Content warning: This article includes spoilers of the show “Euphoria,” mentions of abuse and sexually explicit content.
With tears dripping with glitter, rhinestones that complement the characters’ eye colors and pastel pink mini skirts paired with high platform shoes as the standard dress code for the show, “Euphoria” has paired trauma with a glorified version of high school life. The show follows nine high school students as they navigate through their own friendships, social media, love and drugs. “Euphoria” first gained popularity due to its risque themes, addictive music and jaw-dropping drama. With the long-awaited season two release, a recent TikTok trend teases the crazy outfits students wear to a normal English class; with the drama and high energy to match, who wouldn’t be entertained by a series that makes high school into an exhilarating fantasy?
While I love watching the episodes and look forward to the rest of season two, I can’t help but cringe at the toxicity the show shoves down our throats. Every single one of the main characters has a dramatic origin story to match their daily lives, ranging from daddy issues to internal battles with sexual identity. For example, Cassie –– a blue-eyed, blonde bombshell –– has one of the most tragic backstories in my eyes. Her childhood was twisted with her parents’ divorce, sexual advances from family members, parents plagued with substance abuse and lastly, a mother who attaches Cassie’s worth to her looks and relationships with men. She’s cursed with falling in love with any man who looks her way and the urge to feel loved. Younger, more impressionable viewers see Cassie as this beautiful character instead of seeing the flaws and the reasoning behind her poor and irreversible decisions throughout the show. It’s a show — of course it’s dramatic, so what’s the harm? But “Euphoria” takes the dramatic to another level, glamorizes the dark and ugly themes threaded into each episode.
I can remember in middle school watching movies that characterized high school as a place you merely visit during the day, while there are endless parties on the weekend and even some weeknights. However, my high school experience was characterized by studying for AP exams, being anxious about college acceptances and making memories at homecoming and prom — once-in-a-school-year events. Even “High School Musical” portrays high school as this beautiful place of opportunity, where everything is solved in a song. On the other hand, “Mean Girls” presents high school as a jungle filled with people pretending to be something they aren’t, always ready to stab you in the back. In these movies, attire says more about who people are than their words do. While students in “High School Musical” dressed in letterman jackets and pastel florals, “Mean Girls” students’ attire ranged drastically from oversized shirts and sweatpants to crop tops, mini skirts and heels. Sometimes, the best way to express ourselves is through how we dress, but in “Euphoria”, the social dress code is high heels, chokers, fishnets and dramatic cutouts that would get the average high schooler detention in a heartbeat. Each character has a main color and style that is associated with them. For instance, Cassie wears baby blue and pink signifying how she has a naive innocence about her, while Kat changed from simple denim to a red leather dominatrix as she tries to break away from being the quiet, shy pushover. Every outfit is strategic in showing the character’s personality and sometimes personality growth. The glamorization of high school life is not a new concept, but “Euphoria” takes us to the dark side where characters believe the best way to evolve is by having sex, and it seems no one has a true role model that helps them through their struggles. The show continuously sexualizes teenagers and showcases toxic relationships and manipulative people. This show is about 16 and 17 year olds, yet nearly every episode includes graphic depictions of nudity and underage sex.
In the trailer for the second season, we see the main characters popping pills and flaunting alcohol, all behaviors that would be huge red flags in reality. We also see most of the girls in the show wearing bikinis to parties and in sex tapes. Of course, we should all be comfortable with our bodies and whatever we want to dress ourselves in, but as mentioned in “The Ringer,” “There’s a fine line between affording teens agency and acknowledging they’re literal children,” meaning the aforementioned sex tapes are, in fact, child pornography. For instance, the main character, Rue, is only seventeen and has gone through more trauma in a single episode than many of us go through in a lifetime, enduring her father’s traumatic death, a drug overdose, rehab and a tricky drug addiction she continuously fights. While I understand this darkness is a reality, many young viewers could see her fight as aspirational; however, throughout the show, Rue spirals while grasping on to the false reality that she is protecting her sister from a future similar to her past. Rue tries to cope with her trauma by always wearing her father’s hoodie and by focusing on helping her friends through their traumas. Her story is harmful because it promotes working on others instead of working on oneself. Oftentimes, Rue continues to hurt herself while trying to fix others. For example, when Rue’s sister, Gia, begins to dabble in drugs, Rue relapses.
As viewers, all you can ever wish for is one peaceful night for the main characters in what seems like an endless cycle of misery and mistrust. I can’t help myself but scream at Rue, Cassie or any of the nine main characters as they continuously walk into disastrous situations. Rue and Cassie are the tragic heroes of the show who are continuously taken advantage of mentally, and in Cassie’s case, physically. Rue’s mental health issues are a prominent part of her character arc, but her deeper tragedy is her therapist’s inability to help her as a child, which leads to her drug addiction and ultimate overdose. I understand that for some teenagers this is a reality, but the show focuses on high nights filled with purple fluorescent lights making you believe that even though Rue is in pain, she’s also in love with it. There needs to be a discussion about our obsession with the grotesque character flaws that are prevalent in “Euphoria.” From drug overdoses to pool scenes to violence, this show glamorizes traumas that viewers have to encounter each and every day. We can love “Euphoria”, but we must consume the show critically in order to avoid over-romanticizing the characters’ painful lives.
MiC Columnist Simone Roberts can be reached at email@example.com.