Yes, there are differences – social media has undoubtedly heightened the angst that comes with adolescence – but scenes from the former lives of some of the Euphoria parents (nicely soundtracked by some classic Eighties rock) demonstrate that electronic devices are not to blame for everything. The teen years are – have always been – brutal, confusing and, all too frequently, incredibly lonely.
Nevertheless, many parents think the show is a bad influence on young viewers, and will not let their children watch it. But is Euphoria really so far removed from what my peers and I were consuming as teens? At just 12 years old, my peers and I devoured the 1971 novel Go Ask Alice, in which a 15 year-old-girl spirals into drug addiction and prostitution, and is raped. At the age of 14, I went to the cinema with my friends to watch Less than Zero, the 1987 film starring Robert Downey Jr, which depicts drug use, addiction, male prostitution, sex and, ultimately, death. Breasts and sex scenes, or sexual references, were peppered throughout everything: Fast Times at Ridgemont High; Porky’s; Class – even family favourite Grease has its fair share. All of these “coming of age” dramas charted the lives of minors – and, as far as I know, none of them ever made me or my friends hop on a handcart to hell.
One scene in the new season calls to mind Ferris Bueller’s race to get home after a day of playing truant – jumping garden fences, crashing through suburban homes – and, although this run has a darker edge, it made me reassess the 1986 film in the light of the fact that hypochondriac Cameron (I’d wager that he would self-harm in a remake) is deeply traumatised by his controlling father. Other moments can be compared to Euphoria: his sister Jeanie snogs a stranger (who is there for “drugs”) in the police station, while sweet little Ferris refers to “getting laid”. Almost 40 years have passed, so those differences, while not welcomed, are to be expected, surely. The fact remains that the sexually active, drug-curious, disenchanted teen is nothing new.
Euphoria is uncomfortable and explicit at times but, if parents were to allow their teens to watch it, I’d absolutely recommend doing so as a family, so that healthy (even if awkward) conversations could be had and laughter (there are some very funny moments) could be shared. Because, more than any sense of discomfort, prudishness, or judgment that I experienced when watching this new season, I felt sadness. Out there in the big wide world, these things actually happen. Just like the rich kids in Less Than Zero were overdosing in the Eighties, or how the troubled teens in Catcher in the Rye were breaking down in the Fifties, Euphoria shows being a teen is bloody hard.
Most of us make it through relatively unscathed. Some of us don’t. A series that ruthlessly deals with issues that feel familiar, even if not entirely relatable, which our own teens can watch with supportive adults, just might help them to feel a tiny bit less alone.