Drugs! Sex! Alcohol! What is ‘Euphoria’ really about?



The cast list of “Euphoria” features actors that hold familiarity and prominence to young adult viewers, including (left to right) Jacob Elordi, who plays Nate Jacobs; Alexa Demie, who plays Maddy Perez; Zendaya, who plays Rue Bennett; and Hunter Schafer, who plays Jules Vaughn. The actors’ abilities to portray their characters allows for the detailed plot to entertain many young adult viewers.

Before there were online streaming services, people waited. They waited for a specific day of the week  to turn on their television, go to the right channel and watch the newest episode of their favorite TV show. Now, people can finish a dozen seasons of a show in a matter of weeks with the right determination using their laptop and phone. Among teenagers, it is rare to consistently wait 168 hours to watch a new episode of a show every week. One show, however, has brought a majority of teenagers to wait again despite the shortened attention spans today. What show holds that much power and how?

“I don’t think [‘Euphoria’] is similar to many of the teen shows out today, especially because of the way they approach social issues in a realistic way,” Alexa Lemus (11) said. “I think it’s important to go into the show with a mature and established mindset.”

The first episode of  “Euphoria” dropped on July 16, 2019, on HBO Max, an online streaming service. The month following, the show decided on producing a second season, which began streaming Jan. 9, 2022. Another month following, season three was confirmed for production. Season two can currently be found on HBO Max and Hulu with a premium membership.

“I watched the show right when it came out,” Isabelle Smith (12) said. “This show had been talked about for months [prior to release], so I was honestly very excited to watch it with all my friends.”

The first season took teens by storm. The show features a wide range of characters from drug dealers to jocks to popular girls to outcasts. This variety of characters allows for viewers to easily relate to aspects in the show.

“Watching Rue struggle with her addiction is a real issue that people all over the world go through, even people we may personally know,” Smith said. “‘Euphoria’ also highlights all different types of abuse: for example, sexual, verbal and mental abuse. These scenes spread awareness on topics that a lot of people go through and could be comforting for those going through similar things.”

The show depicts relationships of all kinds. Two prominent relationships are between characters Rue and Jules and Maddy and Nate. Rue and Jules’ relationship represents the LGBTQ+ community and struggles surrounding sexuality. Maddy and Nate’s relationship exposes an extreme of abusive high school relationships taken control by toxic masculinity, qualifying the show for a mature rating.

“I think that the show’s TV-MA rating is appropriate,” Adam O’Neal (9) said. “Although I am 15 and watched the show, I agree that 17 is a good age to recommend for viewers to at least be.”

Consequently, people began wondering if the show was appropriate for the target audience: teenagers. On social media, people have brought up an important question regarding the show: does it glorify drug usage? Anti-drug education program D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) released a statement declaring that the show “misguidedly glorif[ies] and erroneously depict[s] high school student drug use, addiction, anonymous sex, violence and other destructive behaviors as common and widespread in today’s world.” Each side has its arguments, but the show demonstrates the horrors of drug abuse through the character Rue, doing the opposite of glorification.

“Young viewers, like me, I believe need to be exposed to these situations so you can learn how to handle them if it ever happens to you or someone you love,” Smith said. “These situations are extremely real and happen every single day, and I think this show is a perfect way to grab the attention of the younger viewers in hope to spread awareness of these topics.”

The show’s complex storyline keeps viewers at the edge of their seats every Sunday, addressing several touchy subjects that most teenagers are encouraged to keep quiet about. Kids are becoming more exposed to challenges at younger ages, and it is time for the media to portray that as well. “Euphoria” is a TV show that has done just that, approaching teenage problems in a creative way.

“I was a little shocked by how blunt they were about the themes of the show because I definitely expected it to get sugar coated,” Lemus said. “I would especially recommend it to older teens.”