You on “Euphoria”

According to IMDB, the creator, Sam Levinson, used inspiration from his own drug addiction from his teenage years to write the series.

Mara Fendrich

According to IMDB, the creator, Sam Levinson, used inspiration from his own drug addiction from his teenage years to write the series.

Mara Fendrich, Perspectives Editor

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As a child with choppy bangs and a subtle underbite, I used to sneak downstairs at night to watch reruns of “Skins” and “Degrassi”, staring until the backs of my eyelids were streaked green and my brain sought shelter beneath a heavy fog of melatonin.

With the release of HBO’s new series “Euphoria,” I was anticipating a parallel of those stories. I was expecting a decently unrealistic teenage melodrama that would take its genre out of the dark ages of “13 Reasons Why.” What I got instead was in one way better and, in another, catastrophically worse. 

“Euphoria” is known positively for its surreal cinematography, a raw portrayal of recovery and a discussion of the complexity within cycles of abuse. Its flaws, however, eclipse any promise of Eden and replaces it with delirium, leaving the viewer spineless and paranoid in the dark. From the minute the show begins, you as the observer are buried alive underneath the real story, with no option but to view it behind a lens of mental decay.

This is you on “Euphoria”. Let me explain.

Because our protagonist, Rue Bennett, is an addict, it’s a given that the narration is unreliable to a certain extent. Some scenes show this through her lies and experiments with drugs, or when she’s trying to explain a concept to the viewer through figments of her imagination. While on the surface it seems as though these fantasies don’t bleed through their confinements and into the plot, the truth is that every event is filtered and construed through a biased conscience. Because every story narrated by one of the characters always has some form of bias, the viewer has been taught to recognize the story as slightly unbalanced but ultimately harmless. That isn’t the case for “Euphoria.” This time, it’s much more dangerous.

Through each episode’s backstory on a different character, added onto the main character’s explanations of why these teenagers are the way they are, the show brings forth mentalities that leave scars on the audience long after they’ve stopped watching.

Even in the first half of the pilot, the level of nudity from the cast, added with montages of clips taken directly from pornography, serves no more purpose than shock. Rue’s monologue that follows shortly after serves to show that an obsessive consumption of this content is the norm, overlooking the fact that pornography is addictive in the same ways substances are, taking over the human brain piece by piece. This sentiment also fails to acknowledge that behind sexually graphic content is a story, an industry surrounding rape, child abuse and general exploitation, all of which “Euphoria” goes on to depict specifically as the traumatic events they are.

The way “Euphoria” gets the viewer to empathize with the characters is through sharing those traumatic events, which theoretically should be effective without hitting the audience too closely. Unfortunately, these events are shown directly through the character’s view, making both parties experience the same trauma for themselves. The purpose is the same: shock. And while this series has been successful in standing out in more than one way, the idea that experiencing the same trauma is needed to understand a character’s feelings is so far off base that it can make the viewer turn away before they’re shown how to recover.

“Euphoria” has already made waves throughout social media for everything it does right, and make no mistake, there’s a lot it does right. But, underneath the highs it provides, I’m left with nothing but a matching low.