Season two of “Euphoria” was finally released on January 9th after almost two and a half years since their pilot episode. This show gets a lot of attention due to it’s controversial themes and unique delineation of drugs, mental illness, domestic violence, and sexual expression. The show is very explicit but does so in a way that creates true understanding of the gravity of the characters’ situations.

The show focuses on the main character Rue, played by Zendaya, and her social and personal struggles in an unstripped, vulnerable way. In the show Rue overdoses on drugs and nearly chokes to death on her own vomit before her younger sister, Gia, finds her. Aside from her addiction she also struggles in other ways mentally, such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), bipolarism, and depression. Her father had recently passed away leaving a hole in her family that cannot be replaced.

Some people feel as though “Euphoria” does mostly harm to the public. Ed Bark, an approved Rotten Tomatoes’ critic explains that, “getting real doesn’t have to mean diving head first into a cesspool of drugs, profanity, promiscuity and a borderline indifference to it all. That’s where “Euphoria” so far fails not only itself, but the many impressionable youth.” People claim the show glorifies drug usage and falsifies the reality of it’s inevitable consequences. In reality “Euphoria” actually does a good job of bringing awareness to the issue. Unlike most shows which usually attempt to build an audiences’ liking towards the main character, “Euphoria” doesn’t try to make their main character likable. The premise isn’t for the viewer to look up to Rue as a role model, rather to feel her pain and root for her recovery.

Photograph by Marcell Rev/HBO, taken from Warner Media

In season 1, episode 3 there is a scene of Rue asking her friend to sell her drugs. After he refuses, the scene goes on to follow Rue yelling and threatening her friend Fezco while she pounds on his door demanding to be let in. The emphasis on her personality change once she is refused drugs shows exactly the kind of hold drugs have on a person and its power. The writers want you to evaluate her life choices and to avoid becoming like her. Sam Levinson, the screenwriter for “Euphoria”, said, “I feel like I’m watching a version of myself navigating the world at a young age and I’m looking at it from almost a parental perspective.” Instead of envying the characters, viewers should feel saddened for them.

While creating scenes that portray drugs as exciting, they never fail to follow it with its consequences including self-harm, family destruction, depression, anxiety, and true addiction. While the audience follow’s Rue and her choices it is easy to see the damage being done along the way. When Gia finds her older sister almost dead due to an overdose she is left devestated and filled with terror for her sister’s life. Rue also hides her relapse from her family and close friends who wish recovery in her life. The show does a great job of portraying the isolation Rue feels from those people while she lies behind their back and chooses euphoria over her safety.

“Euphoria” delves into Rue’s depression and what that looks like for her. She is unable to leave her bed, even to use the restroom. She stays locked in her room for days on end and can’t find the energy to do just about anything. This is one of the first show’s I’ve seen where they depict depression at all whatsoever. Most television series avoid sensitive subjects and would rather tie their show to positive feelings rather than highlight the dreadful reality of life.

Although the show is rated TV-MA, meaning intended for mature audiences, there is a large portion of young viewers. Gary Edgerton, a professor of creative media and entertainment, says that HBO’s core demographic is about 25 to 54 year olds, “But ‘Euphoria’s’ target is probably 12 to 29.” This could be due to the main character being played by a well-known actress who has starred in many child and teen friendly films. Zendaya has appeared in shows and movies like “K.C. Undercover”, “Shake It Up”, “The Greatest Showman”, and more recently, the Spider-man films. People who look up to her may find themselves stumbling upon “Euphoria” unaware of the darker themes that it showcases. Zendaya herself can feel the intense influence she has on her fans and reminded her followers on Instagram to, “Please only watch if you feel comfortable.” She also stated in the same post that, “I know I’ve said this before, but I do want to reiterate to everyone that “Euphoria” is for mature audiences.”

While this show does not intend to inspire drug usage, it may spark unnecessary curiosity to those who are too young to understand such heavy themes. “Euphoria” dives very deep into the darkest parts of society. It can be easily forgotten that people around you have their own personal struggles that reside beyond the surface of life. Whether you can relate to the characters or are far from them in life, this show opens up opportunities for self-growth and reflection. It is refreshing to watch a show that has less to do with entertainment and more to do with spreading awareness.

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