OPINION: Shows like ‘Euphoria’ poison teen expectations and behavior

Editor’s note: This article includes discussion of advanced thematic material in reference to a TV show.  

     Season two of the hit HBO series, “Euphoria,” premiered on Jan. 9, and my stomach churned as once again, high school students are depicted navigating the throes of “teenage life:” drugs, sex, identity and trauma… but special to the world of “Euphoria,” all while covered in iridescent glitter.  

     There is permutation of teenage angst and then there is total distortion of reality. I would argue that “Euphoria” achieves the latter.  

     My main qualm with shows like “Euphoria” is that they are, whether intended or not, targeted toward a young adolescent audience. These young, often impressionable, viewers watch as seventeen-year-olds (ironically played by adults in their twenties) participate in careless sex, drug use and self-harm.  

    Common Sense Media, an organization that provides information relating to media’s suitability for children, advised against teenage viewership to “Euphoria,” due to the strong adult themes.  

    Why, then, does a show like this exist? Who benefits from this? And why have the main characters be teenagers if the show is not even suitable for that age group?  

    The characters are seen attending parties that rival nightclubs in L.A. They engage in revenge sex and camming. They simultaneously drink and drive. They are often erratic, nihilistic and hostile. It is all the worst parts of “growing up” romanticized and put under the façade of being “raw and honest.” 

     And where are the parents and caring adults on these shows? Most are either shown as totally complicit in or ignorant of their teens’ behavior. I cannot say which is worse. These teens are totally left to their own devices, hence the drama.  

    The material of the show is unnecessarily heavy. Other shows like “13 Reasons Why,” “Riverdale” and “Gossip Girl” have been accused of the same. Teen dramas are not the norm, and my hope is that young people who watch can differentiate the truth for themselves or have trusted adults in their life that they can converse and process with.  

     I write this from the perspective of a high school student teacher. I am surrounded by real high school aged students every day. Do they struggle? Yes. Are some of them exposed to the crueler parts of life at an early age? Yes, unfortunately, and every day I wish I could protect them from it. 

     Teenagers need to be teenagers. We need healthier teen dramas that show both dysfunction and wholesomeness, with characters that young people can both relate to and aspire to be.  

    There are a few things the “Euphoria” does right. For example, the show does include viewer discretion warnings and its website does provide resources for mental health.  

     I appreciate that the show attempts to be diverse and inclusive; its exploration of trans identity is groundbreaking and deserving of praise. And I would be lying if I said the visuals and actors’ performances were not something to be applauded. 

    Anxiety, depression, gender dysphoria and addiction are all very real issues, but portraying the “struggle lifestyle” as a glamorous one is a dangerous narrative. I believe “Euphoria’s” entire artistic conception was meant to push the envelope, but this begs the real question: into whose hands?  

The fear is that teen dramas like “Euphoria” will result in copycat behaviors in teenagers. Photo courtesy of unsplash.com.