“Euphoria” brings the reality of Generation Z to light

Deepika Sahota, Staff Writer

In the new Drake-produced HBO series “Euphoria,” the audience is treated to the presumably chaotic and provocative lives of Generation Z.  The show’s lead — Rue Bennet, played by former Disney star Zendaya Coleman — is a teenager struggling to deal with her father’s death and her own history of drug abuse.  As the narrator of the show, Rue often takes the audience through a dissection of her life and the lives of her teenage friends, who deal with sexuality struggles, mental health issues, harassment and drug abuse.

One of the most impactful characters in the first season is Jules Vaughn, played by Hunter Schafer.  Jules, a transgender teen, quickly develops a connection with Rue that blurs the line between intimate and platonic.  In a society full of transphobia, Jules strives to attain the rewards of desire and lust through online dating sites.  The show’s inclusion of a transgender actor to play the role of Jules makes the dialogue and experiences of her character authentic, and the first season stresses the difficulties that many transgender people face in society by employing real-life experiences that Schafer herself faced.

Of the show’s subplots, one of the most entertaining is that of teenager Kat, played by Barbie Ferreria.  As she explores the realities of online sex work, self-acceptance and size discrimination, she develops into a character fueled by the confidence that she attains through being a cam girl.  This intriguing subplot is accurate in its representation of how insecurities may manifest themselves in young and impressionable teenagers.

Alongside her is Maddy Perez, played by Alexa Demie.  At first glance, Maddy comes off as the stereotypical caricature of a high school cheerleader, but as the series progresses, she is discovered to be a biting character in a continuous struggle with her toxic and explosive boyfriend Nate Jacobs, played by Jacob Elordi.  Her story is relatable to many individuals in high school who struggle to recognize and deal with toxic relationships.

One of the most impressive aspects of this series is how accurately it portrays Generation Z without succumbing to the overused anecdote of how technology is ruining the youth.  The series is blunt, showing the social realities that many individuals face throughout high school: many teens have sex, struggle with their sexuality, do drugs, have mental health problems and have adult experiences.

However, the show’s attempt to compress the numerous subplots into an eight-episode season is, at times, muddy and overcomplicated.  The extensive character list, along with each correlating plot, often diminishes the cohesiveness of the storyline.  So much content packed into the first season leaves a chasm of disorganization and confusion.

But what ultimately saves the series from itself is its array of artistic spectacles including editorial makeup looks, artsy outfit designs, music of different genres and the overall dramatic aesthetic of the show.  The iconic makeup looks on characters such as Jules and Maddy are inspired by the aesthetics of the 90s, VSCO and the average e-girl; they are always eye-catching and provide a mystical aspect to the show.  The musical score — consisting of artists such as Beyonce, Megan Thee Stallion, BTS’s Jungkook, The Chordettes and Too $hort — drive the emotions in each episode.  The range and placement of the songs perfectly encompass the show’s chaotic energy.

The series, although about Generation Z, does not seem directed towards that audience.  With the exception of frequent X-rated scenes, HBO labels this series as a teen drama, hence marketing it towards underage kids.

The raw and often dark content of this show is intense and frequent, providing a plethora of shock-value.  Although there is a disconnect between the intended audience and its content, the bar for explicitly-depicted and alluring teenage dramas is constantly rising; “Euphoria” is no stranger to this narrative.  The undeniably blunt storylines, extensive character development and powerful aesthetics combine to form a show that is nothing short of hard-hitting and real.  “Euphoria” gives teenagers the missing credit for the adult situations they experience.