The Ennui of Euphoria
Euphoria is 2019 HBO show. I had heard of it, but didn’t know much about it. Finally, I clicked on it on HBO Max and found myself hooked. It is graphic and gritty, but strangely addictive. The characters are compelling and you grow to care about them. That is why this dark and depressing tale of teenage angst is not only watchable, but inherently bingeable.
Teenagers that drink and do drugs isn’t exactly a new concept. Much of the ground has already been covered. What is revolutionary about it is its representation of the LGBTQ community. The central character, Rue, is involved in a relationship with the Transgender woman Jules. Other male characters in the series are struggling with their latent homosexuality as well.
Female nudity has long been a staple of Cable TV, but this show tends toward more male nudity. While I am all for equal rights, I must say I am unimpressed. I thought it would exciting to finally see more male skin, it turns out that it makes the show feel less titillating overall. Once the shock value wears off, you see the sad subtext of male dominance and violence in everyday life.
One thing that jumped out at me while watching the series is how stylized it is. The lighting is always dark or unnatural in some way. Most of the action takes place at night and in the shadows. The scenes are often lit by green or red lights or some color that makes it feel surreal. Sometimes the light adds a fuzzy or blurry effect to the scene, which makes the viewer feel a bit drunk or high.
Although the show takes place in the present day, there are a lot of call backs to the 1970s and 1980s. There are plenty of smart phones and laptops in the show, but the houses look like they have not been renovated at all. These lower middle class families exist in a world that forty or fifty years behind the sleek modern world. There is a lot wood paneling and dark wood cabinets. Brown, orange and mustard yellow are a large part of the color pallet, and those feel like definite stylistic choices.
The make-up is modern day, but it too calls us back to the 1970s and 1980s. The glittery eye shadow and low cut tops are glamorous touches. While the overall trend in the 2020s has been more modest, we get a glimpse into flashy world of fashion. We see the tight dresses and long nails that belong in the world of “Real Housewives” and “Claws.” These popular party girls are always over the top and take things to the extreme.
Oddly, Rue is the one character who dresses down. She rarely wears make-up and is often in an over-sized T-shirt and jeans. She is skinny with a head of dark and wild hair. She isn’t slick or shiny like all the girls around her. Rue is plain. She is a wallflower who gets to observe the crazy drama unfolding around her. She is the narrator—the author of some crazy documentary or drama.
I love how they actually made Lexi have her own reality show on E. They parody the unscripted dramas and bring attention to their artificial natures. The fake TV show barely scratches the surface of the darkness that exists within this generation. Rue rarely references the show, but it pops up every so often to make the audience realize the adults and everyone around them are completely clueless.
The Netflix show 13 Reasons was the first capture the collective trauma of living in this modern society. Euphoria takes it a step further. Instead of trying to open a dialog, like 13 Reasons, Euphoria seeks to sensationalize and push boundaries. It seeks to portray without preaching. Euphoria is inviting us into the dark world of drugs and doesn’t apologize for being melodramatic or morose.