Euphoria vs. 13 Reasons Why: Self help or self harm?


Ava Shapiro, Senior Contributor

This summer’s new HBO drama Euphoria has caused a stir in pop culture. The show tackles intense ideas like drug abuse, gender identity, sex, and violence, all taking place in a high school in California. Through its artistic cinematography, unique narrative structure, and dramatic portrayal of the lives of modern day teenagers, this show has become a favorite with teens and adults alike. While it has come into controversy with its subject matter, the flaws within the show are nothing compared to the mistakes of other try-hard teen hits of the era. Let’s take a deeper look into Euphoria and it’s risque reputation.

While it’s popularity has risen since its debut on HBO this past summer, it has gained more recognition since it’s initial release. The premise of the show is as follows: teenager Rue has just come home from rehab after a drug overdose at just 17 years old. She openly states that she has no plans to stay clean or change her destructive behavior, until she meets a new student at her school named Jules. As she falls in love with Jules, drama begins to stir in their school regarding them their peers. Each episode begins with a deep dive into the main characters’ backgrounds, motivations, and intentions, all narrated by our protagonist Rue. 

While the show has been met with good reviews, some viewers have criticized it’s candidness with topics such as drugs, sex, mental health, and violence in teens’ lives. This show handles these issues in a mature and helpful way, unlike other shows on TV currently. To further understand this point, let’s compare Euphoria to another popular teen show with a similar response: 13 Reasons Why. Both shows take place in high school and do not shy away from intense topics, but there are two main differences that divide them. First of all, the networks that these shows are viewed on are not the same. 13 Reasons Why is a Netflix original, which makes it very accessible to young teens.

Euphoria, on the other hand, is on HBO. HBO is known for its mature content, and it is typically not geared for young teens or children. Although the show is about high schoolers, it is not meant for audiences who can’t handle graphic content. Secondly, the shows present these issues in varying ways, which makes for different messages passed to their viewers. To put it simply, Euphoria shows addiction and mental illness as disturbing, miserable, and bleak. 13 Reasons Why makes depression and anxiety seem like a beautiful tragedy that can be fixed by gaining attention. Both shows have gotten ridiculed for specific scenes depicting drug use and suicide even though they present their information with critical differences. Rue’s drug hallucination sequences are played out like art, beautiful and captivating with vibrant color and visuals, but then immediately after this dream-like escape, it cuts to Rue vomiting and seizing on the ground with paramedics coming to revive her limp body. In 13 Reasons Why, Hannah’s suicide scene is basically a step-by-step tutorial. She also goes to a school guidance counselor before this event and tells him about her internal struggles, and he makes no attempt to help her or even act concerned. This spreads fear into young teen’s minds that people will judge you if you talk about your problems, which is the opposite of what they should be learning. It is understood what the intent was for the show, but it comes off as a glamorization of death and tragedy. Euphoria is a gritty, hyper-real depiction of psychological issues and substance abuse, showing the disturbing realities of depression and loss.