Euphoria: The Voice of Gen-Z

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Zendaya, the protagonist, is pictured on the promotion poster wearing the show’s iconic eye makeup. Euphoria’s visual elements captivated viewers, but it was the show’s authenticity that truly caught the attention of people all around the world. “Adolescence is cruel, and sweetly naive, in ever-shifting combinations of the two. If there’s one thing Euphoria understands perfectly, it’s that,” said reviewer Rebecca Nicholson.

Andrea Pérez, Culture Editor

Teen drama series, often filled with ham-fisted writing, ridiculous plotlines, and subpar continuity, rule the school nights of teenagers all over the world. Between attractive vampires, rich upper east siders, shirtless werewolves, and pretty lying girls, where are the genuine hardships of adolescence for Gen Z depicted? Euphoria, the HBO series released in 2019, follows a group of high school students as they navigate love and friendships in a world of trauma, addiction, judgment, and social media.

Euphoria gives a harsh but accurate representation of the obstacles faced by this generation. Not only is it entertaining, but also highly enlightening. We live in a world of misunderstood teenagers with bruised hearts and disastrous minds, and this show is exactly what was needed to give a voice to the broken yet empowered youth. Euphoria, the quintessence of adolescence, is a definite must-watch.

There is no way to describe Euphoria’s portrayal of drug addiction other than as “scary-accurate.” The show, centered on Rue, a 17-year-old drug addict, showcases the struggles of staying clean, the deterioration of relationships due to addiction, the neverending dependency, and the trauma and heartbreak after an overdose. Teenage drama series such as Élite tend to romanticize drug abuse, portraying it as the essence of fun high school parties, with no serious repercussions. Euphoria, on the other hand, doesn’t depict drug addiction as a quirky teenage trait, but rather as a deadly disease that has the power to destroy you and those around you. Like Rue, countless teenagers around the world use drugs as a coping method for their psychological issues. Euphoria sheds light on their misconceived situation while also raising awareness regarding the true nature of addiction, breaking all stereotypes and misconceptions. As Rue said, “Drugs are kind of cool. I mean, they’re cool before they wreck your skin. And your life. And your family. That’s when they get uncool. It’s actually a very narrow window of cool.” While those who haven’t watched the show argue that it encourages drug abuse, Euphoria’s audience can say with certainty that it does the absolute opposite.

Euphoria’s characters can be described as anything but bland and one-dimensional, their complex nature being what adds depth and realism to the show. Despite there being a protagonist, each episode is centered around a different character and their backstory. Each person in the show has had their share of struggles. As a character’s past is unveiled, everything “clicks” for us viewers, and we understand what led each person to become the teenage version we see of them. Cassie, for instance, developed “daddy issues” due to her absent father while Jules’ traumatic past with her mother, who didn’t accept her desire to change her gender, led her teenage self to engage in dangerous sexual activities. Further, the death of Rue’s father worsened her mental illnesses, leading to her drug addiction problem. As in real life, while some spent a great portion of their childhood suffering, others barely had traumatic pasts. However, the show made sure to not make their pain any less valid. Other teen drama shows like Gossip Girl not only tend to center on the protagonists, but they also make a person’s emotions solely dependent on the life they were given and on their past. This gives no complexity to the rest of the characters and makes the TV series incredibly unrealistic. Euphoria, on the other hand, gives importance to every character and always adds layers, accurately depicting real-life and the varied struggles of teenagers in the present.

What truly makes Euphoria stand out by adding to its real nature is its spectacular quality of acting. Zendaya, the show’s main actress, portrays Rue’s drug addiction and mental disorders in a captivating yet heartbreaking manner. At the same time, she depicts her character’s strength and ongoing spirit. While some may still think of Zendaya as a former Disney actress, her acting muscles have expanded beyond the limits of simplistic childish shows, making her Disney days and average acting seem like a distant memory. Her performance is undoubtedly outstanding, having won the 2020 Emmy award for best TV drama actress. The rest of the cast is indisputably phenomenal as well. Each actor and actress adds their sense of uniqueness and authenticity to the series. Hunter Schafer, for instance, who plays Jules (Rue’s love interest), wrote a special episode for Euphoria released in 2020, solely focused on her character. During quarantine, Schafer was getting ready to check herself into a mental hospital, but decided to write an episode for Jules instead, using her own emotions to create the dialogue for her character in a therapy session. Schafer’s acting in the episode, as on the entire series, was magnificent, especially since her character’s words came from a genuine, transparent place. The authenticity of both Zendaya and Schafer, as well as the rest of the cast, is what truly gave magic and veracity to the show.

Euphoria, more than a show the voice of Gen Z, should be on the top of your list. Its depiction of drug addiction, the complexity of its characters, and its remarkable cast of actors make the show stand out from all existing teen drama series, giving it an authentic and heartbreaking accuracy that keeps its viewers at the edge of their seats.