Euphoria and the Bigger Picture on Teenagers

by Nicole Iuzzolino
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When thinking of teen dramas, Euphoria does not fall into the Gossip Girl and Vampire Diaries category . Rather than tell tales of vampire romances and Hampton trips, Euphoria challenges these stories with reality.

Euphoria does not take the time to ease into the overall message of the show. There is an immediate jump into drug abuse and graphic sex scenes, leaving the viewers uncomfortable and wondering how far the show can actually go. Yet, the point is in fact to be uncomfortable. 

Navigating high school while being surrounded by sex, drugs and teenage society can be tricky and for some never comfortable. Euphoria displays drugs, unhealthy relationships and mental health on the front lines for HBO viewers to witness. By doing this, they can see the wars teenagers battle as they grow. 

About Euphoria

Euphoria follows a 17 year-old drug addict, fresh out of rehab, Rue Bennett. She struggles with figuring out where she fits into the grand-scheme of life. Yet, she has no intention of staying clean, as she uses drugs to fill a void. She mentions this void filler as being “two seconds of nothing…” and, “…every time you breathe, you breathe out all the oxygen you have. Everything stops. Your heart, your lungs and finally your brain. And everything you feel and wish and want to forget, it all just sinks.” 

After those two seconds, she feels that she is given life and air again, and is already vying for another two seconds. The result of two seconds? In and out of hospitals and drug treatments. Is it worth it? To many, yes. Those two seconds are an escape from a reality that some teenagers may risk all to be part of. 

Along with the honest depiction of drug abuse, relationship abuse is something that circulates around Euphoria. Maddy Perez, a confident and combative high schooler, is walking beauty queen without the title. It was a dream of hers to be a pageant girl, but it was something that her mother prohibited her from doing due to sexual assault rumors floating around the pageant world.

Yet, she still walked right into the hands of Nate Jacobs, who creates a toxic and extremely violent relationship for them both. The two experience multiple breaks, with both cheating on one another. 

Maddy Shows Fear

Maddy fears the side of Nate that could turn violent, and it comes to a head when Nate violently throws Maddy, the one he loves so much, into a chokehold. Maddy is left gasping for air, with bruises covering her neck. 

Does she go to the police? No, rather she covers up with makeup and clothing that covers every inch of her skin. This is something very unusual for Perez. The problem is, Maddy believes they are in love and no matter what Nate does to abuse her, physically or mentally, she keeps wanting to stay and to fix the problems he has. Like with Rue’s story, Euphoria doesn’t sugarcoat the toxic and possibly dangerous realities of teenage relationships. 

Euphoria Gets Real

In fact, “Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year…” (Love is Respect.org); a statistic that is unsettling to hear. Euphoria again makes a point of displaying a manipulative relationship, specifically one that displays a high school couple, a time when young people may be too timid to speak up and leave the situation.

There’s nothing romanticized in the HBO series. It’s graphic, startling, uncomfortable and very in your face. But that is what everyone needs to see. Teen drug and relationship abuse is very real, especially at a time in high school that is not so pretty already.

The Message

Euphoria shares an important message of the reality of what the teenage years are like. So I urge all to watch, not for Zendaya in the leading role, not for the ‘aesthetic’, but for the stories the silent want you to see and hear.  

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