“Euphoria” Season 2: How Are Mental Health and Drug Issues Portrayed Today?

After about two years of waiting, this HBO drama returns with a second season loaded with excesses. This is how adolescence is portrayed in "Euphoria."


Foto: YT-HBO Max

LatinAmerican Post | María Fernanda Ramírez

Euphoria is an HBO original series that has generated a lot to talk about, as it tells a story of troubled teenagers, without falling into typical high school dramas. Therein lies its success: in tackling the problems of drug addiction and depression with a stark gaze. In addition, the narration uses an emotional and sensory exploration that puts the viewer in constant tension.

An adolescent world

Since its premiere in 2019, it has had a great reception in the audiences, but not without criticism regarding the excess of sexual emotions and images. It was nominated for 9 Emmys and won 3 of them, among which the category stands out Best Leading Actress in a Drama Series, for the performance of Zendaya. And it seems that this artist does not stop having successes. Right now her name is all the rage for the "Spiderman: Far From Home" movie, which is in theaters, and for "Euphoria." This is without counting its successes last year with the films "Dune" and "Malcolm & Marie".

This production, directed by Sam Levinson based on an Israeli series from 2012, revolves around the story of Rue Bennett, a 17-year-old girl addicted to drugs, in the process of rehabilitation, who also faces various problems with her mental health. Since she was little, she must taken medications for different disorders such as obsessive-compulsive, anxiety, and attention deficit. Likewise, she tells the stories of the other people around her: Jules, her romantic interest, and her high school classmates, who face bullying situations, beauty stereotypes, social networks, abusive relationships, alcohol and drug abuse, and other situations experienced by many young people of generation Z. It also incorporates scenes of traffickers and the criminal world around drug trafficking.

This is a series about teenagers, not exactly made for teenagers. HBO classifies it for ages 18 and over. With only 15 minutes after the first chapter of the second season, there are already explicit scenes of sex, violence, and the use of drugs such as cocaine and heroin. The series crudely addresses the harsh environments that its characters face with narcotics, crime, suicide, prostitution, depression, and gender transitions.

In addition to the first season, composed of 8 episodes, 2 chapters were made that explore more intimately the characters of Rue, and her suicidal wishes, and Jules, with the feelings surrounding her gender transition.

In this regard, Zendaya published a message on her social networks to remember that "Euphoria" is a series for an adult or mature audience. In addition, he highlighted that the second season can be even more emotional than the first and address issues that are difficult to see and process. "Please, just watch it if you feel comfortable", asked the actress.

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Drugs and mental health How are they portrayed?

While it is true that television is not meant to be therapy or to educate on mental health, this message from Zendaya sheds light on how sensitive it can be to bring up these topics in front of thousands of viewers. But this is not a novelty, another series that recently tackled sensitive adolescent themes was the Netflix production "13 Reasons Why", which had to eliminate explicit suicide scenes and was criticized for romanticizing that decision. However, it was supported in an entire campaign under the slogan Wanna Talk About It? which was intended to sensitize viewers on the importance of seeking support when facing situations of sexual assault, suicide, or emotional distress.

And it is that these series can have a mirror effect in which many young people, or people of any age, can identify themselves, recognizing their conflicts. In fact, what is valuable is that the dialogue is opened on realities that cannot be ignored. The important thing is that in society there are institutions and sufficient resources to stop these issues of harassment, abuse, and easy access to mental health specialists.

The truth is that the issues of mental illness, beyond mental health, sex, and drug use are treated naturally and, at times, even exaggerated. However, it should not be denied that the images of sex and drugs are commercial and, in many scenes, do not contribute much to the development of the story.

In some ways, these types of series are breaking the taboo of talking about uncomfortable topics, although they are not intended to be educational content about mental health and drug use. It is entertainment content, which, although it may generate reflection, does not constitute a resource or "float" to which people who are going through complicated situations go. "Euphoria" uses compelling narratives and excellent production, which make it a good series to run through.