Exquisitely filmed using various interesting techniques, Euphoria follows “a group of teens as they navigate drugs, sex, identity, trauma, social media, love and friendship.” Ironically, it’s for adults only, is 18+ rated, and carries an extra warning ahead of the HBO intro logo.
Younger audiences are praising the realism of the show, and Twitter is awash with giddy compliments from fans who may or may not be able to relate to the show on a deeply personal level.
But for older viewers, it’s another frightening depiction of what adolescents get up to; parents are afraid for their toddlers growing up in today’s world, or grateful their offspring have grown up relatively unscathed. Some older generation audiences are shaking their heads and tut-tutting disapprovingly.
And then there are those who think it’s mediocre, boring or trying too hard. That a series can divide opinions in so many ways is doing something right. There’s nothing more damning than indifference.
Let’s quickly address the elephant over there in the corner
Euphoria, rated 18+, is jaw-droppingly explicit, particularly when it comes to full-frontal male nudity. In contrast, the breasts and nipples, which so many claim to find offensive, are understated. Sophie Gilbert (The Atlantic) says it well: “Images of erect penises crop up with the persistence and frequency of weeds in springtime.”
They’re going to take you by surprise at first but, like most things, you get used to them to the point that they slide by, barely noticed.
In a breathtakingly beautiful performance, Zendaya (The Greatest Showman, Spiderman: Homecoming) stars as Rue, a teenage junkie fresh out of rehab and directly on her way back to her dealer. She narrates her own story, from her birth to her mental illnesses, as well as the stories of her friends as we get to know each of them more intimately as the episodes go by.
We witness Rue’s reckless drug use – she goes about the business of getting high as only kids with no sense of their own mortality can.
Handling the trans topic
Her friend Jules (trans superstar Hunter Schafer) is emotionally messed up too. and on her own destructive path; part of her story begins with a motel-room meeting with a man she met online. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Eric Dane, who will never again be McSteamy or Captain Chandler. The trans topic is handled with admirable finesse.
“There’s nothing more powerful than a fat girl who doesn’t give a f**k”
That’s what we hear in Rue’s voiceover in episode 5, and she’s talking about Kat, played by Barbie Ferreira, who is an outspoken supporter of body positivity in real life.
She is a delight as Kat, who leads probably the safest secret life of the bunch. As with Rue’s efforts to stay clean for Jules, Kat’s butterfly moment conveys a strong message of being comfortable and confident in one’s own body, and of hope and redemption.
Sam Levinson wrote the screenplay based on his own experiences and battles with addiction as a teenager. “One of the biggest hurdles for this show is, ‘How do we create empathy for this generation with an older generation?’,” he says.
If anyone has even one iota of empathy, it will surely be evoked on behalf of these young humans navigating the perilous waters of adolescence.
And it’s just been renewed for Season 2.
Episodes 1 to 5 are ready to stream on Showmax, with the final episodes coming express from the US.