Arts and Entertainment

Euphoria: Something Different but Much Needed

How Euphoria stands out against other teen shows and why it deserves the praise it’s getting.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

It seems like a new teen drama has been tossed at us every month for the past few years. Every show gives us the same view of teen life by a different producer in Hollywood. “Euphoria” is the most recent show to be added to the list of teen dramas, but it doesn’t exactly fit in with the others.

“Euphoria” is told through the voice of Rue, (the iconic Zendaya Coleman) a depressed drug addict fresh from rehab. Through Rue’s narrations, we see how her complicated life unfolds alongside the lives of several other characters. Each episode starts with 10 minutes of a different character's story that lead up to where they are now in the show. It does sound like the basic high school drama storyline, but the writing, themes, cinematography and most importantly, the show’s relatability make the show outstanding.

In most teen dramas, high school is rather glamorized. Instead of shying away from sensitive—and often important—topics, “Euphoria” faces them full on, raw and unfiltered. We see teens dealing with drug and sexual abuse, toxic relationships, self-image issues, and bullying. Many adults find it hard to watch. Watching teenagers having sex and taking drugs is every parent’s nightmare. It’s not easy seeing anyone go through these extreme situations, but let’s face it, it happens and many teens can relate. The main writer and creator of the show, Sam Levinson, takes caution that he doesn’t glamorize these rough topics by including the consequences the characters must face for their actions.

Good writing is a key to any successful show and Levinson is one heck of a writer. As a former drug addict himself, he was able to channel his own experiences into Rue’s story in particular, making “Euphoria” all the more realistic. Levinson also includes different angles of his personality in the show’s other characters, who get just the same amount of development and backstory as Rue does. For example, Cassie (Sydney Sweeney) starts off on a basic storyline, but as we see more of her history with her father, we become increasingly invested in her story.

Writing about heavy topics, such as drug addiction and depression, adds a deep emotional layer within the show. We see the challenges that an addict, as well as the people around them, has to go through. Rue’s sister Gia (Stormi Reid) is traumatized by the sight of Rue experiencing an overdose and near-death. In another episode, Rue has trouble even going to the bathroom. She wounds up in the hospital, hurting her loved ones.

Another common theme is abusive relationships, particularly the one between Nate (Jacob Elordi) and Maddy (Alexa Demie). Nate suffers from childhood trauma caused by his dad, leading him to become an overly masculine and toxic boyfriend. Nate tells his girlfriend Maddy that he would kill for her, but later physically abuses her. This makes the audience question whether Nate wants to protect Maddy, control her, or both. Maddy, someone who is extremely confident on the outside, struggles to stand up for herself and continues to let Nate treat her poorly. While she is miserable in the relationship, she has difficulty ending it, a situation that is a model for many relationships in the real world.

Social media also plays a huge role in this show. We see it serve as both an outlet for self expression and a dangerous place for minors to get manipulated. Kat (Barbie Ferreira) spent a majority of her childhood writing fanfiction anonymously on Tumblr. At school, she was known as the fat girl. Later, we see a video of her losing her virginity go viral at school. She feels defeated at first, but decides to take back her power by becoming a dominatrix online for older men.

These heavy themes are made more realistic by the visuals on the show. Being on drugs gives one a sense of trippiness, and since the show is told through the lens of drug addict, it almost feels as if we are the euphoric ones. The rotating room scene from episode one shows Rue at a party right after she takes drugs. She stumbles out of the bathroom into a seemingly rotating hallway. Everyone else is standing still, and from the audience’s point of view, we’re along for the ride. For this scene, Levinson created a hallway that actually rotates and strapped all the characters and set pieces to the ground, leaving Coleman as Rue to navigate the disorienting space.

High school can no doubt be a ubiquitously overwhelming experience. When one unfortunate decision leads to drug abuse and toxic relationships, it seems that the world is acting against us. While these issues are inaccurately portrayed elsewhere, they are made real and visible in “Euphoria.” The relatability is shown through incredible writing and cinematography developed by a writer who has had firsthand experience. Levinson manages dark themes without a filter, creating a revolutionary show that’s different from anything we’ve ever seen.