It’s a New Season, Playboy: “Euphoria” Airing on HBO

Malachi Mungoshi

Viewpoints Editor

 

Where to begin? Well, “Euphoria,” the HBO television show directed and written by Sam Levinson, and starring Zendaya and Hunter Shafer, among others, has been described as “phenomenal,” “harmful,” “realistic,” “unrealistic” and the list goes on. This article is not for the purposes of picking a side, if you will, because the way it appears is not quite the way it is. 

The series recently aired its second, long-awaited season, which has also been receiving mixed reviews thus far. I have had friends comment on how misogynistic the ideas and executions are. I have had friends tell me they loved those same ideas and executions. Where I stand is neither here nor there. I find “Euphoria” to be just the same as every nihilistic teen show: the teen angst, self-exploration, experimentation, dysfunctional family units, along with others. However, it is written and portrayed in such a way that it transcends that everyday existential drama. This is where I applaud Sam Levinson for taking a directorial stance I have not seen on television thus far. He transmutes feeling onto moments so well and I myself have had to question whether I am on the same drugs as Rue Bennett. The swift yet often jarring transitions keep the audience constantly on the edge of our seats. At first, I found this rushed. I found it messy and what I thought to myself as “too complex.” And that’s not to say I no longer find it this way—I do—but I also see that because the episodes are told mostly from Rue’s point of view. It makes sense that as she falls further into her addiction, her psyche becomes more warped and her unreliability as a narrator grows even more in this season. 

Season 2 has also introduced a deeper exploration of characters such as Fezco and Lexi, as well as a simmering love story between the two. One cannot help but to look at Angus Cloud, a man with no prior professional acting experience, and see in his eyes a very compelling depth. I remember how I just could not get the thought of “wow, he looks like Mac Miller” out of my head the first time that I saw him. Maude Apatow, someone who has grown up knowing well enough what celebrity life entails, becomes Lexi, a shrunken shadow behind her sister, Cassie. I remember feeling incredibly amused at the way Lexi described her life as a movie and the depth of her feelings of detachment from reality. For me, it really wasn’t about what she was saying, but more why. I related to that scene so much, and felt like she was speaking to me. Even the social commentary on the antithetical nature of body image as it relates to social media and society in the scene where Kat is feeling how almost everyone who struggles with body image feels at some point: ugly. For all its explicit content, the characters in “Euphoria” are so well-formed that they themselves become real within the imagination. 

Now, to address something that has been popping up all over Euphoria TikTok: is Sam Levinson sexualising teenagers? Yes. To say he isn’t is to deny the copious amount of penises, breasts and explicit sex scenes we have seen in this series thus far. The question I want to address rather, is “Is this inaccurate? Is it wrong?” The truth is that, as someone who spent a lot of time watching “Skins” when I was 14 years old, I can see the same reactions to it as I see happening with Euphoria in younger teenagers. There has been a resurfacing of the glorification of trauma, drug-use and sexual assault. The worst part, to credit a conversation I had with someone very wise, is that, as they put it, “the effects are two-fold.” Now teenagers and even pre-teens on sites like TikTok, Twitter, and Reddit, are slowly normalizing and romanticizing the aforementioned elements. 

So where do I see Season 2 going, you may ask? Well, I have no idea. All I can hope for is that the worst is behind us, as far as the violence is involved, but knowing this series, we are in for a very rocky, very shocking season.