Well that was heavy!
I just finished the pilot episode for HBO’s next (great?) television series, Euphoria. Staring Zendaya, in what might be her strongest role yet, the series focuses around her character, Rue, as she goes through drug addiction and the rollercoaster of adolescence.
Is it the next Degrassi? Am I finally that old where I’m asking, “is this what kids are really up to these days?”
I’m not sure! I would say the show has elements of Degrassi meets Thirteen Reasons Why meets Skins. Do I like the show? Yeah! It’s heavy as F***, but it’s good. Let’s look at some highlights.
Rue: Zendaya is a star. Period. Her actions as Rue would cause anyone to judge or maybe even hate her. Yet, she plays the character from such a fragile place that you don’t root against her at any point. At least not in this premiere episode…fingers crossed we don’t.
Yes, the bike crashing montage was HILARIOUS. Her face after Jules’ moment in the kitchen was a tension breaker for sure. Zandaya brings a lot of layers to this character and I’m excited to see where she goes in this season.
Jules: Alas, are we evolving on trans representation in television? Could there really be a character whose gender identity is not their principal issue? Jules is introduced as a girl who certainly is struggling with bullies. I actually did not know the character was transgender until after the episode ended. The (shirtless for no reason) bully scene in the kitchen made more sense after the fact.
Aside from her tormentors I love that Jules’ struggle is not her skin but rather desire. Also, I am so relieved that the end of the kitchen scene proved she’s a total badass; if someone wants to push you into a corner and make you feel like a freak then step out of that corner and show them what a freak can do.
I don’t know where the friendship of these two girls is going. They both have addiction issues and seem lost. Regardless, I was content to see them find each other while sinking into a bed bathed in (like almost everything in the episode) shades of blue and pink.
Oh McSteamy WTF: McSteamy’s in this show as the old perv!? Well, damn HBO ok! At first I was thinking, hm, I wonder why Eric Dane would sign up for this one-shot guest role as a creep to never to be seen again? Then the end of the episode came and I buckled my seatbelt. He’s the bully’s dad!!!! I’m on board for this series until the end no matter how bumpy it gets.
Yes, comedically it provides a new layer to the bully yelling, “DOES ANYONE KNOW WHO JULES IS?!”… uuuuhhh your daddy does. OOOOOOOO S****!!!
Music: Run Cried the Crawling by Agnes Obel during that twist. Enough said.
Male Nudity at Last: Lastly, I think it’s worth commenting on how much frontal male nudity was in this episode. In my opinion this is a long time coming for television. It was interesting to see how everyone in the room reacted to the erection in the mirror on screen. We are so accustomed to complete female nudity in almost all mediums and still project the falsity that the male figure is disgusting. Grow up. There is nothing disgusting about male nudity. Male heteronormative attitudes have to stop the monopoly on what is acceptable. I applaud the series for showing these images and even pointing to flaws in male sexual education (porn is not real people).
Too edgy?: Do I think the show is too much? No. At least not yet. This is that line we have to tread carefully. I don’t think it’s right to try and dampen artistic expression, but I am also an avid enemy of gratuitous content; especially if that content is female nudity and violence/sexual violence against women.
The thing here is, if what we’re seeing in this show is TRUE to what young people are experiencing in this country today, then it might be an ugly depiction we have to see. One of the complaints of the premiere was the scene where two characters are about to have sex and the male aggressively chokes her. People were outraged that this was about a teenage girl.
Uh, sure. Yet remember across this country we are still seeing CRAZY numbers of sexual abuse in high schools and college campuses. To see that scene and have it reference where boys/young men are getting these ideas is an important thing to expose.
So long as the series has context to their content I am willing to be uncomfortable.