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New to our screens in summer 2019 was the HBO series Euphoria starring Zendaya, Maude Apatow, Angus Cloud. It tackles hard-hitting issues of sex, drugs, friendships, trauma and love in a way that has grabbed critics attention as refreshing. From the mind of Sam Levinson, writer of Assassination Nation and The Wizard of Lies, it is a show worth watching.
Zendaya was as good as the other reviews say. As Rue, she became a character so raw in the earnest of her life and her experiences; it would be hard not to sympathise with her character. ‘Euphoria’ is what Rue craves, having struggled with mental illness from early childhood, and she momentarily finds it in drugs. The rest of the cast is equally believable especially Barbie Ferriera and Hunter Shafer.
The series consistently performs on aesthetics and styling, the dramatic makeup being one of the most iconic takeaways from the series. Even the music is well used and does not feel overly forced at any point. There is still a problem with young teenagers, especially girls being overly sexualised. There is a mirror between Riverdale’s notorious cheerleader dance sequence and one in episode two of this show. It reminds you that these people are supposed to be in high school all over again. The comparisons to Skins are undeniable, they both tell similar stories, but in different ways; here, one character, Rue, is always in the focus even if she is not on screen. And, sorry Zendaya, but as good as Euphoria can be, so far I prefer the early volumes of Skins.
There have been many negative reviews surrounding Rue’s drug use. However, drug use is the focus of the show. Rue admits it in her actions, going so far as to get high in school bathrooms. She knows that her days are drug-fuelled, but she needs it. We watch her character, amongst her other plot-arcs, struggle with the line between wanted release and addiction. It is not that she is addicted to the drugs, but she needs Euphoria, though she hates the destructive effects it has on her family.
The problem with Euphoria is the problem that many other shows such as Pretty Little Liars or Riverdale also face is they apply realism but take it to unrealistic extremes. The amount of partying and sex is something a little out of the realms of the average high school life and falls more into an older realm.
Despite what the dramatic, condemning reviews stress over, it is not a show for the age group it is portraying. But that is not detrimental, high school setting aside, the stories told are sympathetic and relatable. The issues discussed are poignant, brought along by Zendaya’s stellar star performance and genuine and at times dryly funny narration. And my advice? Watch the first episode for yourself and see what you think.