Generation Z’s answer to the existential void left by the Fight Club generation
Every time HBO tries out a new genre, our initial impression should always be one of skepticism. Maybe because their slogan “It’s not TV. It’s HBO” has etched out a rep for prestige, and prestige tends to become synonymous with stifling gravity. With Euphoria, HBO is now promoting teen shows, a genre Netflix has managed to popularize in recent years with storylines initially intended for viewers the same age as the series stars, but that have managed to transcend their target age group and captivate audiences of all ages.
The best things about Euphoria are Zendaya, the star, and series creator Sam Levinson, who also directed several episodes, and who’s better-known for his film Assassination Nation. Levinson directs three episodes and writes all the scripts for Euphoria, an adaptation of an original Israeli format, but mainly inspired by Levinson’s own personal experience with addiction.
Much of what you’re going to discover in the first few episodes involves a very crude portrayal of Rue’s (Zendaya) relationship with drugs. Theirs is not a causal relationship, nor is it one of recreational use, but rather a relationship of dependency associated with anxiety and depression. And like her, the rest of the teenage cast seem to be trapped in self-destructive spirals that can be disturbing for audiences to watch.
In recent weeks we’ve witnessed the coming of an era of shows that haven’t been designed for your comfort, shows that don’t mix their words but confront us head on with realistic fears, from the handling of the truth in Chernobyl, to the European political dystopia Years and Years, or the profound social injustice of When They See Us. Euphoria fits right into this ‘uncomfortable’ series category. It’s not based on real-life events or any specific group of individuals, but it could be. That’s the feeling you come away with.
The first reference that springs to mind after watching the new HBO series is Kids, the 1995 Larry Clark movie, but Euphoria is also Generation Z’s response to the existential void propounded by Generation X’s Fight Club. There’ve been plenty of shows and series about Millennials (Generation Y), like Girls, also from HBO as one of their main references, but very little exploration into the young folk born after the turn of the century. Or three days after the attack on the Twin Towers, as is Rue’s case.
The star of Euphoria lets us inside her head, turns her emotions into something bombastic and narrates in an all-knowing fashion just how far adrift the boys around her are. Some may say the series is provocative, others that it’s over-the-top or even pornographic. Euphoria might be all those things, but it’s also sad, and if we can feel compassion for the characters, then it’s well worth overcoming the discomfort as we sit on our sofas and listen to what they have to say.