Is the Graphic Content in ‘Euphoria’ Necessary or Needless?


Story by Peyton Tranas | Contributing Writer

*Spoiler and Content Warning*

If you check your social media accounts on a late Sunday night, you are sure to see many people on your timeline talking about that week’s new episode of “Euphoria.” The HBO original show debuted in June 2019, drawing young audiences in by having their star role featuring Zendaya (from “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” and “The Greatest Showman”).

The series was originally advertised as a teen drama that portrayed serious, more mature content about high school aged individuals. However, I’m sure many were surprised at the level of mature content featured on the show, considering they grew up watching Zendaya on Disney Channel. Despite that, the show had a ground-breaking first season, bringing in 6.6 million viewers every week. The show was quickly renewed for a second season, which had viewers on the edge of their seats wanting more.

Season two did not arrive until January 2022 due to typical filming schedules, as well as the added stressor of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since it had been nearly two and a half years since fans had gotten a taste of the series, the anticipation was extremely high. The fan base had grown even more since the original airing of season one, resulting in the HBOMax app temporarily crashing when the first episode of season two dropped on the platform.

Everyone that had watched season one knew the type of content to expect: nudity, drug use, violence, sexual situations, etc. The creators and cast members of the show do pretty well on reminding the audience that the show portrays serious, often triggering content, yet it is still often more than viewers expect.

So that leaves the question as to if this show is a ground-breaking, deep, unique show, or one that portrays unnecessary triggering scenes to get audience members talking, rather than to add to the plot point. I composed a Google Forms questionnaire to ask viewers of the show their thoughts on the level of mature content and how it affects their viewing experience.

40 individuals responded, with 95% of them tuning in every week for the new episodes of season two to drop. The majority of respondents agreed that the plot points of the episodes were not what they initially expected when starting the show, with the same number of respondents saying that they often find those same plot points triggering or unnecessary. 58% said that they don’t believe the show would have the level of popularity that it has if it weren’t for these triggering plot points.

The reasoning behind this response ranged. Some mentioned that “the nudity seems excessive at times,” or that they “feel like the amount of vulgarity and sex scenes could be replaced with something that actually builds the plot…. there’s so much that could be done in its place,”.

Some called the nudity “distracting”, while others believe “it’s just a part of a show.” One respondent also added that in terms of the nudity content, it seemed inappropriate for a show that is supposed to be about high school students: “I get that the nude scenes of both men and women are to add an equal shock value which is great, but it’s a problem when the show is portraying minors. Although those nude scenes are played by adult actors, they still represent children which makes me feel uneasy.”

60% of the respondents found that the show’s content made them personally feel mentally overwhelmed or anxious. Some noted that it was more of an “anxious (feeling), but not in an overwhelming way, more in a ‘what’s going to happen next’ way.” Some found that it is because of the connections they feel with the characters that determined their decision: “I definitely get very anxious about the characters and the situations they’re in; I worry about Rue (Zendaya) overdosing, Cassie (Sydney Sweeney) ruining her relationship with her best friend, and Cal (Eric Dane) killing himself because he’s a mess.”

Courtesy of HBO

Others found it was triggering in a more personal way. “I have anxiety and substance issues.” and “I get overwhelmed watching just because it’s so relatable and brings up emotions I still need to work through, which isn’t a bad thing.”

40% still did not find it especially triggering, many saying that it’s due to them being able to easily acknowledge that it is just a show with made-up characters, or even that they “went into watching it expecting raw stuff.”

So to the 60% that found the show mentally overwhelming and the 57% saying they found some of the content triggering or unnecessary, why do they continue to tune into the show every week?

The primary response was that they wanted to continue to watch the character’s storylines develop. Some mentioned that the cast is what brings them back every week, while others simply said because of the drama and suspense that happens during each episode.

Courtesy of HBO

One respondent admitted that those potentially triggering plot points is what brings them back:

“I enjoy the storyline. I like that I can see dysfunction on a screen. I like that I can see broken families, families with drug problems, and toxic relationships and friends. I relate to that dysfunction even though I don’t dress like they do or wear the makeup, but I did live that life they do.”

It seems as if the fan base is mixed on whether the show is featuring the appropriate amount of mature content or if they are crossing an unnecessary line for views. Despite all that, the show’s second season has doubled in viewership and is continuously breaking records for the number of people tuning in every week.

To contact Lifestyles Editor Ethan Pickering, email lifestyles@mtsusidelines.com.

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