Euphoria: Love, Sex, Drugs, & Mental Health

“Everytime I feel good, I think it’ll last forever, but it doesn’t.” – Rue

An adaptation of the Israeli show with the same name, HBO’s Euphoria follows 17 year old Rue and her battle with drugs, mental health, belonging, and friendship. Within her circle is Jules, a transgender girl trying to find her place within the world. There is also Nate, an abusive Jock with extreme anger issues and a lot of childhood trauma. There’s Cassie, who’s sexual past haunts her, whereas in contrast we also have Kat who is discovering the world of sex whilst struggling with body positivity. Furthermore, we have Nate’s abused on and off again girlfriend Maddy which completes the make-up of Rue’s circle. But what is the show about?

Rue is our narrator and main character and is impressively played by Zendaya. Apart from what we see at face value, being that of drug abuse, sex, and the common struggle of coping with being a teenager, Euphoria seemingly has way more depth to it than that of a standard teenage drama series. Euphoria takes a particular deep delve into the psyche of each character, completely tearing them open and leaving them absolutely vulnerable to the audience. As such, we feel as if we know them and their past like we have witnessed them grow into the individuals we see on the screen. In particular, I would like to focus on Rue and Jules (my two favourite characters). 

The way in which Rue is portrayed elicits a great sense of empathy towards her character. I genuinely watched Rue and felt her pain, primarily due to Zendaya’s stunning and heart-breaking performance but also because of Sam Levinson’s extremely talented director skills. Zendaya’s ability to convey absolute pain and despair through her facial expressions created this sense of pity and sorrow I have felt for only a few well-done performances. As such, it is fair to say that Zendaya’s performance as Rue was truly captivating. What stood out to me the most was how real the show felt, even though it was most definitely over dramatic as I doubt that the majority of teenage friendship groups are that damaged simultaneously. Nevertheless, Euphoria felt raw as hell, Rue demonstrated the horrors of drug abuse, the effects on family, friends, and especially on themselves and their future. The depiction of her drug abuse acts as a way to delve deeper into her mind, depression, pain, and numbness.

One short scene I found particularly impactful was where she is forced to do fentanyl and we see her lying on a couch, possibly about to die, but then the camera pans to her slumped face and in a peaceful tone she says “I’m so happy”. The reason this scene particularly stood out to me is because in that moment I genuinely understood how much it meant for her to finally be happy, and that it took one of the most dangerous and destructive drugs for her to achieve that. Also, even through her peaceful voice, her eyes were still filled with sheer sadness, and to hear the words “I’m so happy” coming from a face full of sadness truly encapsulated all of her pain in one single scene.

The Christmas special episode was a masterpiece for me, I’m a particular fan of long and slow burning conversations within film/TV such as the majority of the Before Trilogy (watch it if you haven’t). However, Euphoria’s Christmas special, consisting of a stripped down, emotion filled, late night conversation in a diner between Rue and Ali topped the cake. The script was written with such intensity and honesty that I find it hard to fault it as how can you fault true feelings in that context? They simply are what they are. Brutal honesty. 

Jules was also an extremely fascinating character, although she in particular is a transgender girl trying to find her way around society, everyone can relate to trying to find a place somewhere, bringing a great sense of relatability. I guess this is one reason I found the show so profound as in one way or another there’s almost a tiny piece of each character that can be relatable to someone. Jules ultimately becomes Rue’s guardian-angel, bestfriend, and lover. This also gives Jules the power to emotionally break her which sadly was always inevitable. Even Jules knows this when she says “I feel like her sobriety is completely dependent on how available I am to her”. However, the irony of their friendship is that both Jules and Rue are looking for love, but Rue just isn’t that person for Jules. The sad reality of teenage love is presented here, it is not always two sided, and when it’s one sided, it’s hell, as we see through Rue’s relapse in the final episode. I look forward to season 2 and seeing what becomes of both Jules and Rue in the near future. 

“I feel like I’ve framed my entire womanhood around men” – Jules

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