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How “Euphoria” Exposed Toxic Positivity in Influencer Culture

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS TRIGGERING TOPICS AND SPOILERS FOR SEASON 2

Euphoria is the hit new series on the block taking the world by storm. The glittery-eyed ensemble creates a world in television that has captivated an audience of over 2.4 million in just the first episode, and it’s easy to understand why. The show has no problems tackling controversial topics that society tends to ignore or sweep under the rug, confronting these issues at face value. However, this new season is suspected to be the darkest and most brutal yet, and fans got a taste in the infamous ‘Love Yourself’ scene. In just less than two minutes, Barbie Ferreira as the introverted and imaginative “Kat” speaks for all plus-size girls who struggle with body issues.

 The second episode of the second season introduces more of Kat to the audience. In this scene, we see Kat in a deep state of depression. Laying in her bed eating a giant bag of goldfish crackers, she is seen crying and mourning. Visually, the scene describes what depression truly is to the audience. Rather than just a mere feeling of sadness, depression is the inability to even get up out of bed to brush your teeth and start your day. As Kat sinks more and more into her feelings, her imagination flares up, and gorgeous models start to appear. These models begin to criticize and overwhelm her, frustrating Kat to the point of tears.

She visualized these models since that’s what social media is flooded with—fabrication and lies. Plenty of people have lied or promoted dangerous activities on social media, and this is one of the many vices social media has. On screen, there are seemingly perfect women trying to “motivate” Kat with “toxic positivity“. Real life models such as  Jewell Farshad, Bree Kish, and Amanda LaCount bombard Kat and their messages tear her apart rather than uplift her. Kat is depicted screaming profanities at these flawless models, wishing to be like them instead of stuck in her chubbier body. She runs to her mirror, screaming and crying, then suddenly snaps out of it. We, the viewers, are left in awe with how the scene plays out. So this begs the question: What is toxic positivity? And why is it so destructive?

Toxic positivity is the negative approach to self-love and self-help, that pushes the problems away rather than confronting the problems or allows feelings to be felt. This new mindset has taken over social media influencers and influencer culture, transforming the term and ideology of “girlboss” into something much worse than originally intended. Rather than inspirational figures leading and being the role model for young, impressionable teen girls, these social media influencers teach young girls to always be happy under any circumstance, and that thin is a win. Feeling down in the dumps? Just be happy! Hate your looks? Just be skinny! This backward approach to solving issues has warped the minds of many. Many think depression is just being sad, and if you’re feeling sad you should just be happy.

DEPRESSION ISN’T THAT SIMPLE

 So why is this warped version of motivation and empowerment so destructive? Well, it’s because depression isn’t that simple. If someone had the choice to simply be happy, obviously they would choose that option. Screaming at someone to just “be a bad b*tch” and “be happy” isn’t as helpful as you may think it is. This type of behavior makes people shut down and feel like their voices are muted rather than heard, and brushing off mental health reverses all the progress society has made. Plus size girls are especially at higher risk for struggling with depression, which people fail to realize is a serious disease and it impairs daily life.

As someone who suffers from depression, I wish I could just spring out of bed and gussy up because I realize I’m that b*tch. Depression impairs my daily life, and there have been days where I even have to take a rest day since I can’t push myself to leave my room, irritated by anything. Being aware and mindful of what someone is going through allows empathy to take place, however, through a screen it may be tougher to know what a person is truly harboring. Social media allows this false perspective on someone’s life since people only post their best pictures in their best moments. When someone young and impressionable sees a perfect woman living the perfect life, with a perfect body and perfect looks, it can crush self-esteem.

“Kat, you just have to love yourself,”

-Euphoria

UNREALISTIC BEAUTY STANDARDS ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Young, impressionable girls see pictures of 90lb women and think, “I need to be like her. I need to look exactly like her.” This mindset can trickle into mental illnesses and even eating disorders. Influencers and social media stars that preach ignorance and stupidity don’t fix self-image, it instead fractures it. Low self-esteem translates into “all bodies are beautiful—except mine.” Girls grow and think that their body isn’t enough or perfect, they see those slim-thick girls with a tiny waist and huge ass being considered “plus-sized” and they can’t help but think.. if they’re plus-sized then what am I?! Social media has distorted the view of the plus-size girl to the point that average weight seems chubby, which then trickles into average sized girls thinking they’re fat.

The pressure enforced on teen girls to conform to a “perfect” and negativity-free lifestyle has grown rampant. Girls have to be perfect Barbie dolls. Thin, acne-free, hairless, practically plastic was, and still is the norm. So not only must teen girls maintain a clear mindset and always be positive, but they also need to be…themselves.

Everyone deserves to feel confident and happy in their skin, but it can be hard to do so without proper representation. I grew up seeing bone-thin women in any form of media, so I assumed that was the norm. And looking at the mirror and realizing; I’m not the norm, I don’t fit that perfect shape, I don’t fit in an XS.. broke me. It upset me every time I opened Instagram and couldn’t find a body like mine. Until recently, it was a struggle to see plus-size women in media who wasn’t the butt of the joke. Sure, I had representation, but it was mostly the funny fat girl. Stereotypes for bigger women include laziness, stupidity, constantly eating, and much more harmful patterns.

Thankfully, these patterns slowly began to be shattered. No, really! The body positivity movement has had many faults, but overall, the impact it made outweighed the damage it caused. Proper representation of chubby and plus-sized people grew rampant, even having plus-sized models in major media outlets. Social media allowed bigger people to connect with each other, and we all understood that change must happen. Now, you see big people in media as actual people. Take Kat, for example. We’re no longer the butt of the joke, but rather the star of the show.

As Kat runs to her mirror, staring at herself, we can truly understand how lost her character feels. Society tells her to just chipper up, her friends remind her that she’s in a “healthy” relationship so she shouldn’t feel bad, and all we can feel is sympathy for her. There are millions of Kat’s walking this Earth, feeling lost in their shell and insecure in their skin. I would even consider myself to be a Kat. This new trend of good vibes only and toxic positivity must come to an end, and thankfully, Euphoria confronts this issue.

Ariana (she/her) is a Puerto Rican majoring in psychology with a minor in English. She is a Chapter Member of Her Campus at Florida International University and a sister of Sigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority. Hoping to gain more experiences throughout her college career, Ariana is an ambitious writer who is ready to take on whatever lies ahead!
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