I’m really basic. If a show promises me cheap thrills, guilty pleasure and some girls behaving badly, I’m in. And HBO’s Euphoria certainly delivers on those fronts.
Euphoria centers around Rue, played by the wonderful Zendaya, as well as her friends and some other kids at her school who she is loosely affiliated with. Rue is a high schooler dealing with addiction and other teenage problems, and she’s pretty great but very flawed. She is determined to die from episode one and it’s really hard (and unfortunately very common) to watch someone so young trying so hard to destroy herself. The other kids at her school are equally flawed and they make a lot of very serious mistakes in dealing with their very real and very adult-like issues.
It’s easy to dismiss the troubles of children and young people as just rites of passage or teenage angst but shows like this highlight some things that kids really go through. They are of course dressed up in camera angles, perfect lighting, and other Hollywood magic, but teenage shows are prolific because they touch on issues that adults don’t want to hear or even think about. The soundtrack, wardrobes, and cinematography are necessary to package these shows so they are easier for the general public to digest. Without it all, they’re just documentaries. Very sad ones at that.
Young people are suffering. Drug abuse and suicide are among the leading causes of death for millennials and younger generations. As a millennial, I know several people who have succumbed to these fates. So that’s why shows like Euphoria are so divisive.
Skins was another one. Critics focused on the images of kids partying, doing drugs and having sex but they ignored the causes of these behaviors that the show did an amazing job of depicting. These behaviors are symptoms of a larger issue. 13 Reasons Why was another one that got a lot of flack for its depictions of suicide and sexual violence. However, without going too much into it, we all know that these are major issues and have been for years.
Yes, these shows are wildly exaggerated in some regards, but they are also so important for starting conversations that adults need to get comfortable with having. It’s great that this new generation has their own Skins, a show that entered my high school soul and reverberated around every crevice and aperture until I found myself picking up British affectations.
Shows like Degrassi: The Next Generation and even Freaks and Geeks and Gossip Girl have such important cultural significance. They’re entertainment, yes, but they also hold a mirror up to certain parts of society that most people want to ignore or dismiss as youthful folly.
But in this day and age, youth is a burden. We have global and political issues that we can’t even begin to comprehend. We have a weak economy and our planet basically has an expiration date on it. All we have to combat it is our cellphones, social media, and our over-education. We’re all too young to know what’s happening or what to do about it, but too old to pretend that we don’t.
Euphoria is a great method of escapism into our own problems, and for this I’m grateful.
All hail the teenage drama. Long may they reign.