When most people think about the new HBO show, “Euphoria”, it’s often categorized as a racy high school television show that brings you into the lives of teenagers dealing with problems such as substance addiction, identity, sex, and of course, daddy issues. Although these themes are at the forefront of the show, and they definitely hit you like a ton of bricks right off the bat, I can’t help but be pulled in by the interracial queer love story between the two main characters, Rue and Jules.
Seventeen year old Rue, played by Zendaya, is our protagonist and narrator. As her character navigates her struggle with drug addiction and sobriety, she meets and falls in love with the new girl at school, Jules, played by Hunter Schafer. Both complex and intriguing characters, their two worlds collide and they discover their friendship which develops into something more. Despite the fact that this storyline is very cliche, writer and director Sam Levison does an amazing job of portraying it in a way that feels refreshing and enlightening, even drawing from personal experiences of his battle with drug addiction. (He is now fourteen years clean.)
Of course, there have been similar relationships on TV before, such as Santana and Britney from Glee, a high school couple who played a major role in expanding the portrayal of interracial queer love to mainstream media.
I think it’s fair to say that most representations of LGBTQ+ people in relationships focus on the struggles of coming out or dealing with homophobic loved ones. These stories are important to have on-screen because it is a reality for a lot of queer folx. On the other hand, we need stories about queer couples that don’t focus solely on their sexual orientation but also branch out to show how LGBTQ+ people navigate the struggles that all teenagers in high school face, such as unrequited love. This is what makes Rue and Jules’s relationship unique. Rue simply falls in love with someone who doesn’t love her in the same way. It’s a story that is relatable for many but it’s so refreshing to see it portrayed through a queer lens.
It could be possible that writers feel the need to explain the complexities of sexuality and gender, but there’s also power in letting things be. We never see Rue come out to her mom, despite only previously being with guys nor do we see Jules tell Rue and other classmates that she’s transgender. In many cases, I don’t believe those conversations need to be had on screen, and some people even believe they aren’t necessary at all. Teenagers should be able to live freely without having to label themselves.
What’s also cool about the show is that the relationship that we see unfold is also interracial. It further represents the fact that Black LGBTQ+ folx exist and their stories exist with equal importance to white LGBQT+ folx. Rue’s life is complicated and challenging but, still, her character arc is not primarily focused on her racial identity. Her Blackness isn’t magnified or stereotypical, it just is what it is.
New interpretations of queer relationships are important and a big step in the direction of more inclusive media. I hope the story of Rue and Jules inspires more writers and casting directors to think outside of current Hollywood standards and bring more diverse, intersectional portrayals to light. Euphoria is an exciting and emotionally-inspiring show to watch, and I can’t wait to see what season two has in store for Rue and Jules. (#rules4eva)