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Euphoria’s Relationship With Drug Addiction Is All About Perspective

Spoilers for Euphoria’s season 2 episode 1 ahead!

With the new season of Euphoria coming out episode by episode every Sunday, conversations surrounding its delicate relationship with drug addiction have resurfaced.  Many claim that the show’s unique outfits and aesthetically pleasing cinematography make drug use look cool and appealing, and it’s easy to understand these concern.  However, I think it is arguable that this is exactly the point of the show.  It is important to remember that the plot and emotion behind Euphoria is mainly from the perspective of season one’s main character, Rue, who is played by the amazing Zendaya.  The audience experiences her high highs and low lows, and we can empathize with how she feels.  Rue is addicted to drugs—that’s why so many of her scenes seem to somewhat worship her drug use. 

So many TV shows and movies about drug use take the wrong approach, using fear tactics and showing only the ugly, horrible effects of drugs.  This leads to people wondering why addiction is such a dangerous disease.  By showcasing Rue’s perception of drugs as illuminating and euphoric, viewers can begin to understand how so many people around the world are utterly controlled by their addiction to drugs.  Even during the scene which I think could be closest to drug romanization—when Maddy and Cassie take molly at the school fair and ride on the ferris wheel—the audience is subsequently subjected to a scene that is truly difficult to watch (if you need reminding, Cassie masturbates on a carousel horse in front of a crowd of people).

When viewed critically you can see that the show, with its powerful soundtrack and glittery eye makeup, is trying to illustrate how easy it can be to be seduced by drugs, and how difficult it is to beat addiction.  On that note, it is important to emphasize that this interpretation requires a certain level of real-world experience and critical thinking skills, which is why younger audiences should stay away from the show. 

There are several fan theories about the direction of season two, but it is easy to see just from the first episode that Rue’s addiction will still be a major plot point of the new season.  The addition of Dominic Fike’s character, Elliot, who takes care of Rue when she almost overdoses after they do drugs together at the New Year’s Eve party in episode one, may be a catalyst to a tipping point in Rue’s drug use, as well as a potential relationship to replace the one Rue feels she lost in Jules. 

The new season also addresses the tragic history of Rue’s drug dealer, Fezco, who began selling drugs with his grandmother during his childhood. He was also left to raise his younger brother, Ashtray, who was given to Fezco’s grandma in exchange for drugs.  In addition, the reason behind his grandmother’s coma is finally revealed through a flashback in which she collapses and, instead of calling an ambulance to their drug-filled home, a too-young Fezco drives her to the hospital.  By the time they arrive, she is brain dead.  Fezco takes over the business.  He has no choice but to become entrenched in the world of drugs in order to support himself and his brother.  If the audience can watch the first episode of season two and still believe that the show romanticizes drugs, that might be a personal problem.  Just because Euphoria is aesthetically pleasing doesn’t mean that it is romanticizing a very serious issue.  Regardless, the show must continue to walk a fine line between romanticizing drug use and meaningfully mixing warning with entertainment.

New episodes of Euphoria are released every Sunday at 9pm on HBO Max.

Jayden is a junior studying English at the University of Michigan. In her free time she enjoys reading, writing, hiking, and traveling.
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