Euphoria: Not your average high school drama
Courtesy of What's On Netflix
This past summer was huge for film and television. One of summer 2019’s biggest standouts was HBO’s “Euphoria.” The high school drama, based on an Israeli series of the same name, follows a group of incredibly different teens trying to navigate life while dealing with issues including sex, drug use and violence. Since its premiere in June, social media has been buzzing with excitement about the show’s success and its highly anticipated second season.
Disney star turned A-list actress Zendaya leads the series as Rue Bennett, a 17 year old who has been struggling with drug addiction and mental illness. Zendaya’s role in “Euphoria” differs drastically from her television debut in “Shake It Up,” and proves that she has phenomenal range as an actress. The talent from her and the other young actors in “Euphoria” make the series that much more captivating. There is not a single weak link in the cast, and it’s evident that they all bring out the best in each other.
Some breakout performances in “Euphoria” include Hunter Schafer, Barbie Ferreira and Angus Cloud. Schafer is a transgender model and actress who portrays Jules, Rue’s new best friend. Jules provides a form of stability and comfort in Rue’s life, helping her cope and return to normalcy following an overdose and time in rehab. As the season unfolds, Rue and Jules’ relationship quickly blossoms into something more than simply friendship. As tensions rise, the audience watches as Jules struggles with some personal trauma that brings difficulty and co-dependency into her relationship with Rue. Schafer has gained a lot of attention following her television debut, and her exceptional performance is sure to further solidify her already successful career.
Ferreira gives a stellar performance in the series. She plays Kat, who is just beginning to find herself and own her confidence. Kat finds success as a sex worker after receiving positive attention online when a pornographic video of her was taken and then leaked without her consent. Despite her initial panic due to this situation, Kat decides to own her sexuality and begins to profit off of it. Though the initial cause of this character shift is a major violation of her privacy, it sets her up for a deeply compelling character arc that quickly makes Kat a fan favorite.
A final performance to mention is Cloud as Fez, a drug dealer with a heart of gold (and more than just a slight resemblance to Mac Miller). Fez plays a huge role in helping Rue stay clean, and tries to keep everyone’s best interests in mind. Like most of the characters in the show, Fez is forced to maneuver through many difficult situations that most high-school-aged kids could never even fathom. Through everything, Fez manages to stay grounded and does what he can to protect the people he cares about.
As a whole, “Euphoria” is visually stunning. From the cinematography to the show’s makeup artistry, the creative minds behind the 2019 favorite hit every possible mark.
Sam Levinson, the show’s creator, has a personal connection to the show’s heavy themes of drug addiction. The show is beautiful, and Levinson notes how he wanted things to look “sci-fi-ish” to effectively communicate “the kind of alien nature of the world when you’re young.” With elements of Levinson’s own experience helping to shape the U.S. adaptation, the emotion throughout the first season is beautifully raw.
The makeup design of “Euphoria” is another standout creative aspect. Doniella Davy, the show’s head makeup artist, breathes more life into the characters with bold makeup designs. Dazzling makeup looks are a huge part of nearly every girl in the series, but are even more directly linked to the roles of Jules and Maddy. The show’s distinctive makeup designs even inspired a lot of fans to share their “Euphoria”-inspired looks all across social media.
Many high school and teen dramas attempt to tackle difficult issues and end up missing the mark, but “Euphoria” successfully navigates sex, identity, mental illness, drug abuse and violence without romanticizing, glorifiying or fetishizing it. Some popular teen shows could take notes from “Euphoria,” despite early controversy about the show’s excessive nudity.
Another thing to note about “Euphoria” is that the writers don’t fall into the lazy trope of pitting girls against each other for no reason. It’s a tired and overused plotline. With all the other chaos ensuing in these high schoolers’ lives, it’s refreshing that their issues stretch far beyond pettiness between one another.
“Euphoria” is an outstanding series that everyone should take the time to watch. The show was crafted beautifully, and the young actors leading the show are truly unparalleled. If you’ve been debating watching “Euphoria,” take this as a sign to finally find out what all the hype is really about.