“Euphoria”: to rebel, to condemn better

Series Euphoria, whose second season aired on HBO in the winter of 2022, is enjoying unshakably popular success. That’s what the series is about status quo by an aesthetic of transgression, that is, it proceeds by shocking from public expectations, accustomed to certain narrative and thematic codes. Euphoria surprises as much by its deviations from the conventions of staging as by its way of tackling several societal problems.

PhD student in literature and performing arts and screen art, my research lies at the intersection of feminist and audiovisual studies.

The article contains spoilers and discusses sexuality, drug abuse and certain mental disorders.

Narrative infallibility

It is the character of Rue, an anxious and cynical teenager who struggles with a substance abuse problem, who takes responsibility for the story ofEuphoria. Her perspective on the world is sensitive, honest and intersectional, an inclusive concept that signifies the breaking down of barriers between different systems of oppression.

Rue is conscious of reporting a TV story, and she often addresses the audience and has fun manipulating the order and tone of events. More than just a voice ofshe has the ability to freeze certain images on the screen to contextualize them or even present alternative scenes of what she wanted wanted let it happen. The serial setting, in which she is given the opportunity to tell her own story, embodies one of the rare spaces in which she has some control.

But Rue also seems to suffer from bipolar disorder, which is at least what the therapist she consulted in her childhood suggests, as well as the extreme fluctuations in emotions she goes through. In addition to her addiction to drugs, the teenager’s fall sometimes leads to intense moments of slipping. The narrative is particularly influenced in the finale of season 1, where the young girl begins to consume again after a few weeks of abstinence.

The scene turns into a surprisingly sung number, where Rue, with outstretched eyes and incoherent body, is the soloist. A gospel choir joins her for erratic choreography for the song All for us (Labrinth) which symbolizes repressed suffering. A few times during the season, the first notes of this tune have been heard, without, however, exceeding thirty seconds. Rue is generally able to suffocate her distress, but she is overwhelmed by it at this end of the season, where parental grief and romantic breakup are combined. Rue’s pain explodes and erupts as the song plays out in full for the first time, and the main character participates directly in the musical score.

Even when she knows she’s to blame, Rue reports her mishaps with a biting humor that makes her endearing. To confess to the public her relapse, she cuts through the story with a monologue addressed directly to the audience that supports slides (season 2). She admits that as a protagonist she may disappoint the public’s hopes, but she brings to order anyone who has forgotten the many reminders of her lack of desire for withdrawal. Rue finds original ways to communicate with the audience, to let them know that she is interested in their point of view.

Though Euphoria based on the narrative of a flawed and disrespectful protagonist, the young girl evokes empathy because she does not try to hide her fallibility, and the series gives access to her subjectivity, for better or worse. The creator of the series also evokes an “emotional realism”. Between the two seasons, two special sections for camera were inserted almost without editing, which gives a break from strong emotions, a sign that the artists behind Euphoria Also use a variety of staging to give the audience respite.

From opioids to love addiction

In the heart ofEuphoria the passionate relationship between Rue and Jules unfolds. Unlike the other couples in the series, heterosexual and imbued with violence, this is a rare love story that seems to be based on affection and consent. But Rue knows no more about moderation when it comes to love. The feeling of intoxication that his infatuation with Jules gives him becomes a substitute for his consumption, an unbearable long-term responsibility for his partner. A rupture seems inevitable until Rue is detoxified, giving the term “toxic relationship” an unusual meaning.

Another case of love addiction is presented by Nate and Cassie’s secret relationship in the second season. As Nate seems to lose interest in her, Cassie enters an obsessed spiral: her days are marked by obsessive beauty rituals, and the editing insists through repetition on the damaging nature of her efforts. Cassie’s appearance becomes more and more slapstick, as her mental state worsens, to the point where her friends ask her one morning if she’s dressed for the school play. Even the other characters realize that Cassie is undergoing a transformation, that she has something offbeat: At the climax of season 2, she no longer seems to belong to the same fictional universe.

The right tone

A bit like the British series Sex education (Netflix), in a different style, Euphoria manages to condemn and educate without setting a moralizing tone. For example, the series helps to normalize certain situations of intersectionality with the public. Because it goes without saying for Rue to be in love with a girl, the series does not offer anyone comes out, nor does it make an intrigue of the transidentity of one of the main names. Discrimination is rather condemned in contrast to the naturalness with which the protagonists embrace their fluidity and the stereotypical reactions of boys in their entourage.

The series also excels at condemning a culture of rigid virility that sets in motion the feminine. Between sexual violence, the slutshaming and catcallsit becomes painful for teenage girls toEuphoria to perform the required model of femininity while assuming their own identity and sexuality. In season 1, the orgasm even seems to be denied to the female protagonists. Kat’s character does not plan to let others deal with her sexuality: she creates her own account online, where she gets paid for erotic video chats.

To protect herself from the brutality of the boys around her, Kat forcefully pushes Ethan away in the first season, even though he seems to have a sincere respect for her. As he confronts her with it and repeats his love interest, she reveals her disbelief that he might want more of her than some sexual services. While he wants to prove she’s wrong by offering her to her a cunnilingus presents season 1 the very first representation of heterosexuality in which the male partner gives without taking anything in return.

It’s also the first time in the series that an unlikely female orgasm appears on screen. More then, to great embarrassment, it is revealed that Ethan ejaculated in his pants. Kat’s experience with Ethan shatters a large glass ceiling as part ofEuphoria : a sexual relationship without penetration where a boy enjoys satisfying his partner.

But Kat will later realize that her relationship with Ethan does not suit her, and that is drawing on the aesthetics of horror movies in style. slasher and pornographic films that she externalizes this dissatisfaction. She gets bored in her room and fantasizes that Ethan is being killed by a Dothraki warrior, with whom she has a violent sex in front of Ethan’s corpse, who is spraying bloodshed. Far from being content with its own framework, Euphoria have fun drawing on different fictional styles to personify the protagonists’ inner discourse.

From tears to glitter: materialization of paradoxes

The series was quickly noticed for its ethereal and alienating soundtrack, as well as for its unique makeup, which was widely reproduced on social networks. Glitter under the eyes, eyeliner multicolored, diamonds in the hair: the teenage girls ofEuphoria show daily looks worthy of major fashion magazines.

Given the pessimistic character of the series, this extravagant aesthetic is surprising, especially since the characters show it with casualness. Is it’Euphoria, despite its jovial-sounding title, offers a more dysphoric than euphoric experience. In Rue’s face struggling to find the balance between ecstasy and depression, tears rub and glitter.

The series’ ability to make paradoxes coexist is the cornerstone of its originality. The audience is taken to witness the waves of happiness and the characters’ abysmal suffering, and the series does not try to dilute the pain to make the tendon more pleasant. The incarnation of such a variation of emotions illustrates the complexity of the problems that the main characters face.

Get the audience used to the unexpected

The human experience is paved with opposites, the series Euphoria does not seem to submit to any thematic or artistic limitation in order to convey difficult realities with realism, both in the narrative and in the audiovisual.

To participate, viewers must agree to take nothing for granted. A charismatic father can thus suppress a criminal sexual life in which he abuses minors, just as it dealer drug dealing in the city can be one of the most empathetic and complex characters.

Euphoria is an unpredictable series that deliberately ignores conventions to uncompromisingly shake up several stubborn taboos.

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