Euphoria illustration

In 2019 “Euphoria” premiered to solid viewership as the show was advertised as a raw coming-of-age teen drama. The show has since gained the attention of millions as it really picked up steam while most were at home during the pandemic.

The show's second season premiered on Jan. 9 and the subsequent episodes have garnered record viewership for the platform. The premiere alone drew 13.1 million viewers across both HBO and its streaming service, HBO Max.

Being that the show is on HBO and its streaming service, it is allowed more creative flexibility. It is just another part of a wave of HBO series and streaming service shows that include nudity, drugs and graphic language.

The way that we censor television programs has been ever evolving, as network television shows have been given some leeway to use some swear words and vulgarity sparingly in recent years.

Being that "Euphoria" has been so popularized it has allowed students like Mackenzie Acree, an English/political science senior, to step out of their comfort zone.

“I think it is probably the most graphic TV show I’ve ever watched. Even 'Shameless' wasn’t this graphic, but I kind of like it. I like that they don’t pull punches, like it’s harsh but in a way that makes sense,” Acree said.

Acree also appreciates the way the show handles its subject matter while also acknowledging that the show, at times, may promote bad decision making.

With this many eyeballs on the show, the star of the show, Zendaya, has had to remind viewers of its vulgarity. In Instagram posts before both season premieres, she reminded her fans that the show is for mature audiences, along with emphasizing that this is especially true for the show's second season.

This is due to the traumatic nature of many events that could come off as triggers to those dealing with such heavy subject matter, that includes sex, drugs and alcohol, within their own lives. Events that can be triggered by either seeing or hearing, which is all you do when watching TV.

Both, Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) and the Parents Television and Media Council (TPC) have actively spoken out about the content of the show. The organizations believe "Euphoria" may glamorize the use of drugs and have advocated for the show to not be on television because of its portrayal of teen nudity.

In response, Zendaya, who is also an executive producer on "Euphoria," explained in an interview with Entertainment Weekly that, "Our show is in no way a moral tale to teach people how to live their life or what they should be doing." 

Instead, she states the show is just trying to help individuals feel a little bit less alone in their experience and pain.

A lot of television is left up to viewers themselves to interpret. So, if the wrong person views such content and this is their first experience with it, a show must be careful not to glorify it. That is a huge responsibility and burden on a showrunner, even if they have dealt with this stuff, as the show's creator, Sam Levinson, has admitted to having done so, and he admits the show mirrors aspects of his life as a teen.

Bryce Wiley, an education junior, credits Levinson for "Euphoria" showing such real experiences. 

“Addiction is really hard for someone to go through and so you’re not going to be able to do it on a PG-13 level. I think you can try, but it’s not going to be as authentic as I feel like it is right now. And even though it’s hard to watch, it’s like 10 times harder to see someone in real life go through it,” Wiley said. 

As the show makes its way into the culture of youth, there needs to be an understanding of right and wrong, as it has often blurred the lines and tested how we view growing up in America.

The shows cinematography and overall aesthetic have become synonymous with the culture surrounding the show, but that is not an excuse to be irresponsible when it comes to telling the reality of the circumstances within its own story.

It is a visually pleasing show, shot entirely on Kodak Ekatachrome film. The costumes, while likely no actual high schooler is wearing $1,515 gladiator sandals, is also something to watch out for in each episode. The characters all have relatable flaws and insecurities as well.

"Euphoria" is a pleasant change from the average teen drama, it is less “Friday Night Lights,” and more “Degrassi.” These shows do have similar ways in which they were not shy in their storytelling as well. But to some, that is when the show goes bad

The overall popularity of "Euphoria" can also have an opposite effect according to Wiley. 

“I think when everything becomes too popular, it can be a negative thing," he said. "I feel like with this season, you can kind of see the effects of that popularity." 

At the end of the day, it is entertainment and the artists' jobs are trying to keep viewers' attention, which is becoming harder because of new generations' lack of social skills and as youth becomes stuck to their cell phones. This may force storytellers to push the envelope, which can be fine, when properly warned or censored.

I view myself as a huge fan of "Euphoria" and will continue to watch it because it is an excellent show that often raises good questions about the society we live in. But I believe that it truly may not be for everyone, and it is okay to shy away from viewing it. 

- Dillon Strine is a journalism junior

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