DCVoice Original Site
  • Candy Reign - Making sweet things happen

Euphoria is Showing us the Complexities of Young Womanhood & Coming of Age

Sam Levinson’s HBO hit drama series “Euphoria” is rewriting the narrative of coming-of-age and showing us the complexities of coming into womanhood in the ever-changing world of the 21st century. From the betrayal between Cassie and Maddie, Rue’s experience with battling addiction, and Kat’s journey of navigating confidence and sex appeal, Euphoria is showing audiences that the world of teenagers is much more complicated and real than petty drama and boy troubles.

Oftentimes within the media’s portrayal of “teendom,” characters are made to fill an archetype and fit snugly into their roles. From the tall, handsome jock who makes up in athleticism what he lacks in brains, to the quiet overlooked main character who upon taking off her glasses and unpinning her hair, becomes a modern-day Regina George – these characters are often created to represent real world archetypes, but lack a significant amount of depth. Real storytelling and character creation allows characters to exist in these roles in a multidimensional way. It also allows audiences to see themselves in full. This multifaceted approach to character development is not only what Euphoria implemented but has excelled at.

Since the very beginning, Euphoria has captivated viewers with its ability to craft complex and dynamic characters. Characters like Rue, a struggling teen drug addict, not only exist in the realm of being the high school “pothead” but are shown in full depth as a sister, a daughter, a friend, and a young woman. Rue’s story of addiction shows audiences not only the trauma that leads to addiction and the usage of drugs, but also the back-and-forth struggle to get clean and the effect that has on Rue and the relationships within her life. Rue struggles to find balance in being a good sister to her younger sibling Gia, a non-troublesome daughter to her mother, and a lover to her love interest Jules. This story that Euphoria is telling is not only real but complex. While existing in the realm of television, Rue’s story mirrors the reality of so many young women struggling to find themselves amongst childhood trauma and heartache. How many of us, when in our teens, found ourselves where Rue is: caught between doing what’s best for us and what feels good to us? Euphoria offers this salve not only for viewers struggling with addiction and making the right choices, but also for those experiencing the tumultuous landscape that is dating and romance as a teen, through the love triangle story of Cassie, Maddie, and Nate.

From sharing childhood memories to sharing in the intimacy of navigating being a young woman in high school, Cassie and Maddie seemed as if they would be best friends forever. But in a series of twisting events, they end up on opposing sides. While Maddie finds the inner strength to leave emotionally abusive and gaslighting boyfriend, Nate, Cassie breaks the number one rule in “girl code” and falls for him. This complex relationship in most media would pin friend against friend and ultimately come to a “girl power” ending or have both friends permanently at odds. Euphoria takes this story much further. Cassie’s story of falling in love with Nate isn’t left to the interpretation that she’s just a backstabbing friend, but it explores the way the pull of being desired and finding one’s worth and purpose have an effect on self-esteem and relationships.

Cassie engages in a romance of sorts with Nate because she wants to be not only desired but deemed worthy. Cassie finds that being attached to Nate is better than being alone, even when she has to contort herself to an image and a person she is not. This story of changing oneself to be the perfect person for someone else no matter the cost is all too familiar within society. Euphoria provides insight into the way teens, daily, are left with the choice to be who they are, and risk being left out of relationships and community, or push themselves into the boxes that others want them to be in. The show also causes a certain amount of introspection for those of us beyond our teens about the way we trade authenticity for access, desired community, and external validation. Teens grapple with real things, and Euphoria is unapologetically showing that. Teen age doesn’t mean a shielding from real world issues, but rather leaves a certain amount of vulnerability to heavy outcomes if one does not have the proper tools.

Beyond navigating relationships and trauma, in our teen years we also navigate coming into our sexuality and sexual identities. Our teen years are often where we either come into our confidence or wallow in self-deprecation. The story of Kat’s experience with casual sex, body confidence, and the online sex industry shows what happens when teens don’t have the outlet needed to deal with matters of self-esteem. Like Kat, teens can often convince themselves that they are completely comfortable with the way their body is sexualized and their current levels of sexual expression when in reality they may need to reevaluate what healthy, positive sexual boundaries and expressions mean to them. Euphoria’s telling of Kat’s experience doesn’t just leave her story to be that of the classic “sexually liberated’ teen, but rather dives deep into the way sex, self-esteem and confidence are all intertwined in not only our young adult years but follows us into adulthood.

Overall, Euphoria creates a cinematic space for audiences – especially teens – to see that coming into womanhood and becoming an adult isn’t easy. Demystifying common tropes we see in media, Euphoria is rewriting the narrative that teens only deal with trivial matters and showing that regardless of age, teens grapple with real life problems and their portrayal in media must be as complicated as they are in real life. It shows us that it is only through this dynamic and multifaceted portrayal that audiences can truly see themselves on screen, in their full humanity.

All episodes of Euphoria are available to stream on HBO Max.

Eshe Ukweli

Add comment