Unlike most other college kids my age, I did not instantly become addicted to the neon world of Euphoria when the first season dropped on HBO in the summer of 2019. I wasn’t interested in the show and continued to stay uninterested until a couple of weeks ago when I was free for a weekend and my roommate suggested I binge it before the second season dropped. I’ve never been someone who has been able to watch 10 straight hours of a television program in a row, and yet, less than 24 hours later, I had finished watching the season one finale.
As someone who was barely adjacent to the “popular clique” in high school, I saw the personalities and behaviors of Euphoria’s main characters as an intriguing look at what I “missed out on” four years ago. Rue could have been walking the halls alongside me and I never would have noticed her; the same goes for Alexa Demie’s character Maddy and Jacob Elordi’s Nate. I didn’t run in these circles and didn’t pay attention to their gossip, but despite all of this, I felt drawn towards these characters immediately.
High school-centered television is a huge market and one that has often missed the mark. While Euphoria has its darker, less-relatable moments, it successfully connects with viewers on a deeper level than previous ones. A lot of comparable teen dramas that I watched growing up, like Pretty Little Liars, didn’t really have anything of substance for audiences to genuinely relate to. “Euphoria High School”, as TikTok users have famously dubbed it, is nothing like the real world but has every ingredient of the American high school experience at the same time. In the first season, characters grapple with their public reputation, family expectations, and society’s standards — all of which are challenges for every high schooler regardless of their social status. I’m still struggling with breaking away from family and societal expectations and I’m a junior in college, which made those scenes even more relevant.
It’s not that we all relate to the dramatic scenes of Euphoria, or that any high school in the United States is exactly like the neon-lit hallways that Zendaya runs through, but the real-life issues of growing up in the American education system are placed at the forefront of the show, often without even drawing a ton of attention to them. The show’s writers have constructed an emotional and well-researched narrative of a modern teenager dealing with all the problems of growing up in a non-traditional, yet still relatable fashion.
Everyone who has experienced American high school should invest some time in watching Euphoria. Maybe it doesn’t tell the same story as your high school experience, but it’s not hard to imagine a world where that community of students exists, no matter how crazy their lifestyles are. As for me? I’m waiting until all of season two is released so I can binge this amazing show again.
**Edited by Izzy Ley