If you haven’t heard about this show yet, you’re already missing out. Euphoria is an American remake of an Israeli show. The original and reboot alike are about teens navigating things like drug use, sexting, and other modern issues in a very true-to-life and believable plot. The older generations certainly didn’t grow up like this, but you can get an uncomfortably realistic perspective on what pubescent hormones feel like in today’s culture and society. It’s a hell of a ride if you can handle it.
The wild west or the reign of Ghengis Khan might find teens who share more in common with the kids on this show than their parents’ more prosaic generations understand. With a thousand channels to choose from, and a million examples, good, wicked, sexy, nerdy, repressed, angry, violent, insane, sweet, and funny all convoluting the lines we used to draw to define what a social norm is and is not it becomes harder to tell what’s expected or even OK. Growing up is strange and uncomfortable in the best of times. These are not the best of times.
Before you read ten stories about a fake penis, (yes, there is male nudity and a prosthetic organ in the show) take a more in-depth look at the brilliant underlying concept and stunning execution of the series. Generation Z is growing up in a world where things happen every day that were once considered unbelievable science fiction. The world has more people doing ever more ridiculous, scary, wrong, crazy, and occasionally beautiful things in a day than ever before in history. So, promising audiences dozens of dicks may be a great way to garner some interest, but HBO is not a men’s mag, and they don’t keep an audience’s attention that way. They just know their job when it comes to marketing.
Back Where it All Started
Being born just after 9-11 means that Rue Bennet missed out on the freewheeling 70s with their serious battles fought in the streets by protesters and soldiers. She didn’t get to grow up in the era of 80s dance music, guyliner, coke, and neon everything. Kurt Cobain and the 90s might as well be ancient history to this girl. Instead, she was raised in the era of gold stars for showing up, word-vomit on Facebook and pills for everything that ails you, or makes Big Pharma a buck. It should come as no surprise that by the time she reaches her later teen years, she is addicted to chemical cocktails and doesn’t even make it to legal adulthood before she’s ODed and found choking to death on her own vomit. This may not seem like the world as you know it if you’re the one paying the cable bill, but for millions of tweens to twenty-somethings, this is a depressingly familiar story.
What do you tell your parents as they give the birds-and-bees talk when you’ve been getting dick-pics on your phone since the day you got it? How do you relate to a world that has a pill for every emotion and more labels than a warehouse stock room? Life is hard enough when your hormones are running your life, but when you throw modern technology, medicines, and mentality into the mix, things turn into an un-navigable quagmire of crap pretty quickly.
Sorry Not Sorry
This show manages to avoid being like it’s predecessors Skins, Requiem for a Dream and any other film or series about drugs, sex, and other hot-button issues involving young people. Meanwhile, it cheerfully, pitifully, and beautifully shows off just enough of the horrors and tribulations of adolescent life in our time to make a great story. It is, however, the acting that truly carries the show. Former Disney-Kid Zendaya Coleman plays Rue unforgettably, showing that she is more talented than any children’s TV show ever had room for. She manages to be somehow endearing enough to be relatable and make you want to root for her without being saccharine. Yet she never loses her blase junkie undertone.
Her drug use, relationship with her dealer, and the plastic attitude she faces her family with to cover up her real intentions all play very true. She’s not planning on changing her ways anytime soon, and yet she manages not to be utterly loathsome even when she’s crying at her dealers’ door and begging her friends to pee in containers for her, so she doesn’t get caught.
Friends and More
Rue’s BFF is a trans girl named Jules (Hunter Schafer) who is like a flashlight in the long dark tunnel of life. While Jules struggles with her own young-life choices and starts to fall for some guy she met on Grindr, Rue questions whether their bond means there’s more there than mere friendship. If there is, then what does that say about her and her sexuality? The two have a pent up tension you couldn’t cut with an expensive chef’s knife it’s so thick, and you can’t help wondering if they’ll end up together. It would undoubtedly be wonderful for Rue, but it’s hard to see how it would improve anything for Jules.
As great as these two are, the rest of the cast is equally talented and perfectly suited to their roles. It’s not an easy job, showing the world how cyberbullying, unrestricted access to the information superhighway and instant gratification has led us to ever darker and more convoluted waters as a whole. The show holds up a mirror that shows the ugliness of the truth and still gives enough contrast to make it bearable.
If you’re with us so far, you probably think the entire show is an emo downward spiral, but it’s not even when things are at their worst. There’s always a little light and levity here, though the humor is dark and twisted. Like life, nothing is permanent, and even the most horrific situations can’t go on forever without a change of pace, a joke, and a break in the tension somewhere along the line.
The Breakfast Club kids were edgy in their time, talking about taping Larry Lester’s Buns, and bad Dads giving their teenage sons cigarettes for Christmas. Unfortunately, that generation grew up, had their own horrible relationships and raised their kids in a world where people post every thought in their heads for the world to see, whether it’s racist, nasty, blatantly sexual or otherwise not what we once called child-friendly.
Where some would see this as the horrors of progress, it’s almost more like we’re backsliding into a more lawless era when rules were only loosely enforced. The way each generation behaves at the height of their hormones is just one way to gauge the state of the world, which Euphoria does to dynamic and stunning effect with every episode.