The new HBO show starring Zendaya, Euphoria, is a dramatic exposé peering into the dark and chaotic lives of 21st-century teens. It shows, in detail, the things we as a society are scared to see in our newer generations. Though the drama may not be entirely realistic for many high schoolers today, what is important is that it is created by a person who lived through the situations represented in the show.
Sam Levinson, the director and screenwriter behind this show, lets his personal life bleed into many aspects of it, specifically Rue, the main character. Rue is a seventeen-year-old drug addict navigating high school and her own mental illness while trying to cope with her past. What makes this show so shocking is the use of explicit nudity, violence, and mental illness based on ideas from Levinson’s own life.
Because it is so dramatized, the accuracy of the show and its possible romanticization of drug addiction and mental illness can easily be questioned. On one side, using depictions of mental illness and drug use as a form of entertainment shouldn’t be promoted or represented, as it can send the wrong message to younger generations. On the other, thousands of high schoolers or former high schoolers who have experienced or have seen someone experience something similar can find this representation important, no matter how high the “shock value” is.
As someone who grew up in suburban SoCal, I have heard many stories regarding topics brought up in the show. These stories always instilled in me a sense of the reality of drug use and the heartbreaking effects it can have on a community. I believe Euphoria approaches these topics in a way that is dramatized, yes, but not so much exploitative. It always makes sure to have an underlying commentary of criticism against the actions in the show, as intended by Levinson. It’s up to the viewer, ultimately, to seek this commentary.
Though there may be moments of dramatization and ill-representation in Euphoria, what matters is that this show is through the eyes of someone who has lived through drug addiction and who intends to spread awareness on this issue. No matter the accuracy or amount of creative expression the director takes, what it comes down to is the ability for this show to help others going through the same thing, all the while providing entertainment for all different kinds of people (18 and up).