'Euphoria' still from the HBO series
Zendaya portrays Rue Bennett in the hit series "Euphoria." (Image via Instagram/@euphoria)

‘Euphoria’ Provides Audiences a Glimpse Inside the Mind of a Teen

The hit HBO series carefully describes the dark side of adolescence without giving into typical teen drama tropes.

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'Euphoria' still from the HBO series

The hit HBO series carefully describes the dark side of adolescence without giving into typical teen drama tropes.

HBO’s hit series “Euphoria” is an authentic depiction of the teenage crisis unfolding in suburbia. “Euphoria” is fearless, daunting and, in some scenes, even explicit. Nonetheless, the show pushes the boundaries of the television teen drama genre.

The showrunner of “Euphoria,” Sam Levinson, carefully adapted the series, which is loosely based on an Israeli show of the same name. Levinson’s precise focus on details aids the show’s realistic feel and ultimately its success. When creating “Euphoria,” Levinson drew from his own personal experiences with addiction during his early adolescent years. Thus, Levinson pays careful attention to every aspect of “Euphoria,” as shown in the show’s soundtrack all the way down to the editorial style makeup — none of which go unappreciated by its audience.

Aside from its alarming realism, the use of colors in “Euphoria” is a focal point throughout the series. Captivating shots suffused with flashes of blue, red and most prominently purple represent the youth’s state of mind; blue showcases sorrow, while red reveals lust and intensity. The color purple is used throughout the series to display what transpires when you combine all these emotions teenagers endure together, similar to the act of mixing blue and red paint.

Attention to Character Details

Every episode of the series begins with the origin story of a recurring character, which gives the audience a greater look inside who they really are. The first episode of “Euphoria” introduces its main character, Rue Bennett (loosely based on the series creator Levinson), who’s portrayed by Emmy Award-winning actress Zendaya. Rue is a high school-age girl who’s attempting to return back to a normal life after spending the past few months in a rehabilitation facility after a drug overdose. The show illustrates the ups and downs that come with sobriety, as well as the dark effects of drug addiction on the personal relationships of those struggling with drug dependency.

“Euphoria” viewers are also introduced to the character Jules Vaughn, played by Hunter Schafer. Jules just moved into the neighborhood and quickly connects with Rue. As we see more inside Jules’ life and flashbacks of before she moved to town, the audience learns she’s much more than meets the eye. Jules’ story shows the pain and self-acceptance that come throughout her gender transition journey. Like the actress who plays Jules, Schafer is also openly transgender and pulled from personal experiences during her role. Schafer even gave the show’s writers direct insight on how to accurately portray an LGBTQ+ character.

Like any teen television drama, “Euphoria” includes the stereotypical high school relationships like the football player and the cheerleader. But the series gives a different perspective on these oft-romanticized pairings. The show displays two of these relationships, one including Maddy Perez (Alexa Demie) and Nate Jacobs (Jacob Elordi). To the naked eye, Nate and Maddy’s relationship seems perfect, although as we get a closer look, the dark truths that reside within become clear. Their relationship includes psychological manipulation and sadly morphs into physical abuse.

Tackling Major Issues

The series mainly focuses on high school students. However, with the character Chris McKay (Algee Smith) viewers get to see the difficult transition from the small world of grades 9-12 to the big world of university. McKay goes from being a hometown hero and football bigshot to a college benchwarmer. The writers on “Euphoria” carefully interlock his feelings regarding his abrupt fall from grace with how his emotions affect his other personal relationships; McKay is consumed by feelings of failure and constant anxiety about how he’s perceived, and as a result, cracks start to form in his relationship with Cassie Howard (Sydney Sweeney). This leads to McKay shaming Cassie for being sexually liberated and ultimately pushing her to get an abortion after he gets her pregnant.

The series confronts other hard-to-swallow issues affecting today’s youth such as body image, which the show explores with another character, Kat Hernandez (Barbie Ferreira). As we see more of her, we discover she’s spent most of her young life dealing with self-esteem, as she commonly compares herself to the people surrounding her. This struggle becomes so severe that she gives in to peer pressure and loses her virginity to feel more connected with her friend group.

Most of the storylines explored in “Euphoria” are beloved by fans who find them very relatable to their own experiences. However, as Kat’s story progresses, it becomes more controversial. Kat comes to terms with her self-esteem but in an unexpected way. She begins secretly posting videos of herself on pornography sites as a way to make money and gain validation. “Euphoria” delves into beauty standards and body image, which is an extremely important topic for teen audiences. With that said, the sexualization of Kat’s 16-year-old character was a less-than-necessary portrayal of body positivity and self-acceptance.

“Euphoria” single-handedly changed the television’s teen drama genre. Since its 2019 release, not a single program has measured up to the series. The series is bold and the risks it takes are striking. All these elements, combined with the show’s breathtaking cinematographic aesthetic, make “Euphoria” a cultural phenomenon.

Major filming delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in HBO being unable to release a full season of the hit show since 2019. However, the anxious anticipation has come to an end, with the gift of a new season coming in the new year. On Jan. 9, viewers get to indulge and tune in once again to the dark beauty of HBO’s “Euphoria.”

Writer Profile

Asiya Robinson

Rowan University
Writing Arts

Asiya Robinson is a bookworm from Deptford, New Jersey, with dreams of an exhilarating writing career. Whether it’s becoming a novelist or journalist, Asiya plans to pen herself an alluring and prosperous tomorrow.

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