HBO’s Euphoria is on Season Two, Episode Six and has garnered a wide range of audience reactions: from TikTok trends that cheekily make fun of the unique costume design, to backlash from organizations like Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE). The show follows struggling high school student Rue, played by Zendaya, and her glitter-clad peers as they deal with teenage drama, party, do hard drugs and have lots of sex. Although controversial because of its graphic material, Euphoria has won multiple awards. The show won Emmys for Outstanding Contemporary Makeup and Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics –– Zendaya also made history as the youngest woman to win the Best Actress award for her portrayal of Rue.
More than 300,000 people have already watched Euphoria’s latest episode. But how do Occidental students experience this particular piece of media, if they choose to consume it at all?
Dylan Herbert (first year) said her fondness of the show stems from the reality of Euphoria’s coverage of sensitive topics like drug addiction.
“They are real things that are going on,” Herbert said. “This isn’t just some kind of made up thing. This is real and people are living these lives and it’s sick, scary and sad.”
There are also those who watch Euphoria, but actively dislike it. Charlotte Tompkins (first year) and Emma Stephen (first year) said they mainly watch the show because of its relevance to the current dialogue happening on social media.
“Everybody posts about it, and media controls everyone,” Tompkins said.
Stephen said the way Euphoria approaches nudity is one of the many issues she has with it.
“It’s pretty much like a huge porno, and it just doesn’t feel good to me anymore,” Stephen said. “I think it’s the most sexually exploitative show that has ever been made.”
Even those who like the show, such as Neha D’Souza (junior) and Bernadette Robinson (first year), said they found the amount of nudity unnecessary.
“I think it’s a bit overdone, and it might sexualize a lot of the women,” Robinson said.
Despite this, D’Souza and Robinson said there are aspects of the show they enjoy. Robinson said one of her favorite parts of the show is Maude Apatow’s character Lexi Howard, Rue’s timid and level-headed childhood best friend.
“I especially like how this season, I think [Lexi’s] realizing that she wants to be more assertive in her life, and is trying to make steps to do that,” Robinson said. “If I were in this Euphoria universe, I would be her.”
Herbert said she appreciates the intersectional representation of Zendaya’s character, Rue.
“She’s a woman of color, as am I, so it’s cool to see representation in the media as such a central part of the show as well,” Herbert said.
Despite the Euphoria craze, Clayton Cheney (senior) said he actively avoids watching the show.
“All of my housemates are currently watching it,” Cheney said. “I leave when they do.”
Cheney said he watched one episode of Euphoria at the suggestion of a friend, and the experience sent him into a state of anxiety that immediately deterred him from the show.
“Right away there was an overdose scene, and I was like, ‘I’m not about this,’” Cheney said.
Tompkins said the show has romanticized drugs in the past. For instance, when the show first came out, she said her peers were throwing Euphoria-themed parties in an attempt to mirror the lifestyle of the show’s characters. However, Tompkins said Episode Five removed a lot of that appeal by depicting the reality that drugs are ruining Rue’s life.
“There’s definitely some glorification,” D’Souza said. “But it’s also a girl struggling with her addiction.”
Robinson said the intense scene of Rue desperately spewing curses and insults at her mother was particularly emotional for her.
“The moments of Rue’s mom seeing her daughter in so much pain and trying to be a loving mother despite the fact that she’s doing all of these horrible things –– as a viewer, I was really impacted,” Robinson said.
Another common critique of Euphoria is that it is not representative of a high school experience, particularly in its costume design. In a TikTok trend, creators dress up how they would normally go to school — usually in something like a t-shirt and jeans — and then switch to the risqué and sparkly outfits reflective of the series’ costume design. The trend is meant to poke fun at the general absurdity of the costume design. Tompkins and Stephen said they did not experience the kind of partying seen in Euphoria when they were in high school.
“I went to class, so there’s that,” Stephen said.
Euphoria might cause controversy, but by sparking conversation, the show is bringing people together. Herbert said Euphoria’s weekly release of episodes is part of her weekly routine.
“I get to hang out and watch with people that I wouldn’t normally hang out with,” Herbert said. “It’s kind of fun to get other people’s perspectives [on the show].”