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Iris Benson-Sulzer

Euphoria: are you seeing what I’m seeing?

January 26, 2022

HBO’s latest teen drama is a provocative portrayal of adolescents that captured the attention of the internet through its shock value.

“Euphoria” returned for its second season Jan. 9 of this year after launching into the media sphere with a bang in 2019, winning three Emmys and six more nominations. But it’s overuse of nudity and violence keeps the show from fully expanding on any of its plot lines.

I really loved “Euphoria” at first. It was glittery and filled with beautiful people in beautiful outfits engaging in wild pursuits to feel alive, the perfect landscape for teenage escapism. 

The show explores a number of mature themes, including addiction, rape, abuse and sex work. These are important topics to discuss and better understand, but at times the graphic portrayal feels like trauma porn, or the romanticization of abuse.

Characters Nate and Maddy’s relationship through season one is a perfect example of this as the audience watches Nate choking Maddy while the viewer sits in anticipation just waiting for it to be over. 

Season two is fresh on the horizon, with two episodes available on HBO and six more releasing every Sunday.

To much of my dismay, Sam Levinson, the creator of HBO’s “Euphoria,” increased the shock value in this season.

Within the first 10 minutes of the first episode, everyone has their genitals out. I have never seen so many dicks in such a short span of time. I also watched Faye, a new character, inject heroin into her upper thigh, showing a full view of her vaginal area.

It’s scenes like that where I really think they just missed the mark. 

I am all for sexual liberation, and think nudity can be used well in shows, but I also think the dangers of addiction can be communicated without having full frontal nudity on display for a two minute shot. 

The beginning of episode two starts with a montage of Nate imagining his life with Cassie, while also imagining his father Cal having affairs with younger gay men. In the scene we see long shots of Cal engaging in sexual acts interspersed with scenes of Cassie and Nate having sex. 

The scene is drawn out and shocking. While some may say it shows the reality of men having secret sex with minors, the audience didn’t need to see every detail to understand how it effects the plot. 

Levinson is listed as one of the primary creators of HBO’s “Euphoria,” according to IMDb. 

He writes about character’s lives filled with trauma and abuse in such a pompous way behind an aestheticized, fairytale backdrop filled with pastels and blue eyeliner. 

That being said, there are things about “Euphoria” I enjoy: the characters are vibrant and developed, and the cinematography is beautiful. 

We get to see queer relationships on screen, and there is a compelling, heartbreaking story within the show that sets itself apart from other teen dramas. 

Shock value can only get a show so far, and “Euphoria” is clouding these characters down with graphic displays meant to offend and create controversy.

I still remain excited for the remainder of the season, and beg Levinson to please stop including so much unnecessary violence and nudity.

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