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Exploring the Perspectives of Euphoria

Warning: spoilers for Euphoria season 2 ahead

HBO’s smash hit Euphoria has returned for a second season. Similar to when the first season was released, conversations about the show’s portrayal of serious subject matters have arisen. From drug addiction to handling of traumatic events, the show has faced criticism for the way that these stories are told.

It is important to keep in mind that the entire show is told from Rue’s perspective and that situations are explored through the context she gives. Rue is portrayed as someone whose addiction causes her to idealize people and events to her benefit. As an addict, she often tries to rationalize her use of drugs. When Rue begins to use drugs again in the third episode of season two, she devises a plan to downplay her addiction to those in her life. Rue’s role as the protagonist evokes feelings of empathy and desire for situations to turn out in her favor (even if it isn’t always the best thing for her).

The audience sees Rue’s life the way she sees it, which manifests in the support systems that Rue creates for herself. Jules, Rue’s primary love interest, is romanticized to the point where any decision Jules makes outside of Rue is seen as negative. The sadness Rue experiences when Jules leaves her at the train station at the end of the first season stems from this. In turn, the audience expects Jules to be solely accountable for Rue’s sobriety rather than Rue herself.

The second season is beginning to explore the impact that Rue’s idealized perception has on the show as a whole. Even when she tries to justify her behavior, the reality of Rue’s actions is seen in every step. In season two episode three, we are able to see the way that her relapse impacts her relationship with her sister while also seeing how harmful her gaslighting tendencies are to those around her. Some of this is because Rue has internally acknowledged the harm of her behavior while simultaneously continuing to engage in them.

But we also have to keep in mind the perspective of the show’s writer, Sam Levinson. Levinson has been heavily criticized this season for his inability to portray realistic situations in all areas of the show. Though Levinson does a decent job of portraying addiction through Rue, the lack of in-depth analysis for characters like McKay and Kat highlights the disconnect between him and those with marginalized identities on the show.

The impact of McKay’s hazing experience in season one episode six has yet to be discussed (more than likely because the actor playing him left the show), and Kat’s main plot line fixates only on her body image. That isn’t to say that these experiences aren’t important. However, relegating characters to simplistic plot lines in a show with complex interactions does significant injustice to them.

By Aminah Jenkins, Associate Editor

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