Euphoria: The death of the teen drama

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Zendaya has defended "Euphoria" against critics who argue that the show negatively affects morality. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

I firmly believe that every art aims at some good, as Aristotle says, but he never guarantees that art will always hit the bullseye.

As the latest teen drama “Euphoria” released its second season on HBO Max this year, I reflected on the aspects that helped it become one of the most “tweeted about” shows ever.

While teen dramas often take the world by storm, many people — including myself — felt that something about this one was wildly different from anything we have seen before. What is it that makes this show so dangerously intriguing?

Many think that the glamorization of illegal activities in “Euphoria” not only leads a large teen audience to believe that these choices are inconsequential but also embrace a nihilistic approach to life.

What is fascinating to me is that the particular character arcs and plot points presented in “Euphoria” are not new to the teen drama genre.

In “One Tree Hill,” Peyton becomes addicted to cocaine and Haley deals with teen marriage and pregnancy. In “Gilmore Girls,” Rory sleeps with her married ex-boyfriend. And in “Pretty Little Liars,” Aria dates her teacher for the majority of the show’s run while trying to solve their friend’s disappearance and murder.

We poke fun at the cheesy writing and low-quality filming of the teen dramas we grew up with, but if you take the cinematography, extreme nudity and glitz and glamor out of “Euphoria,” it’s just another CW show. Yet the hype surrounding the show has reached astronomical levels.

Though “Euphoria” utilizes typical teenage tropes, its use of glamorous costumes, makeup and cinematography sets it apart from teen dramas of the past by serving the same horrible life choices on a glittery, gilded plate.

Furthermore, the show adds ridiculously graphic sex scenes to a show about high schoolers.  When it comes to teen dramas, we should question why physical boundaries are being pushed in a predominantly male-driven media, and we should question the absurd sexualization of actors and the teenagers they’re supposed to be portraying.

The show’s Emmy-winning star and co-producer Zendaya responded to the criticism of the show’s depiction of teenagers by saying: “Our show is in no way a moral tale to teach people how to live their life or what they should be doing. [It is to] help people feel a little bit less alone in their experience and their pain.”

While I can sympathize, it doesn’t change the fact that the show is either knowingly or unknowingly misguiding its young audience into believing that high-risk behavior is something to aspire to and that suffering is meaningless.

If the show is not meant to have a moral, it’s even more dangerous to leave it easily and readily acceptable to young people who cannot understand the lessons that are being left up to interpretation.

The show also breeds a nihilistic approach to life due to the sufferings that the characters experience. Additionally, it fails to present topics like hope, genuine redemption and love in a positive light.

I don’t think that the depiction of the trials and tribulations of high school is a problem, but when there is so much stress-inducing shock value and attractive visuals surrounding the project, its contents need to be tread over very lightly.

Teen dramas have always been over-the-top, but “Euphoria” takes the early 21st-century idea of a teen drama and beats it to death with a glittery purple stick.

This conclusion does not have to immediately mean calling for a cease of production, but perhaps opens the conversation for better accountability of creators of similar stories over the intended audience, content and careful attention to depictions of vulnerable teenagers.

Or better yet, a conversation that includes reaching out to the teens that know better than anyone how shows like “Euphoria” impact their lives and the people around them. 

After all, it’s their world. What kind of a world will it be, I wonder — one that has a clear direction or one that could never quite grasp the idea that all that glitters is not gold?

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