Courtesy of Euphoria

March 7, 2022

The Thirteen-Reasons-Why-Ification of ‘Euphoria’

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(Spoilers ahead.)

Warning: The following content contains sensitive material about suicide, drugs, guns, domestic violence and mental illness.

I worry for the future of Euphoria

I worry that it is getting “Thirteen-Reasons-Why-Ified”: a genuinely captivating (perhaps a hot take for “Thirteen Reasons Why) show faces criticism from fans of “romanticizing xyz” and pivots to becoming a drama centered on so-called real issues teens face. This results in the characters facing EVERY issue to its maximum extent. The show becomes nearly unbearable to watch and loses its former magnetism because of the characters’ constant and debilitating pain. As the seasons drag on, people continue to hate-watch it just to see what crazy, unrealistic plot lines the writers come up with next. 

Let me explain.

I am ashamed to admit that I did watch all of Thirteen Reasons Why. I read the book that inspired the show when I was in middle school and LOVED it, so I wanted to see how the writers would adapt and continue the story.

The first season tells an addicting narrative that was impossible for me to stop watching: Hannah Baker commits suicide and leaves behind a set of 13 tapes, each addressed to one person who contributed to her depression. We follow along as Clay Jensen, the plainest audience surrogate character you could ever imagine, listens to each tape. Season One definitely had the cringy flavor of a typical teen drama, but the story was so enveloping that it was a great watch. 

Season One of this show was immediately met with allegations of romanticizing mental illness and suicide. The show became even darker in future seasons, seemingly to prove that the creators were not romanticizing anything. They put their characters through the wringer in the remainder of the show’s run under the guise of tackling issues that real teens face: heroin addiction, homelessness, school shootings, severe mental illness and death. While these are of course pressing problems that occur in real life, the oversaturation of struggle was unrealistic and brutal to watch. The show was no longer interesting or binge-worthy; it was just upsetting.

I certainly believe that television should be challenging and make us think, but I also believe that the primary purposes of television should be entertainment and amusement. When a show decides to be too challenging, like Thirteen Reasons Why, it often has to sacrifice amusement. Euphoria knew how to walk the line perfectly, and Season One proves that. 

I watched all of Euphoria Season One in a 12-hour period after purchasing HBO Max. The show’s first season is pretty consistent with the real world, but with a little more debauchery: men are a little more evil, drugs are a little more available and high school students are poorly behaved but fabulously dressed. The show was a beautiful escape for the audience: its daring aesthetics and fantastic dialogue made it so entertaining. Euphoria served style and substance. The characters’ problems were realistic: Rue struggled with drugs, Jules, Cassie and Kat craved male validation, Maddy was locked in an abusive relationship and Lexi was a side character in her own life. The show was provocative and unhinged enough to be interesting, without yet crossing into “let’s preach about what teens today are going through” territory. 

Season Two feels different right off the bat. After facing criticism of romanticizing drug use (which, yeah, I would love to see a statistic of how many teenagers decided to try molly after watching the carnival episode), the show took a noticeable turn away from its former glamorous aesthetic. The show is certainly still artistic, but not in the same escapist manner as Season One. Instead of glitter and purple lighting, we now have ~symbolism~. I’m a simple viewer, and I miss the glitter.

The plot has gotten out of control and wholly unrealistic for a bunch of high school students: violent drug deals, the messy entanglement between Fez, Ashtray, Custer and Laurie and the plot point culminating in Nate putting a gun to Maddy’s head! That’s not even including Rue’s storyline. After Season Two Episode Five, in which Rue gets sex trafficked, I knew that the show’s sparkles and silly debauchery era had unfortunately come to a close. Am I the only one who misses the days when it felt like the majority of the show was Maddy and Cassie serving bimbo?

I worry that future seasons will see “Euphoria” go even further off the deep-end. I worry that the show will try to prove that it is serious and not romantic by doing what Thirteen Reasons Why did: inflicting more and more pain upon its characters and taking away the joy and uniqueness that made millions of viewers fall in love with the first season. Season Two left the realm of high school drama, and I’m scared to see what’s next.

The day Euphoria opens with a video of the cast explaining that “this show discusses real issues teens face” is the day I dread. 

Lauren Douglass is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].