“Euphoria” is practically revolutionary
Teen dramas have captivated television audiences for decades. From 90210 to Dawson’s Creek to Riverdale, we are allured by good-looking teenagers (typically played by baby-faced twentysomethings) and the intrigue that surrounds them. But with the exception of core fans, viewers reduce teen dramas to a “guilty” indulgence. Almost as if the high school subject matter is too low brow or mass-market to admit a fondness towards it. But then came Euphoria.
The HBO phenomenon, Euphoria, is not only popular but it has successfully eclipsed the genre. Although a show about young people, it’s viewership is hardly limited to youth—fans of the show are internationally vast and multicultural, and there is data to back that up: not only is it the most tweeted about TV show of the decade (a huge accomplishment considering we are living in the age of TV series), it is also the second most successful HBO show ever after Game of Thrones. That’s monumental. So why is Euphoria so appealing?
On paper, the characters on Euphoria might seem pretty standard: alpha male jock-slash-douchebag, hot cheerleader girlfriend, troubled-but-likeable underdog. But don’t let the surface level details fool you, Euphoria is not only in a different class but, at least in terms of teen entertainment, one can make the argument that it’s revolutionary.
Firstly, the cinematography is inventive and exceedingly stylish—which makes watching it from an aesthetic and photographic perspective alone a cathartic pleasure.
The onscreen fluctuation between reality and Lexi’s meta, big-budget high school play, for instance, was visually seamless and thoughtfully executed. The indie-dominant soundtrack, too, was carefully curated to make the viewing experience persistently atmospheric. At times, it felt less like a TV show and more like an experimental high fashion ad campaign. The pessimist might make the argument that Euphoria is more style than substance, but this is hardly the case (more on that later).
The casting also is commendably diverse, another potential reason for its wide-reaching relatability. Unlike other shows of its category, where leads are often white males, Euphoria’s cast is led by Rue (expertly portrayed by Zendaya) a woman and POC. Her on-again, off-again, love interest is Jules (Hunter Schaefer), a trans woman both in the show and real life. Dominic Fike, a major character in season two, is of black and Filipino heritage. Then there’s the casting of Angus Cloud as gentle drug dealer and crowd favorite, Fezco. A casting agent plucked Angus, a California native, off the street in Manhattan; he was working at a chicken and waffles restaurant at the time. Like his character, he was a real-life underdog before this fateful New York encounter.
Euphoria touches on serious themes like addiction, toxic masculinity, sexuality and mental health struggles—boldly venturing into territory few shows (teen or otherwise) have dared to go. Sure, there are drugs (often glamorized) on TV, but to witness Euphoria’s depiction of addiction and loneliness in its most graphic and agonizing form is another thing. We experience this, almost crushingly, with Rue in E5S2. We empathize with Rue despite her shortcomings.
There are certainly moments when Euphoria becomes difficult and uncomfortably visceral and heavy—but at this point, it’s too late, we can’t seem to look away. The creators have us effectively hooked.
Now, we have to wait two years for a third season. Until then, there will be a tangible void. The finale was outstanding but some questions still linger on Twitter, namely: Does Rue still owe that lady money?
Words Art Vandelay
Art Macky Arquilla