EUPHORIA! Not just another teen love story. In fact not a love story at all!
Euphoria, a series currently available online (on Showmax in SA), has captured the teen world by the proverbial short and curlies. Centred on Rue Bennett (Zendaya), a recovering teenage drug addict who struggles to find her place in the world and a group of high school-age friends — each with their own problems handling an excess of drugs, drink and sex, this series has attracted our screenagers in droves.
Yes, they are loving the unbridled party scenes, they relate to the teen dilemmas so often felt and they connect to the poor choices often made in respect of them. But this series is more than just teens seeing teens reflected back to themselves. There is nothing that says ‘this is not Gilmore Girls, High School Musical or even Sex Education’ more than Euphoria! The series is layered, very graphic, highly sexualised, gritty, emotional and raw.
WHAT’S THE FUSS ABOUT?
The story lines run deep and the back stories hold teens captive in way that typical adolescent series rarely do. It is unpredictable, cliff edge stuff of the harshest kind. And it is also graphic, extremely graphic. It is filled with violence, f-bombs, gallons of alcohol consumption and under age, highly sexualised material that often pushes a false narrative: Fourteen-year-old girls having sex with 40-year-old men are not seen as ‘in control of their choices’, no matter what poetic or cinematographic light you throw on it.
While the show can be praised for the granular, multi-faceted approach to teen world, (the strong view held by many teens we have spoken to about the series), there is no denying that this show is for mature audiences only.
SHOULD YOU LET YOUR TEENS WATCH IT?
In short – Hard NO.
The series is back-to-back with very unsettling scenes that viewers lament it can, at times, be hard to watch. KLIKD verdict – a first for us, an age restriction of 16+ if you’re watching it with your teen and 18+ if they are flying solo. Even the exquisite Zendaya (the main character in the show acting as Rue) implores her fans to only watch her performance when they are older, much older!
And yet, what we know, is that Euphoria is a series now nearing cult status amongst teens of all ages, the world over! South Africa is no different.
Many of our younger teens are watching it alone, in bedrooms, while the family eats Sunday lunch with friends; the fight for them to emerge from the bedroom feeling harder than the fallout of any downloaded show on Netflix. And what they are seeing is normalised drug use, drug abuse, teen sex, and self-harm, not as a little side story relating to one damaged character amidst the other one-dimensional dudes and Barbie-figured babes, but as a norm in a world that is broken and sad. While a damaged world is undoubtedly familiar for many teens, it is not a norm that you want normalised!
If you are going to let your child watch this, we strongly suggest that it be with deep non-judgemental connection and ongoing discussions around the many issues it will shove in both of your faces.
And if you don’t know if they are watching Euphoria, ask! Again not with judgement, but with sincere curiosity for what feels so darn compelling about a show like this. In the words of one screenager: “It’s a show about addiction and obsession with substance abuse, sex and toxic relationships. Every character is broken in their own special way. I relate to all of them even if I am not doing exactly what they are doing, I get it. The director is a genius.”
And so, in the end, with viewership around the world second only to that of Game of Thrones, Euphoria, scarily, may not even trigger your teen. It is a world they know and hover around. But we think it will leave YOU saddened, angered and hurting for the challenges that face them, full frontal.
At KLIKD, moral issues aside, we struggled most with the implicit message imparted to our teens – Euphoria, the elusive and hopeful title of the series is repeatedly held up as an irony against the firm message in the series that joy can only be fleeting, that pain and suffering is to be expected as the thread that carries you through life.
And if you emerge after watching this show and think it is nothing more than an emotional train-wreck, be warned, teens do not hold this view – it is hitting the dopamine sweet spot over and over again. It has hit them hard in the heart and the gut and they like it.
IF THEY DON’T WATCH IT, WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
Be warned too that the “Euphoria” word is filtering down the ranks – younger teens are hearing about it at school, from older cousins and of course, online. TikTok in particular is airing little snippets of the show! So if you have younger teens and tweens, this kind of exposure is a definite no!
The Guardian called Euphoria ‘The Catnip for the Online Crowd’ – addictive in every screenager way….and with the release of season two upon us, they are going back for more! Buckle up, because one thing is for sure: what your teen sees in this show will not be unseen.
OK, I GET IT, THIS SHOW IS A NO – NOW WHAT MUST I DO?!
PARENTS OF OLDER TEENS:
- We give this show an age restriction of 16+ plus if you’re watching it with your teen and 18+ if they are flying solo.
- If you are able to, watch a few episodes on your own first so that you can digest the content and all the issues that accompany them – you will want to go in ready for some hard-core real chats!
- Connection and conversation: If you ARE going to let your child watch this, it needs to be accompanied with deep non-judgemental connection and ongoing discussions around the many issues it will shove, up close and personal, into both your faces.
CONVERSATION STARTERS WITH YOUR (OLDER) TEEN
Euphoria tackles matters like depression, drug abuse, suicide, self-harm, relationship insecurities, sexual identity challenges and porn’s influence on people’s perception of sex. It does so honestly and unapologetically. So there is plenty to chat about here!
- I heard about Euphoria for the first time today – have you watched it? (DON’T go in asking if they have heard of it, you will lose street cred immediately J)
- What are your thoughts on how realistic Euphoria is as reflection of every day teen struggles? Which struggle really resonated with you the most?
- Zendaya has suggested to her huge fan base that only the series is for a mature audience – what do you think defines a ‘mature’ audience?
- Remember, no judgement or fury if you really want the open chat – just curiosity) Have you watched the series, or only heard friends chatting about it?
- Its sounds like it deals with a whole whack of issues, what makes you want to watch it (or what made you watch it)?
- Why do you think it is getting cult status with your generation?
- (Brace yourself) What about it do you think my generation just isn’t getting?
- Why do you think my generation is cleaving to the comfort of a blind spot when it comes to teen sex/teen drugging/teen suicide/teen self-harm/porn use (pick the one you most want your teen to chat to you about. You will probably only get one shot at this).
PARENTS OF YOUNGER TEENS:
- Tighten up your streaming programme parental controls. In South Africa, Euphoria is on Showmax, but if you’re outside of South Africa, simple google “_________(Netflix/HBO/other streaming programme) + parental controls”
Here is how to set it up on Showmax:
Showmax allows parents to set up a pin code which is required by anyone watching content over a certain age restriction. As long as you don’t tell your kids your pin, if they are watching on their own profile, they won’t be able to watch content which exceeds the age restriction without the code.
To set up your code:
- Log into www.showmax.com
- Beneath ‘Who’s watching Showmax?’ click on ‘Add New Profile.’
- Choose an icon and enter a name for the new profile.
- Next you have a choice between creating a Kids, Teens or Adult profile.
- If you select Kids, you’ll be prompted to choose an age group: 2-4, 5-6, 7-9 or 10-12.
- If you select Teens, then content will be restricted to shows suitable for under-18s.
- Next step, you’ll be prompted to enable Parental Control. Choose a PIN and an age restriction category (7+, 13+ or 16+), and whenever someone chooses to watch a movie or series with a higher age restriction (no matter which profile they’ve selected), they’ll be prompted to enter the PIN.
- Remember – the best parental control on the market: connected, engaged and informed parents (which if you’ve made it this far in this post – you ARE!) Our teens will find a way to outsmart us. Connection is always the great offset in the overwhelming world that is social media.
2. No to watching, yes to conversation: This kind of exposure is a definite no from us, but doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be talking about it anyway, (because if you don’t – TikTok or their friends will).
CONVERSATION STARTERS WITH YOUNGER TEENS
- Have you heard about a series called Euphoria? No?…Brilliant, let’s go celebrate!
- No, seriously, if they haven’t heard of Euphoria explain they may come across it or a friend may want to watch it together but “It is a hard no. Not because it is about drugs or sex or suicide, or because I don’t trust you to step out if it feels too much. Simply I don’t think it’s appropriate for you to see THE WAY the director has portrayed some of the issues. I want you to see and feel more of the lekker part of the world before you get exposed to some of the really dark stuff. I wouldn’t leave you in a dark alley on your own at 2am and you wouldn’t want me to. This is the same. I am not going to let your mind sit in a dark alley either, not until you have seen enough of the good stuff to know there is more to the world than crappy cess pools.”
- If your younger teen has heard of Euphoria, ask them what they have heard about it?
- Ask too if they have seen any of the footage? Say this: “Maybe you saw a bit of a pirated downloaded episode or a little snippet off TikTok? I won’t be angry, I am just trying to get a hold of what is out there at the moment? How did you really feel when you watched it. I get that is might have been exciting, or maybe you felt understood in a way that I don’t get you. I’m listening.”
- However, after listening, if the answer was a tentative, “Well, I actually have seen …and this is what I felt.” Explain again that you get they related to some of it but the content shows up a very damaged part of their world that you would prefer them not to unpack right now. “In time, sure. But for now, you will feel a bit like a bomb exploded your brain and no one cares to pick up splattered bits”.
- And if it is followed with “but all my friends are watching Euphoria”, be firm. “In this family, that’s not how we roll. Would I let you sit in a pile of poo and hope you don’t get sick? No. And I am not keen to let your brain live in a cess pool either. My job is still to take care of you, your brain and your body. Sorry buddy, this part is not debatable. Over and out. Let’s go grab a sandwich”.
- Be sure not to go in with anger, just be clear. Use all the different analogies above – cess pools, poo, exploding bombs. Teens are visual and visceral. Don’t make the rookie error of saying you don’t believe they are ready to see porn, or drug abuse or suicide ideation – they will tell you they are. Stick with the messy, yukky, imagery. It’s much harder to debate.
- Put consequences in place for crossing the line. This is serious and you need to show your younger teen that you mean business about protecting them. While they may outwardly be rolling their eyes, in reality, it is very comforting to hear and feel that you are strong enough to set and keep a boundary for them! Sometimes love is not a verb, sometimes it’s just a clear, uncharged ‘no’.
And if you have a younger or older teen that has seen Euphoria, or parts of it and they tell you they felt nothing, be alarmed. An indifferent response is more concerning than a teen who feels aroused, heard or reflected by any character; violent, sexual or otherwise.
But teen indifference to overt graphic stimuli is a topic for another day.
PARENTS OF LITTLE PEOPLE:
1.Tighten up streaming service parental controls (see above)
2. Thank your lucky stars for the time you have left dealing only with Paw Patrol and Peppa Pig.
Sarah and Pam