Representation in Euphoria

Let’s be real, who isn’t hooked on Euphoria right now? What a great freaking show! But it goes way beyond that with the way it displays social issues and everyday realities. With an inclusive cast made up of blacks, Hispanics, members of the LGBT community and more; this show is breaking boundaries with not just representation but with its true-to-life themes. No matter what you look like or what you express yourself as, Euphoria has a relatable situation or character that looks like you. 

I watched every episode closely, gushing over every gem on Maddy’s eyelid and every colorful eyeliner Jules styled. From the wardrobe to makeup, every single character was unique both in their display and storyline. 

The following are some cast members that I watched go through very human and personal problems. From gender representation to drug abuse, every character was deeply layered and well thought out. 

Cassie Howard: Actress Sydney Sweeney did an amazing job representing the lives of many teenage girls. She grew up with her two parents and sister of nearly the same age. Her life changed once her dad became a drug abuser and left them behind. She was easily embraced by men and her character is seen hopelessly falling in love with any man who gave her attention as a sense of validation. Her boyfriend in the show is college football player Chris McKay, whose baby she is seen aborting. I had never seen a show about high schoolers normalize abortion. I really enjoyed seeing Howard make the decision that she was not ready, trusting her mom and expressing her right as a woman to have a choice. 

Maddy Perez: Portrayed by the captivating Latina Alexa Demie, Maddy found herself in a situation that is sadly relatable to a lot of women. Maddy is in a toxic relationship with Nate Jacobs. It was unlike any other teenage relationship I had ever seen on television; it showed struggles and abusive patterns. Jacobs choked Perez, forming bruises on her neck. When a teacher noticed her appearance and authorities were involved, she denied the incident completely. She was repeatedly told that whoever did that to her didn’t love her, even so, Maddy remained “faithful” to Jacobs. Furthermore, I analyzed that Perez’s tolerance towards Nate’s abusive patterns might’ve developed from seeing her parents in an unhealthy relationship. In the show, her father is presented as a drunk who is unable to keep a stable job. Meanwhile, her mother seems to be a hardworking woman who holds the weight of the house. Once her mother has an opinion about the toxicity of her relationship Maddy becomes defensive saying “You live in the same house and don’t even say one word to each other.” 

Kat Hernandez: Kat Hernandez wasn’t just one of my favorite characters because growing up like most people, especially other girls, I had body insecurities. Barbara Ferreira was also a Jersey native that as a teen, worked at my local American Apparel which I loved going to with friends. To see her on HBO representing women of all sizes and making us feel empowered, I was inspired. Like other cast members, we see a flashback of Kat at the tender age of 11. We see her feeling uncomfortable while going through body development. She is seen on vacation with her family drinking virgin piña coladas, going from 107 to 127 pounds on her time away. She was body-shamed and excluded by her classmates. Then we see teen Kat embracing her body through the acceptance she received on the internet. She became confident and empowered through clothes and sexuality. 

Cal Jacobs: In a heterosexual marriage with three boys, the title of the town’s beloved football coach and he’s GAY? Cal Jacobs seems to live a double life in which he finds true pleasure outside of the societal picture-perfect norms he seems to live in. The town and his family know him as a strict, masculine and respectable community figure. Though what he truly thrives off is his motel flings with young men and transgender women. 

Jacobs is easy to demonize; he had sex with underage Jules while cheating on his wife. Jules had stated she was 22 on her online profile but once they had already slept together, she admitted she was 17. He seemed to be concerned and it was easy to tell he had conformed to a life that seems perfect but that did not feel right. For most men, the wealth of owning half of the neighborhood he lives in, winning the yearly chili contest, having a wife and children and being the town’s football coach would be enough. For Jacobs the problem was deep-rooted, he was a closeted gay who had not accepted himself and was not yet proud of who he was at his age. This isn’t a far-fetched reality for a lot of men, and I feel like it might’ve gotten to an unrepresented man somewhere. 

Rue: Rue’s character rawly displayed mental illness and substance abuse. In the first episode of Euphoria flashbacks of Rue’s childhood are shown. In them, she was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety and attention deficit disorder. Being the star of the show and the narrator, Rue plays a big part and is shown to be very vulnerable. In another flashback, I learned that her drug abuse started when she would take her sick father’s strong prescribed medicine. She began to take the same pills as him. Dealing with so many mental disorders, she became infatuated with the feeling of everything “stopping,” Rue described her highs while abusing drugs as everything finally stopping and finally being peaceful with a break from her own demons. One of the episodes I related to was titled “The Trials and Tribulations of Trying to Pee While Depressed.” Rue finds the task of peeing excruciatingly difficult as she does not have the mental strength to get out of bed and instead watches 22 episodes of British soap operas. Through Rue, Zendaya was able to start conversations about teen drug addiction and normalize conversations about mental health. It also meant a lot because colored people and non-American cultures do not find mental health an important thing to talk about and nurture. 

Jules: Hunter Schafer is a talented and vibrant actress who represents the trans community as Jules on Euphoria. She is seen embracing who she is through her physical appearance. Her hair, makeup and wardrobe were always expressive. I love her character because it’s hard not to but also because she normalizes being a transgender woman. Jules shows that it is okay to be confident and love yourself even if some of society won’t accept you. Although let’s be real, all of us seek a little validation and Jules admits that she seeks hers through men and her sexuality. Of course, some people feel more comfortable and empowered by sex than others, but Jules admits that that for her conquering men means conquering femininity. 

Euphoria managed to interpret everyday realities like no other show. The writer Sam Levinson mastered subjects like misuse of drugs, body insecurities, mental health issues and more. It was everything I had ever heard and experienced in high school with a fabulous glam team. Euphoria was one of the most honest television shows I have ever watched, and the idea of an upcoming season excites me.