What is Euphoria, the new HBO teen series?
On June 17th, the first episode of Euphoria, the new series written by Sam Levinson and produced by Drake aired on HBO. And if you happen to be wondering what is all the fuss about, here’s the explanation.
Rocked by a smooth and well curated OST, we follow Rue, the drug addict teen and main character, along with her high school friends, navigating their way through life, copping the best they can with the struggles and questionings that come with being a teenager. The structure is somewhat reminiscent of Skins, the British TV series that was so popular in the early 2010’s. If in Skins drugs, alcohol and parties were portrayed as the only way for teenagers to escape their problems, here they curiously don’t hold such a place : they’re just another aspect of the character’s lives, something mainstream that’s part of the game of being sixteen in 2019. Which, if it can be seen as unhealthy, in reality it only depicts a truth that it would be hypocritical to deny.
As in Skins, and later Skan the Norwegian teen series, each episode focuses on one character : the show explores their social environment and persona in order to highlight a general issue related to the young generations nowadays. So far we’ve explored drug addiction, social media shaming, toxic masculinity, child pornography and trans sexuality. If some scenes can be hard or unpleasant to watch (sexual violence, overdose…), they always serve a purpose in terms of character development while having an aesthetic role.
Because aesthetics are important in Euphoria : one major thing differentiating it from other trite teen dramas is the overall atmosphere. Instead of trying to seem as realistic and raw as possible, the style is way more artistic in the way the scenes are filmed and edited, thus creating a heavy yet quite dreamlike atmosphere. There is almost a depressing thriller vibe to it, thanks to the dimly lit images and fluorescent colors, the omniscient narrator’s jaded voice over, loud trap music and sometimes non-chronological editing.
The influence of porn on sexual behaviors, sexuality, fat shaming, nudes as a new form of currency and communication… these are the subjects treated via the stories of the characters and they are more relevant to the millennial generation than ever. After Sex Education that opened a dialogue on sexual representations, Euphoria seems to be an updated and highly stylized version of the teen drama genre, dealing with the impact that technology has on young people regarding the way their perceive themselves and their relationships with their peers.
So far, four episodes have been released, each of them bringing us deeper into the seemingly normal lives of these teenagers who appear to be just as lost as any before them. The series is already receiving backlash for being too disruptive, so we can only hope it will at least help open a dialogue on teenager’s identity issues.
Euphoria HBO, airing each Monday.
by Jessica Ayinda