Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture. What’s new and old in books, film, and entertainment.
The young adult fiction genre has been popular for years. Stories of teens have dominated bestseller lists, television screens and box offices worldwide, whether they’re the Harry Potter and Hunger Games franchises, John Green stories like The Fault in Our Stars or any of the other countless options.
Despite the popularity, I’ve never seen a YA story quite like Euphoria, which is a television series that airs on HBO. It’s about addiction, but it’s very much a young adult story; it focuses on the lives of high schoolers, but it is also intensely explicit – featuring foul language, nudity and extensive drug and alcohol abuse. Of course the actors are all older than their characters, but even its fictional portrayal makes audiences deal with the fact that those keggers that seem to happen so often on shows like The OC or Riverdale can have real consequences. In other words, it’s a show that tackles all of the same topics as those CW and FOX teen shows, but it actually… explores those subjects honestly. Bullying isn’t just an issue of the week, it’s a constant state of dread and sometimes abuse. Teen sex isn’t just soapy romance, and can get illegal, messy, and even abusive. The sad reality is we’ve often found a way to talk around these issues, sometimes even glorifying them in our media. Euphoria strips that away, and shows the real toll that codependency, drug abuse, mental health issues and navigating a sexual relationship can take on a person, even one who is 16.
It’s probably not a show for everyone, but I found its frank approach refreshing in a world that has often skipped over the very real issues teenagers can face. If you’re willing to watch very mature subject matter, Euphoria is worth the look.
Season one of Euphoria, as well as the show’s Christmas special, is now streaming on HBO and HBO Max.
I’m Evan Rook.