Why Parents Should Be Embracing shows like HBO’s “Euphoria”, Not Rallying Against Them

Zendaya as Rue in HBO’s “Euphoria”

Before its official series premiere on HBO the teen drama series, “Euphoria”, which was adapted from an Israeli tv series, had already found itself facing controversy. Like many series that are focused on teenagers in not so wholesome situations, the show has already been accused of “setting a bad example” for teens with its graphic content. Many are even questioning whether the too “risque” material driving the show was to blame for actor Brian ‘Astro’ Bradley leaving the show while shooting the pilot.

Actress Zendaya, who plays Rue Bennett, issued a warning to viewers before the show aired tweeting, “It’s a raw and honest portrait of addiction, anxiety and the difficulties of navigating life today. There are scenes that are graphic, hard to watch and can be triggering.” Zendaya went a step further by telling potential viewers to watch only if they thought that they could “handle it”. This is a message or disclaimer, that other actors have had to administer to audiences. Netflix’s “Thirteen Reasons Why” started issuing disclaimers before each episode in their second season after the first was met with fierce and widespread criticism due to the show’s troubling portrayal of mental illness and suicide.

In the opening of the pilot, we’re introduced to Zendeya’s character Rue. Viewers are given a run-down of her history with anxiety, mental illness, and drug use. The thing is, Rue is not introduced as a character that viewers should see as a role model. It’s glaringly obvious that this character is troubled and that her methods of coping with these troubles, which happens to be drugs, are not healthy for herself or those around her.

I think one, of many, things that writers have done well so far, despite it only being the first episode, is showing that Rue’s drug use doesn’t come without consequences or casualties. If you watch any teen dramas that explore similar themes and issues, you’ll know that most of them hardly bother showing the families’ of their teenage character, making it seem as if parents are completely absent from their children’s lives. “Euphoria” should at least be applauded for showing that a parent can be present and active in managing a teenager that suffers from addiction and also for showcasing how addiction can affect an entire family.

When we’re dropped into the present state of Rue’s life, not only is she just getting out of rehab, but viewers get a glimpse of how her drug use affects her mother and younger sister. How her mother must not only play mother and father, since the death of her husband but probation officer as she attempts to police her daughter and her drug use.

Storm Reid as Gia Bennett in HBO’s “Euphoria”

To add to this, there’s an intense scene where Rue’s younger sister Gia discovers her on the floor suffering from an overdose. It’s not hard to grasp that Rue’s home life is tumultuous and unstable but the reason for this instability is mainly a result of Rue’s addiction not because she had a bad childhood or lousy parents. In fact, the character it seems we’re supposed to sympathize for most in this toxic dynamic is Gia who not only has to live with the memory of finding her sister half-dead on the floor but witness her mother and sister engage in violent fights and arguments that she has no part in yet must endure anyhow. Therefore, Rue’s drug use has already been established as a scourge that has accumulated victims.

So far, despite the exceptional cinematic and colorful effects that take place during Rue’s highs, there is no “glamorizing” to the drug use that occurs. The overall tone of the show has been very dark, which gives an overall sense of foreboding, not something warranted of fascination.

However, I can’t argue that the content isn’t graphic. It is. I’ll be honest, the extent and vividness of the nudity and sex in this first episode caught me off guard. And again, these scenes were also shot with a dark, and arguably unsettling, tone and context. As a viewer, these scenes didn’t come across as something meant to arouse. They came across as something meant to be disturbing.

While many are blasting the show for being too graphic, graphic could very well be interchangeable with realistic. Let’s be real, just because teenagers don’t see these things taking place on television does not mean that they won’t be doing or seeing them anyways. Teens have been doing drugs, having sex, and succumbing to peer pressure for decades. That’s not going to change simply because another show is doing the work of showing what actual teenagers are facing despite their parents’ ignorance.

Hunter Schafer as Jules Vaughn and Zendaya as Rue Bennett in HBO’s “Euphoria”

Rallying against shows like “Euphoria” isn’t going to spare teens from witnessing, or potentially taking part in, any of the things that parents are complaining about in the show when they could just as easily come in contact with it online or out with their friends. Shows like “Euphoria” should be viewed as a point of discussion, even an educational tool, not an inevitable gateway to all of the things that they’re going to come into contact with anyway. And that’s only if they haven’t already. The content in shows like “Euphoria” should bother parents but getting up in arms against the show, its writers and the actors don’t do half as much as simply having a conversation with teens about what the show reveals and how they should respond if or when they find themselves in similar situations. It might even help teens that have already found themselves exposed to these situations, without their parents’ knowledge, in opening up to them about it.

Even if teenagers and young adults watching “Euphoria” don’t have the support they need to discuss these experiences or simply don’t feel comfortable enough discussing them with parents, it’s nice to know that showrunners have thought of these viewers and have chosen to direct them to numerous organizations and resources, specifically ones that deal with mental health, addiction, and the LGBTQ+ community, that they can reach out to if they face any of the issues or situations that are addressed in the show.

Yes, teens can be impressionable and naive. And despite it being obvious to some that “Euphoria” is meant to be a cautionary tale, others may not have the ability to discern it as such. This is even more reason for parents that are concerned with the content to have an open discussion with teens. If watching the show together is too awkward or uncomfortable, parents and teens can watch it separately, then come together to have a conversation about it.

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A compulsive reader, wannabe writer, and generous gifter… of unsolicited opinions. Website: https://www.jaschantelwriter.com/

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Jasmine Chantel

Jasmine Chantel

A compulsive reader, wannabe writer, and generous gifter… of unsolicited opinions. Website: https://www.jaschantelwriter.com/

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