All For Us?

Should we be watching Euphoria?

Character+Rue+Bennet%2C+played+by+Zendaya%2C+goes+through+the+highs+and+lows+of+high+school+while+battling+a+drug+addiction.

HBO Max

Character Rue Bennet, played by Zendaya, goes through the highs and lows of high school while battling a drug addiction.

Spencer Ralph, Staff Writer

This article includes descriptions of domestic violence, drug abuse, and alcoholism. Please consider reading this with a trusted adult.

High School Musical. Many of us imagined high school would be exactly like the stereotype Disney Channel implanted in us. From jocks in the lead musical to prissy brats like Sharpay, the movies and shows of our childhood created these classic, “perfect” storylines. However, the new HBO show Euphoria is breaking this cookie-cutter high school drama standard.

Featuring storylines of drug abuse, sex, and violence, the show claims to be for 18+ viewers. However, it appeals to teens by casting actors we grew up with such as Zendaya (Shake it Up, K.C. Undercover, the Spider-Man movies) and Jacob Elordi (The Kissing Booth). The Instagram account for the show has racked up 6.6 million followers.

The question left hanging above our heads is: should we be watching?

Premiering in 2019 on the channel HBO, before HBO’s streaming service (HBO Max) had come out, Euphoria is a critically-acclaimed show that guided Zendaya to an Emmy for the most Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series award. By having actors familiar to teens nowadays, the show was bound for success. When the first episode of its second season aired on January 9 2022, it garnered a whopping 13.1 million viewers according to Variety.

Euphoria meticulously covers a wide variety of topics that are very prevalent in the lives of students today. From drugs and alcohol to gender identity and sex, the show does not miss a beat. It even portrays physical and sexual abuse, topics that can be very heavy for even adults, let alone adolescents.

What is Euphoria’s answer to the criticism of their adult content? Say that the show is mature, and recommend that viewers are 18 or older to watch. Although the producers of Euphoria may have thought that this would prevent younger people from watching, HBO Max users are still able to watch it if they don’t have their profile set to ‘kids only’ In fact, this does not stop at shows like Euphoria. It allows users of all ages to watch shows like Game of Thrones, known for its violence and graphic sex scenes.

For some, the age recommendation isn’t enough. The lead actress and executive producer, Zendaya, stated on an Instagram post, “this season, maybe even more so than the last, is deeply emotional and deals with subject matter that can be triggering and difficult to watch…Please only watch if you feel comfortable.” Many have taken Zendaya’s note into account. From adults to teenagers, many are speaking out on social media saying that they refuse to watch the show because of family or personal history.

In Shivani Kadia’s (‘24) case, the show felt right to watch. “I feel it deals with a lot of serious issues in a way where it brings awareness yet also shows the dark side of drugs,” she said. In the show, the main character Rue Bennett, an addict, is constantly engaging in drug use. Shivani continued on, saying how the show does a “good job in showing how hard addiction is on someone and their family,” and how it scares a viewer. “It does a good job not glamorizing drugs,” she concluded.

Psychology teacher Mrs. Emily Smith has only seen one episode of Euphoria, but that was enough for her to understand the gist. The seniors and juniors in her Honors Psychology classes continually reference the show, especially during their unit on sexual motivation. Mrs. Smith says that she thinks “explicit shows damage our ability to perceive what life and sex should be.” In season one of Euphoria, one of the main characters, Nate Jacobs, strangles his girlfriend, Maddy Perez, by the neck. Later on in season two, he puts a gun up to her head while threatening her. There becomes an added concern when domestic violence and sexual assault are continuously played for children who have yet to understand the severity of it.

The show’s characters are not just engaging in inappropriate adult behavior. They also, as 20+ year olds, have adult bodies. “There is some damage being done because what they see as a normal body doesn’t match their own,” Mrs. Smith said. “There is a dissonance from how they think they should look.” On social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok, users have found pictures of the actors when they were in High School showing the dramatic difference.

“I have the same problem as I did when watching 13 Reasons Why: it does not seem like there is a trusted adult in the show,” said Director of Counseling Mrs. Megan Broderick. In light of the recent events on our campus, Mrs. Broderick explained her general concerns about the lack of trust with adults among younger generations. During the emergency assembly to notify students of the racist and anti-Semitic attacks at Bishop’s, she spoke to the entire Upper School community letting them know that she was there for them.

Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Broderick both agree on the need for kids to have conversations with their parents about behaviors like this. “If parents are talking to their kids openly and honestly about healthy sexual relationships, the show shouldn’t be a problem; but they’re not,” said Mrs. Smith. She and Mrs. Broderick both spoke to their belief that students’ “sex and social ed” being taught through technology is a dangerous slope. However, Mrs. Smith does find the show to be more acceptable when young viewers have conversed about the explicit content with trusted adults.

Adding on, Mrs. Broderick said that “it’s developmentally normal for young people to be attracted to danger and risks, but there comes a point where it is too risky.” If you watch Euphoria, no matter what age, please be advised that it is triggering to groups that suffer from addiction, abuse, and alcoholism.

Will Keefe (‘23) believes that people his age “understand that it is more than drugs, sex, alcohol, and the danger. It shows real characters who make real mistakes,” he said. “Something that we can relate to.”