Euphoria first aired in June 2019 on HBO. The series written by Sam Levinson examines Gen Z through high school relationships, friendships, drugs, violence, and social media. The music of Euphoria is used as a key element to the plot. Euphoria uses flashbacks to illustrate the backstories of each character. The disturbing imagery, sex, and nudity throughout the show has parents troubled. The show is immersed in much controversy receiving both praise and criticism. Zendaya who plays the main character, won a Primetime Emmy Award and a Satellite Award for Best Actress in a Drama Series.
The first season introduces Rue (Zendaya) who is the main character and narrates the show. She struggles with addiction, depression, and is in love with Jules, who is new to the high school. In the premier episode, Rue is returning from a drug overdose and relapses while attending 12-step meetings, where she is untruthful about her sobriety.
Rue presents a realistic viewpoint on the thought process of a young addict such as self-obsession and delusional thoughts. Rue lives with her mother and younger sister. The show also touches on the damage occurring to her family. Rue does get sober for a brief period, in Season 1, centered around her relationship with Jules but relapses again by the end of Season 1. Season 2 dives deeper into the reality of addiction as Rue reaches rock bottom. Euphoria’s cast of characters is numerous, each with dark narratives of their own but too convoluted to address here in detail.
Both seasons have generated criticism and outrage among its viewers. Some critics believe Euphoria’s collective darkness is too much for audiences to process. The president of the Parents Television Council stated the content was too graphic for its target audience mostly due to the locker room scene where dozens of high school boys are naked. Others claim the show relies on shock value and apocalyptic scenes. Also drawing much disapproval is Euphoria’s pill seller named Ashtray. The 10-year-old drug dealer with face tattoos is alarming.
D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) has spoken out publicly about the show’s possible negative effects on teens and recently released a statement saying the show "chooses to misguidedly glorify and erroneously depict high school student drug use, addiction, anonymous sex, violence and other destructive behaviors as common and widespread in today’s world." Many believe the show should have been set at the college level as opposed to high school. The creator, Levinson, believes the show should not be watched by teens under 17.
If you, a friend, or family member has been affected by teen addiction, depression, abuse, or mental illness, Euphoria should be on your viewing list.