WARNING…HEAVY ON THE SPOILER ALERT
The days of high school sitcoms being quirky and innocent are far behind us. HBO has always been the home of pushing the envelope & redefining cinematic norms. But even for them, Euphoria has been racier, crazier, & more jaw-dropping than any teen series in recent history. This show also does a great job at exposing the raunchy truths of the human condition, while redefining the ways we think about love, relationships, family, and more. Which these, conveniently meet at the crossword of addiction.
Redefining addiction and exposing its double sword impact on these characters, brings to life all the diverse ways, we too, may be addicts. The humanity and intimacy showcased through this show offers yet another powerful tactic to grab the viewers’ attention, and I’ve realized this show is something we, as a community, can also learn from. Let’s get into it!
1. Rue’s Addiction to Pain
As we know from Season 1, Rue is stuck in her past during the devastating time when she lost her father. Losing a close family member like that is an experience I, and most of us can’t even fathom. Rue’s most evident struggle is her inability to move on, and the expectation from her friends and family that she figures out how to keep on living. Her failure to move on, when the person that made life worth living is gone, reveals Rue’s kryptonite.
Like Rue, we risk being stuck on a never-ending loop of trauma, pain, and suffering when we don’t break this narrative. While pain and suffering have always been a prevalent experience that bleeds throughout our history, it does not always have to be the end of our narrative or the driving force to every decision we make. As we may reflect on our past pain and suffering, it’s important that we detach, grow and learn from them too.
2. Cassie’s Addiction to Validation
Now, Cassie is not the only one that will do anything and everything it takes to impress the person she loves. If anything, there is something about our culture specifically, where there remains an underlying pressure to show out every day, or else our hard work won’t be validated by social media or the mystical audience that *hint hint* does NOT have the power over us that we think. Not only do we feel like we’ve got to impress people in our lives, but compete against our own. If you aren’t showing that you are hustling or being a boss, or an independent queen, then did you do anything at all? Life then becomes nothing more than a competition to impress one another with our accomplishments which one day I hope we can break this addiction.
3. Lexi’s Addiction to Chaos
Lexi may seem all innocent, but she clearly gets some sort of high off of being in the thick of the chaos that surrounds her friends, and her older sister Cassie’s friends. When watching all the problematic people and situations in this show, you will find Lexi lurking in the background. Not only is she a very close bystander, but we can even see her getting tangled up with Rue, Fez, and even her sister Cassie. So addicted to the chaos, she wrote a whole play about it! Although it may be exciting, we have to be careful how close we choose to get to people and situations that clearly have a red flag poking out. Soon, like Lexi, we risk losing friends, opportunities, and jeopardize our future when we simply are just too close to the flames.
4. Nate’s Addiction to Perfection
There are Nates everywhere in the world, and they hide in plain sight. If anything, Euphoria has shed light on why we shouldn’t be fooled by a pretty face or buy into anything that may look appealing upfront. To the Black community especially, I feel like we are often tricked and bamboozled into buying into things that look good upfront despite such risks’ that may follow. While the appealingness is extremely important, what else lies underneath the surface?
With Nate, we see that what lies under the surface of his perfect-presenting life, is a verbally, emotionally, and sometimes even physically abusive relationship with his father. Nate harbors resentment toward family members, and possibly even toward himself for not fully accepting all parts of who he is. In two seasons, we’ve still only seen the tip of the iceberg, as Nate makes sense of his sexual orientation. By never fully accepting his true self and his true desires, we see that Nate becomes more outward with his abuse of others. We learn quite quickly that he’ll do anything to keep his secrets safe.
He’s gone to great lengths and has fooled a number of characters by pretending to be something he’s not. With that, we see that buying into perfection without assessing its true value, can have huge implications on the choices and decisions we make.
5. Maddie’s Addiction to Love
Love is the driving force behind everything that takes place in this show. Whether that’s Nate being in search of the love he never received from his father, Maddie and Cassie fighting for Nate’s love, or even Rue taking Jules’ love for granted…All decisions lead back to love. Surprisingly, there is beauty in this, despite the chaos that’s brewed in the show. I feel like we need more of this love addiction. Let love be our healthy drug again where we fight for one another and support one another. Let it lead us to prosperous paths not only individually, but collectively. As the world continues to treat us unkindly, we cannot lose our love for it–and for us.
Maddie’s Season 2 is very different from her journey in Season 1. The actress Alexa Demie, has said herself that Maddie’s presence this season is much more reflective and internal. Before, things were clear cut; she was in a toxic, and even abusive relationship with Nate, and in their own sick way, they loved one another. The new dynamic between Cassie and Nate has caused Maddie to reevaluate her love for Cassie, her love for Nate, and her love for herself. We’ve all been there before, clinging to something that once gave love, but now offers nothing but pain and hurt. We can only hope and pray that our girl Maddie finds the strength to recover and leave all of this behind.
6. Jules’ Addiction to Adulthood
Let’s not pretend, we’ve all been teens before and we remember what the allure of adulthood felt like. I’d be remiss not to mention that somewhere along the way, the lines have blurred in recent years. And the previous identifiers of adolescence have significantly changed. I don’t know about you, but my brain was struggling to normalize all the things those teenagers were engaging in. If it weren’t for the occasional display of the characters’ childlike rooms, except for Nate’s room, I would have never been able to guess these were high schoolers!
With Jules especially, she has quite the journey being the only trans character on the show thus far. Her relationship with her mom is strained, and she’s particularly traumatized by her mother’s attempts to change who she is. We watch Jules pretend to be older than she is, run away from her town as a minor, and do everything she can to thrust herself into adulthood. And it takes a toll on her. This show is the ultimate reminder that kids need time to be kids, teens need time to be teens, and there should be no rush to adulthood. Now more than ever, we should teach them that this addiction of trying to be an adult is something they should be in no rush to seek. They will become adults eventually but there is no need to rush this process and what comes with it.
7. Leslie’s Addiction to Saving Rue
Some people only know how to live life as being a savior for others. And in this show at least, they are the ones whose stories don’t end well. For example, I feel for Leslie. As a mother, Leslie just is trying to save her daughter Rue, with the resources she has. However, in the process of saving the weakest link, she may lose herself and lose both daughters in the end. This depiction represents what occurs quite often in our Black single mother households. It’s okay to help but it’s also okay to say you need help too. We can be strong and independent, but we do not always have to choose that route. Reach out to your community, friends, and or the people you trust willing to assist you. Being a saver is a hard title to hold and it is okay to let go of that title sometimes.
8. The Audience’s Addiction to being Entertained
Can you imagine going to your high school play, only to find out that the play was based on your life? No like seriously, Lexi got everyone on the edge of their seats and I am not just talking about her audience. It just goes to show that we may enjoy watching other people, but rarely do we like watching ourselves. It is uncomfortable, and quite frankly, disturbing to watch because you’re forced to judge yourself. Questioning all the good and bad decisions you made in your life and watching it play on stage is a reality I hope never comes true. But let this be a friendly reminder that although we love entertainment, let’s not forget about the most important story we will ever come across. The one we wrote, cast, and directed–the play about us. Knowing how much we have control of our narrative, means we can be proactive in taking a better look at the role we play in relationships and situations that bring meaning to our story.
This show is nothing but a masterpiece. If you haven’t watched an episode yet, I suggest you should and, most importantly, watch it with the intent to be shocked and uncomfortable. This is not a show for the weak, but for anyone willing to challenge their own perspective on the different types of addictions consuming our community today.
Thessiana Shama Mesilus merges the art of storytelling and psychology throughout her content. She founded Shama Works that serves as a creative platform to help individuals lead, grow, and heal from within or wherever there is a story to be heard.