Among the most popular show on HBO is “Euphoria,” which drew 16.4 million viewers for the recent season 2 finale, the second-most in the last decade to only “Game of Thrones” in 2019. It is both interesting and troubling to a whole generation of young people.
The series describes Rue, the main character and narrator, a high school student who developed a spiraling drug addiction after her father died from cancer. She tells the stories of her peers who suffer from bullying, family trauma, and abuse and many young people find them relatable.
With such relatable stories, many viewers experience triggering reactions.
Sofia Pinto, 20, a Florida International University sophomore studying marketing, gathered with her friends every Sunday at her dorm where they would watch a new episode of Season 2. The friend group had relaxing sessions after every episode before parting ways due to how triggering the episodes were according to Pinto.
“My friends and I had to make tea together, vent, and group meditate after every episode before leaving the apartment because we didn’t want anyone to leave without feeling emotionally stable,” said Pinto. “As someone who had an alcoholic mother, the episodes would sometimes leave me in a numb state of mind for days, but I couldn’t stop watching because of how hooked the show had me.”
The characters were easily relatable to the 20-somethings, like people with whom they coexist every day.
“Euphoria” character Cassie, played by actress Sydney Sweeney, struggles with severe insecurity, and wakes up every day at 4 a.m. to do a makeup routine before school and fit the mold of society’s beauty standards.
Nate Jacobs, played by Jacob Elordi, is a high school jock who copes with troubles, violence being his main coping mechanism. He grew insecure due to the complex family dynamic caused by his father, Cal, who has a secret life having sex with transgender women and tapes the sessions. Nate found the tapes when he was young and that reflects a serious dysfunction.
The cinematic art of the show depicts every detail of the atmosphere due to the way the cameras move around which makes viewers feel as if they are there. The show uses dramatic camera shots and angles to reinforce the atmosphere, at times circling around the characters in conversations instead of just shooting their faces..
With such graphic, yet such relatable scenes, the separate plots can trigger viewers who had similar experiences or trauma.
Sadie Lopez, 19, a sophomore studying finance at Florida International University and a “Euphoria” fan, said some of the scenes took her back to one of the darkest times of her life. Lopez was diagnosed with anxiety and depression at 14 due to past family trauma.
Jules, a transgender woman trying to work out her sexuality, is one of the show’s main characters. There is a special episode about her upbringing and therapy sessions as a child. It also shows when she was diagnosed with mental illnesses and was hospitalized.
“I vividly remember feeling so anxious and out of breath through the special episode of Jules at the therapist office where she got diagnosed and hospitalized,” said Lopez. “It took me back to when I would cry after every time my mom would drop me off at my sessions.”
Dr. Celestino Castellon, 64, an obstetrics and gynecologist who is also a psychologist and lawyer says that the episodes capture the reality of drug addiction and what recovering addicts go through.
“The storyline of Rue from losing her father, the person she loved most, to cancer at a young age explains how she got to the point she did with drug abuse and self-sabotage and depicts how most people get to that point in real life as well,” said Castellon. “Throughout my years of practice, I’ve dealt with all kinds of trauma, and I can see where the show would trigger these teens excessively through such realistic cinema.”
One of the scenes shows Rue suffering from withdrawal symptoms and arguing with her mother and destroying their home. The pair go from room to room, Rue’s mother yells as Rue throws household objects all over the house. They pant and they cry and it brings the viewers into the scene.
Alexis Ones, 19, an FIU student studying business analytics, says he related to Rue and how her actions affected her relationship with her family.
“I found it so triggering when Rue and her mom would get into it because I have personally experienced such dark times with my parents growing up when they didn’t agree with my actions,” said Ones. “I was brought back into a time where my parents weren’t happy with me and after that episode, I had to take some time because of how into it I was.”