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How Euphoria Got Gen-Z Right

The dreamy visuals and hard topics.


Euphoria is the 2019 hard-hitting drama starring Zendaya as Rue, a 17-year-old drug addict fresh out of rehab. The storyline focuses on her trials and tribulations re-entering the real world before her school year starts again.

The small town in the U.S is home to a whole host of characters ¬each living their own wild lives. These characters all face arcs of sexual violence, bullying, partying, drinking and drugs and realistic social media portrayals. Every character represents something truthful about Gen Z and how this generation tackles problems.

With dreamy visuals, stunning makeup and a soundtrack to die for, Euphoria is a cult teen drama with some truth to how Gen Z view the world.

Amid all of the critical acclamation, the controversy of the show has not been overlooked.

With the imagery being considered “raw and graphic” (quoted from a warning from Zendaya herself) the show contains full-frontal nudity of both genders, explicit sexual scenes, and drug use. These themes have split the audience’s opinions on whether the show is suitable for Gen Z watchers. In Europe seeing a penis on screen isn’t that big of a deal, but with the U.S having such strict rules when it comes to ratings – it kind of is a big deal. 

As someone who watched the show and loved it, I would say it deserves a lot of respect. 

Gen Z have to deal with a lot of topical issues and the show perfectly weaves a whole host of problems, solutions and more into each of the character’s arcs. Things to do with mobile phones and social media weren’t as large of a problem in the previous generation and rarely get screen time. We’re talking revenge porn, slut-shaming and the dark side of the internet. Plus, the focus on mental health plays a large role in why the characters are either super relatable or worlds away from the audience’s personal knowledge. 

Rue (Zendaya) suffered with an addiction to painkillers that were her bereaved fathers and was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and more when she was a child and began using said drugs to numb her mental state. 

Jules (Hunter Schafer) is a transgender teen that had just moved to this small suburban town and has a storyline focusing around dating apps and how she deals with her sexuality. With some graphic scenes in the pilot episode and throughout the series, it’s hard to believe this is Schafer’s acting debut as she plays the role perfectly. 

Kat (Barbie Ferreira) begins the show as a girl desperate to lose her virginity and as an introvert seemingly surrounded by her ‘stunning friends’ having boyfriends and being sexually active she has to deal with the task of learning to love herself first. In reality Ferreira is a successful plus-size model, and stated in regards to her appearance being ‘different’ from societal norms “I felt really constricted in that, and I was like I will never do anything unless I could conform to these beauty standards these people put on me, as I went on and really just realized that being different from the beauty standards is completely okay.”

The shows creator Sam Levinson presents his personal view of his time in rehab for drug abuse, battles with obsessive compulsive disorder, and depression through the characters. He states "I just feel like there is such a disconnect between what young people are going through and what everyone else thinks they're going through - At this age right now is there is no map. There's no compass, there's no one to kind of guide you one way or another. Because it's a brand-new world every five years. I think that’s what makes it particularly difficult is that kind of very real and big disconnect between parents and children.”

With teen drama tropes like school bullies, relationship issues and breaking up and making up – we’re not missing out on any the regular action – we’re just adding the realism of what is up with this generation today. 

HBO programming president Casey Bloys explains the premise behind the powerful imagery of the show - "It's not sensational to be sensational. It may seem boundary-pushing, and the idea of putting them on TV may be, but somebody lived them."

The dream-like lighting and the stunning clothing, hair and makeup draw audiences into Euphoria, but the perfect storytelling and the realism of the characters keeps them watching. 

Euphoria has been picked up for a second series (and with an ending like that I would have been devastated if they hadn’t!).

All episodes are available to watch through HBO and Sky Atlantic. 

Let us know what you think!

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