Euphoria: I Didn't Build The System

Euphoria is an HBO drama rated TV-MA. The show’s plotline follows a set of teens on their journey to navigate what they perceive to be, an anxiety inducing and ever-changing world. Influenced by social media, sex, and drugs, the characters each have their own set of struggles that make each day seem like they are going into battle. The show’s objective is to form and maintain a sense of empathy for the teens from older generations. The use of contemporary music, dramatic lighting and close-up shots, help to tell a modern day coming of age story through a teenage perspective.  

My initial introduction to Euphoria came after reading several headlines that deemed the show (or at least the first episode) “graphic” and difficult to watch. Zendaya, who plays the show’s main character Rue, took to Instagram to share a statement that cautioned fans of its triggering content. I watched the trailer to get a preview of the uninhibited nature of the show. Prior to the show’s premiere I found myself anxious to begin the series and wondering if I too, would be provoked by the subject matter.

“I didn’t build this system, nor did I fuck it up” is a quote from Zendaya’s character that stood out to me. The episode begins with a depiction of Rue’s birth, which occurred just after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. She narrates poetically throughout the scenes, immediately addressing her innate sense of dread, anxiety, and impulsivity that interject her daily life. These issues, not caused by any situation in particular, contribute to Rue’s dependency on drugs and alcohol that are emphasized in the plot.

The show is shot and edited in a way that mimics the unease of modern teenage life. The audiovisual compilations are intimate and relevant, using popular songs and cutting together clips that are commonly found within the circulation of online content. This is where some of the show’s explicitness comes in. Videos from PornHub, a popular porn cite with free streaming, are layered on screen. This tactic is used throughout the episode while Rue narrates the story, attempting to explain the often poor-actions of the character on screen. Viewers are confronted with these moving images and are required to sit through the show’s transparent approach to outline some of the flawed guidelines kids are given about growing up.

I will continue to watch Euphoria and follow as the plotline unfolds. At times I was shocked by the storylines I had the least in common with but I still felt myself drawn to those characters. The parts of the episode that triggered the most difficult feelings in me were also the scenes I felt I found most connected to the situation that was depicted. Navigating the world as a young individual is challenging and I see it getting more complicated as the years go by. I don’t know if I would trade my young adult experience for one that was engulfed by instagram, instant gratification, and access to billions of content.

Who do you think the show is geared towards? Is this truly how teens act in the world today? How much of the show feels sensationalized?

You can catch Euphoria on HBO every Sunday 10p e. or online at