Euphoria: The Breakdown

Euphoria is arguably one of the greatest shows of our generation. It is an artistic masterpiece and exemplifies today’s teens and young adults in a way that has never been done before.

Euphoria: The Breakdown

Warning: This story contains references of sexual assault and addiction.

Euphoria is arguably one of the greatest shows of our generation. It is an artistic masterpiece and exemplifies today’s teens and young adults in a way that has never been done before. After airing on June 16 2019, it was met with equal amounts of praise and criticism. Some argued that it was overly explicit, exploiting characters that are supposed to be teens in ways that are too mature for a young audience. Others said it was beautiful, and an incredible depiction of the loss and problems teenagers face. Leading Euphoria actress Zendaya arguably had her true breakout role playing Rue, moving her from a rated G Disney Channel actress into a household name. Her range on the show is incredible, and her depiction of a young drug addict is truly breathtaking to watch. In the media, Euphoria has been referred to as “a parents worst nightmare,” which has contributed to the conversations and discourse surrounding this show since the day it aired. One of the reasons Euphoria is so loved because the characters have so much depth to them. While it does have a very solid plot, Euphoria is a character study show. It is dedicated to how our backgrounds and upbringings affect who we are as individuals, and how much deeper humans are beneath the surface. Whether it be Cassie, Maddy, Rue, Jules, Kat, Lexie, Nate, Mckay, or Fez, everyone can find a part of themselves within these characters.


Character Break-Down

The thing that stands out most about Euphoria is the emphasis is placed on each individual character. As one would know from watching the show each character is unique and has their own individual problems that make them who they are. As the audience sits back and admires the unique rollercoaster of Euphoria, you are rewarded with more than just a basic boy meets girl, falls in love, breaks-up, and then realizes the girl is the only person for him plot. You are presented with an in depth story-line for each character and how it has affected who they are. The show does a remarkable job of allowing their audience to have an emotional connection with each character and allows their audience to understand the characters on a personal level.

Lets begin with the lead role Rue, played by Emmy award winning actress Zendaya. Zendaya is casted with arguably one of the most mind boggling character roles. Rue is a 16 year old girl whose life revolves around her struggle with addiction. Her addiction sparked with her sick father. When she would take care of him she would sneak in doses of his pain killers until eventually she couldn’t go a day without them. One day, Rue’s younger sister, Gia, found her in an unconscious state due to an accidental overdose. She was then sent to rehab but, not even 2 hours after her release she was scavenging for more drugs. Luckily for Rue, she found a person that supplemented the euphoric feeling that  drugs provided. Jules. Jules got Rue clean. Jules made Rue happy. Jules was Rue’s person. Jules was Rue’s escape from reality and her addiction. Then, Jules left. Jules’ departure sent Rue into a deep depressive state where she couldn’t even find the motivation to get out of bed to use the bathroom. Rue needs Jules to keep her from falling into her endless addiction loophole.


The question is, who is supplying Rue with these drugs? Well, we can look over to the one and only Fez. Fez’s storyline is probably one of the most intriguing of the group. Fez didn’t choose to go down the path and indulge in the drug business, he was basically forced to. His grandmother raised him by bringing him along to drug deals at 8 years old. Drugs are the only things Fez has known his whole life. Because his grandmother is in critical condition he feels like he owes it to her to continue her business and not let her down. It is also his only source of income. He never graduated college, so the business is all he has. At times, you can see Fez isn’t comfortable with the position he is in, but he has no way out at this point. He finds himself responsible for what happened to Rue and tries to protect her from going down the path like he has.


Nate Jacobs, played by teenage heart-throb Jacob Elordi, suffers a life that no one should wish upon anyone. His father, Cal Jacobs, has done unforgivable things that have affected Nate’s life in the most negative ways possible. Cal Jacobs interacts in sexual activites with minors and videos them. This has been a non-stop cycle since Nate was just a child. Nate has watched all of these videos and has been ultimately traumatized by his father’s actions. He keeps himself closed off to everyone and allows everyone to portray him as a controlling, psychotic maniac . He releases all of his built-up anger from his father’s actions by engaging sexually with females. His father’s choices and the way he treats his mother will forever be impacted on how Nate feels is the right way to treat the females in his life..


Maddy is like a prospect to Nate. They are the two most toxic characters and they found each other in the worst ways possible. They both know they have no right to be together because they only bring out the worst in each other. Maddy wasn’t set up for the best teenage life. Her parents raised her in a very toxic household where it was clear they shouldn’t be together but they forced themselves to stay with each other. She was never shown what it looked like to be truly in love and what it meant to have respect for the person she is with. Nate has abused Maddy and forced her to cry herself to sleep, but she can’t see herself with anyone else. Both of their egos are so big and they have each other tied around their fingers. Everything they do is to make the other person jealous. It’s like a game to see who will officially let go first.


Euphoria High School: Accurate?

Have you ever walked into the bathroom at your high school and seen about 20 people gathered around the sinks, doing drugs? Quite uncommon isn’t it? Throughout the show the high school that the characters of Euphoria attend can be seen as completely inaccurate but at the same time relatable in some aspects.


We asked a fan of the show, Ethan Kaufman, if he believes any aspect of the High School is accurate. He responded with, “I think that Euphoria does a very good job of portraying unfiltered teenagers in a way that other shows might not.”

When you watch characters like Rue, played by Zendaya, and Maddy, played by Alexa Demie, you will notice that they do not choose to hold back their thought process or how they are feeling. This is something that most other shows don’t do for the audience. Normally, the writers of other shows would want the audience to have to read the emotions of the characters without having them speak. In Euphoria, we are gifted with characters that have absolutely no filter. 


But, contradicting the theory, Kaufman also stated that, “I think the writing is exaggerated at times but I feel it’s necessary in making engaging television.”

It is common knowledge that in today’s world, most 16 year olds are not doing drugs in the school bathroom, but, it is crucial to exaggerate things like this for the sake of intriguing modern day teens to a show. Teens crave drama and as today’s generation would say “tea” and Euphoria offers just that. 


How Does Euphoria Handle Social Issues Well?

Euphoria is a depiction of the social issues that so many people in our world struggle with, whether we realize it or not. One of the most important things Euphoria does is cover pretty much any issue you can think of; whether it be sexual assault, addiction, family issues, domestic abuse, self-esteem problems, identity crises, and more. It is easy to look on screen and see a situation where you may feel alone and see every range of emotions demonstrated through these incredibly talented actors. While some topics are handled poorly and not recieved well, others are shown extremely well. Rue’s addiction tackles not only her own problems, but how it affects the people around her. Her family, her friends, her relationships; they are all put in turmoil because she constantly chooses drugs over them. For people watching, they can see themselves, or understand the people in their lives struggling with addiction. Additionally, the show explores how people’s upbringings and parent issues affect who they are in their young adult life. Every trauma they go through correlates to the choices they make in the show. Euphoria’s take on Nate’s character, and his constant abuse towards his girlfriend Maddy and his abuse on the people around him is a product of the childhood trauma he faced. Euphoria finds a way to effectively show how the choices we make are a result of our past, without sympathizing with or romanticizing the problems they exhibit. 




How Does Euphoria Handle Social Issues Poorly?

Euphoria does an amazing job focusing on individual character’s issues and how they are able to overcome any adversity thrown in their direction. But, while watching the show I couldn’t help but notice how overlooked some of the social issues were and how poorly reflected they were, especially in regards to the young audience watching.


During season one, Cassie, female heartthrob of the show, was visiting her boyfriend, McKay, at college. After a long night out they decided to head back to his dorm for the night. Not long after they settled down, a group of men from the fraternity McKay was rushing for stormed into the room and sexually assaulted McKay while he was completely nude. When this occured the writers chose to focus on how Cassie was feeling and not how afraid and vulnerable McKay was feeling. It was made out to seem like Cassie was more affected then McKay from the incident.

Another character that the show struggled to accurately portray as they should have was Kat. The show abused the use of Kat’s struggle with self-worth and how she saw herself. The show doesn’t show how Kat came to be who she is herself and how she has grown into the person she is. Her life has more to it than only her appearance. The only character development displayed for Kat is in regard to her insulting herself based upon her appearance, that is not all that a person is.


So, inevitably, if you are looking to watch a show that makes you feel like you are emotionally involved in each character’s life, Euphoria is the show for you. It highlights modern day social issues that some teens may experience and shows them the negative and positive impacts of their actions.





The Glamorizing of Sex and Drugs


HBO is known for being a mature channel, home to other graphic shows such as Game of Thrones or The Sopranos. Euphoria is a colorful, eccentric, psychedelic show that primarily focuses on drug addiction and drug use. It is also centered around sex, how sex affects us, and how we as a society portray and interact with sex. One of the reasons Euphoria is dubbed a “parents’ worst nightmare” is because of the showcase of drug use and sexually explicit scenes that are done with no filtering or censorship. While some say it is needed for the content discussed on the show and for a more realistic, gritty feel, others say it is unnesccary and sexually exploits teenagers. Many critics say it should be taken place in college, not high school, and overly-sexualizes characters who should be teenagers. The drug use is seen as essential to the plot, but is also portrayed as appealing, almost eye-opening to young viewers. Euphoria associates drugs with colors and lights and makes it look intriguing in a way, but it also shows the lowest lows of addiction and usage. Senior Jacob Charnow shared with us that “the scenes where they show the characters on drugs are very over the top and colorful and appealing to kids but they also don’t romanticize it when they show characters overdosing and the struggles that they go through once they are hooked on those drugs.” It can be dangerous to a teen audience to show the highest of highs when it comes to using drugs. Euphoria is putting things on screen that are not done often, and are truly groundbreaking to TV and film. However, there are risks when it comes to going out of a comfort zone and trying to be as artistically free as possible. You can’t please everyone, and that is exactly what director Sam Levinson is doing with Euphoria.