to be exaggerated and it only represents teenagers and their high school lives to an extent. Drug abuse, alcohol usage, and wild parties don’t happen as commonly as Euphoria depicts, but they still happen.

Euphoria’s relationship with sex and nudity in the show is sometimes harsh, raw, and hard to watch which personally shocked me many times. But I find the difference of its portrayal of sex with the characters in the show comforting and that is the part that many teenagers can relate to. The characters view sex in different ways; Jules seeing it as a way to increase her femininity, Cassie seeing it as a source of love, and Kat viewing it as empowerment. Teen drama shows usually depict sex as simply something that teenagers wildly do with no other deeper meaning, But Euphoria dives into that and differentiates between each character’s personality, causing many people to connect with them on that spectrum. It explores the many layers of sex and sexualities which is something that so many people, especially teenagers who are just now finding themselves, can connect to as we continue our search in discovering who we are. Many people argue that Euphoria makes it seem like you can’t have fun unless you’re a teenager having sex which promotes an unhealthy outlook on life for teenage girls, but Euphoria highlights the negative aspect of indulging in sex at such a young age. For example, while Kat sees her sexual indulgence as empowerment, the audience can see as they watch her underage character exploit herself for older man through websites, that her newfound source of ‘power’ is more uncomfortable and dangerous than empowering. 

I was also very surprised by Euphoria displaying abusive/unhealthy relationships. I found it very enlightening to watch it surface around teenage ‘love’ which is new and so much more accurate than people realize. It’s rare, but it’s real. The characters Maddy and Nate suffer throughout the show in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship, yet every time Maddy is hurt she goes back to him. That’s the sad truth in many abusive relationships and it’s highly common. Manipulation and an emotional attachment forces many people to wind up back with their abusive partner. Not only that but the characters are young, they’re children at the end of the day and have no idea how to navigate through these situations mentally, which I think Euphoria does a great job at showing.

I’ve never watched a show about drug addiction and have never come into contact with a drug addict, but Zendaya’s character made me empathize and understand her story and a drug addict’s story in a more understanding perspective. Not as a crime, but a mental illness and something they can’t control. The characters and their abuse of drugs is not inaccurate. Drug abuse and addiction is one of the main topics of this show as the main character, Rue, battles her drug addiction. It was gut–wrenching to see Rue go through the challenges of watching her family suffer from her illness and watching her erratic and almost relaxing behavior as she took drugs. Instead of glamorizing the usage of drugs, Euphoria does a great job and puts it in a negative light. Sure, at the parties some of the characters are taking drugs in a seemingly colorful and aesthetic light that may give off the impression that they’re trying to make the act of taking drugs as a ‘beautiful’ thing. But you have to remember that you are watching this show from the perspective of a drug addict. So of course she is not going to present the use of drugs in a dark and grim view, but in a lighter and euphoric one which makes her characterization and portrayal even better. The raw, provoking depiction of Rue as we watch her try to build herself up only to fall apart again, and even succumbing to an overdose and relapse spreads awareness and encourages the audience to not partake in her self–destructive actions. Through Rue, the viewer sees how drug abuse is still an ongoing issue with teenagers. That’s the unfortunate truth and it’s not an easy thing to go through. It overrides a person’s ability to make smart decisions and drives them to go into inconsistent behaviors to obtain that high feeling again. It’s even worse when the person is a child and their brain is still developing. Through Rue they also depict how drug abuse is not the victim’s fault and show how it affects friends, family, and even the strangers around her. Rue’s character is tragic, and it is accurately depicted through the screen.

I enjoyed watching Euphoria, and could see my teenage self accurately in so many different characters like Kat, Jules, and even Rue. I’ve heard that because Gen Z is the generation where drug abuse and sex is declining, Euphoria is inaccurate and only encouraging these toxic behaviors. But just because the majority are not doing it doesn’t mean that no one is doing it. It focuses on general situations that open the doors for conversation with parents and awareness to be spread. It is still important for those teenagers that can see themselves feeling the same way that these characters are feeling and going through their same struggles on a daily basis to have a show that discusses these subjects and does it well, which is exactly what Euphoria provides.