Euphoria: A Review

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Academy Staff

First released in 2019, Euphoria debuted on HBO and would soon appeal to a majority teen audience. With its mind-bending cinematography, music that makes your stomach drop, bold makeup, and heavy subject matter, this series is absolutely breathtaking. The story is told to match the present-day and depicts uncanny themes that run parallel to reality. Elements of Euphoria’s plot itself may in fact be deemed unrealistic, however, the way in which the story is told is brutally close to home. Zendaya stars in the lead role, Rue, a seventeen-year-old opioid addict just out of rehabilitation. While Rue is a major focus in the series, numerous characters are critical to the narrative as well. As Rue narrates the story, there is a strong sense that the audience is experiencing each character and scene through her eyes. The vivid use of red, purple, and blue lighting, smoke, and overwhelming colors gives an overwhelming sense of, you guessed it, euphoria. Every scene is filled to the brim with movement of the camera, dramatic zoom-ins, spins, and shots rendered to look gravity-defying. (click here for a compilation of euphoria’s best cinematic moments) 

The screenplay was written by Sam Levinson, who originally wrote it as a personal narrative of his own life story. Levinson himself was an opioid addict, existing in and out of rehab during high school. It wasn’t long before Levinson realized he could weave more than one story into his own. Levinson either takes us back to highschool or further in, and every emotion is ten times more dizzying than we remember. As stated earlier, some of the plotlines are not necessarily realistic. The concepts themselves are extremely real, as is the manner in which the show is performed and produced, however. This is what Euphoria gets right:

One, while the show contains a significant amount of sexual content, nudity, drugs, alcohol, and mental illness, none of the following are glorified. In fact, many are slight if not completely disturbing. Euphoria is not Riverdale. A common theme in the series is the notion that reality is not pretty, and Levinson holds nothing back in emulating that.

Two, the Gen Z digital social life is iterated flawlessly. From messaging, to exchanging explicit photographs, to exposure to online pornography, the show demonstrates how our digitalized era is one of the core reasons why generation Z is so mentally damaged. 

Three, Levinson’s depiction of toxic masculinity is immaculate; but terrifying. One of the main characters, Nate Jacobs, is a written role meant to embody the epitome of male toxicity, pent up anger, extreme internalized homophobia, and the refusal to show any emotion. This of course results in surges of anger resulting in violence, cruelty towards others and the objectification of women. 

Four, what is likely the most chilling yet captivating aspect is the fact that every Gen Z teen knows one person if not more similar to a character from Euphoria without fail. Many are even sharing experiences or feelings similar to the characters as well, whether that be individuals experimenting with outward expression, drug addiction, toxic or violent relationships, or experiencing familial dysfunction.

Euphoria takes high school in our present digital era and adds steroids to the entire production. The plot may not match real life but the heightened emotion and overwhelming and affective high is what makes the show not only accurate, but incredibly beautiful.