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Should ‘Euphoria’ be set in college?

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

Every now and then, a series comes along that captures and evokes the cultural and social zeitgeist of its time. It is apparent that HBO’s Euphoria has resonated with today’s culture through its dynamic cast, spearheaded by none other than Emmy-winner Zendaya, compelling storylines and unique creative vision.

Beyond discussions about plot points and the characters involved, a particular take [which one?] brings debate within the audiences: due to the nature of the situations depicted on screen [What situations?], the show should be more appropriate by having the characters be in college and over the age of 18, instead of being set in high school and involving underage characters.

This debate isn’t exclusive to Euphoria, a show whose primary storylines revolve around substance abuse and the characters’ toxic relationships surrounding sex and romance. It is also common among discussions of other pop culture content depicting underage characters engaging in illegal activities. However, Euphoria finds itself in a new context where audiences have become increasingly more critical of the content being shown on screen and how it represents the reality of the characters’ identities.

The current social and political climate places media, specifically content made for entertainment, in a position where audiences are aware of its potential influence over society. Partnered with broader access to social media, this created an environment in which shows are expected to provide some sort of commentary about said social and political climate.  

The HBO original series was recently renewed for a third season.

However, this does not mean that the content needs to be appropriate under conventional societal standards. When we watch a show like Euphoria, it is necessary to understand that beyond any apparent awareness of current culture, it is the result of the showrunner’s creative vision, made with the finality of providing entertainment.

In terms of the initial debate, Euphoria shouldn’t be set in college. Or rather, it doesn’t need to be. One could say, narrative wise, that a high school provides a contained setting in which characters can frequently and naturally interact, while being familiar to a majority of audiences. Whether or not that is relevant, what’s important is the story that is being told. We’re not asked to replicate or agree with what is depicted; but rather, we are asked to appreciate and follow the story.

Criticism towards media is not invalidated by understanding how to consume it. We can be critical of what we’re watching and aspire for more compelling stories. What’s needed is to understand how our own projections affect the way we interact with the content. This criticism should be based, not only on the sociocultural position of the medium, but the acknowledgement that, after all, what we are watching is a TV show, allowing us to appreciate the nuances and engage with the interpretations of the human experience being portrayed on screen.

Political scientist with an affinity towards pop culture and media analysis, currently pursuing adventures in journalism.
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