Popular show Euphoria takes startling look at life through eyes of troubled teens

The hit Emmy award-winning HBO series Euphoria has garnered much attention since its initial release in 2019 for its raw and bona fide portrayal of the so-called ‘best years of your life’. In order to accurately portray high school, the show replicates the risky behavior of teens, adding up to become a show centered on the expression of identity, sex and drug use.  

This show is not meant to be consumed by children and does its best to warn viewers. Before all episodes a mature content warning is issued and Zendaya, the starring actress of the show, came out and stated that the show may be difficult to watch for some. 

“This season, maybe even so more than the last, is deeply emotional and deals with subject matter that can be difficult and triggering to watch. Please only watch it if you feel comfortable,” she reiterated on an Instagram post before the show went live. 

Euphoria has not only gained attention for its captivating performances, but its clever use of makeup, costume, music as well as cinematography. The use of hard substances is concurrently expressed with bold, glittery makeup around the eyes and glowing hues of lights engulfing the characters. It illustrates the well-known side effects of using, such as the slowing of time and the feeling of having no responsibilities. 

This brings into question whether or not the show is trying to show these grim substances as something that is just fun and enjoyable recreation? On the contrary, it does the exact opposite. 

While the rest of the characters use drugs for better times at parties, Rue uses it to avoid reality and the depression that comes with it. Rue, played by Zendaya, enters the show right before her senior year begins, coming home from rehab after an overdose of opioids. If there is one thing the directors of this show do, they do not shy away from detail. Whether it is Rue’s storytelling or actually seeing it on the screen, the show makes sure to show the horrifying side effects of drugs amongst other racy activities. 

If there is one thing the directors of this show do, they do not shy away from detail. Whether it is Rue’s storytelling or actually seeing it on the screen, the show makes sure to show the horrifying side effects of drugs amongst other racy activities. ”

“I know you’re not allowed to say it, but drugs are kinda 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,” Rue says during an episode of the show, while reflecting back on her relationship with drugs. 

Rue is prescribed medication as a toddler, helping her with anxiety. Furthermore, when her father falls ill to cancer, his vast supply of painkillers tempts her, with eventually her giving in, and enjoying a voluntary high. A flashback shows Gia, her 13 year-old sister, finding her nearly dead sister on the floor, inciting a visceral reaction within the audience, having them have to go through the same experience as Gia. 

As the story progresses, Rue is back in town and the first person she talks to other than her family is her dealer Fezco. He recognizes how he is just helping her kill herself. 

“I had no intention of staying clean,” Rue explains within her monologue coming home from rehab. It completely contradicts what Fezo said to her, “This drug [stuff] is not the answer,”. 

Regardless of Fezco, Rue is still able to find access to drugs, and the audience is able to see the direct results of it. They witness the relationships around her fracture as well as the battle within her herself of whether or not staying sober will fix said relationships, as she tries to keep up the pain-numbing that a xanax can do and the high she can get from anything stronger. 

“When I was eleven, I got rushed to the hospital because I couldn’t breathe. It was like there was no air left in the world. There they gave me liquid valium to calm me down. When it hit me I thought, this is it, this is the feeling I have been searching for my entire life,” she rationally explains to Fezco. 

This show does not take the topic of drug abuse lightly, highlighting the relationship with Rue and her mother. The stress she faces comes out as anger towards Rue, as her daughter is trying to actively destroy her very creation. 

“You don’t understand this. It was the most frightening moment a mother could witness. And Gia who absolutely idolizes you, to have her find you unconscious,” she states as Rue takes a drug test with clean urine that is not hers, but her best friend’s. 

The yelling and screaming the two do vibrates through the eardrums of anyone hearing it, the cracks in their voice become sharp as knives cutting through the hearts of the listener. 

Rue’s desire for a high equates to happiness and overshadows her guilt and loyalty to her mother as well as those around her of keeping sobriety. Her deep roots to substance use connects her back to her own concept of being a person and does not let her take control of her own body both mentally and physically. 

The drugs she takes whether it is on purpose or not, are always risking her life, as she constantly walks the tightrope between life or death. Not only has she already overdosed, she almost does a second time in the opening of the second season, going into cardiac arrest after consuming heroin. 

Rue has accepted the fact that she cannot stay sober, saying “If I could be a different person I would, not because I want it, but because they do,”. 

So even though this show prides itself on its glamor, beauty and aesthetics and has a soundtrack that could bring Abel back to life, it makes sure it keeps itself in check. Switching from high to sober, dream to reality, love to hate.