Entertainment

Euphoria: Why all the fuss over HBO teen drama?

Zendaya in Euphoria Image copyright HBO
Image caption Zendaya started out on such Disney Channel shows as Shake It Up and KC Undercover

A hard-hitting new drama has made its UK debut having whipped up a storm in the US with its graphic depictions of sex, self-harm and drug abuse.

Euphoria, which had its UK premiere on Sky Atlantic this week, stars former child star Zendaya as Rue, a 17-year-old drug addict fresh out of rehab.

The world she returns to is one where sexual violence, bullying and social media misuse are rife.

According to one critic, it has “all the ingredients of a cult teen drama”.

These are, wrote Katie Strick in the London Evening Standard, “a starry line-up”, a “cool” soundtrack and “controversy aplenty”.

Some of that controversy has already reached these shores thanks to an animated sequence in the third episode that imagines a sexual encounter between One Direction members Louis Tomlinson and Harry Styles.

Last month Tomlinson revealed he was not contacted about the scene in advance and “categorically” did not approve it.

Image copyright HBO
Image caption Trans model and activist Hunter Schafer (left) plays Jules in the show

The first episode, which aired on Sky on Tuesday, sets the tone with scenes showing a young girl being throttled during intercourse and another character embarking on a BDSM relationship.

The latter role is played by Hunter Schafer, a trans model and LGBT activist who makes her acting debut in the show.

The show is a marked change of pace for Zendaya, best known for her roles in The Greatest Showman and the recent Spider-Man films.

The Guardian’s Rebecca Nicholson says the 22-year-old, born Zendaya Coleman in 1996, gives “a truly astonishing, mesmerising performance”.

Euphoria “makes previous shows in the genre, such as Skins and Sex Education, look like wholesome Disney larks”, according to Metro’s Jane Mulkerrins.

The drama’s official website contains links to organisations that provide advice and counselling on suicide prevention, addiction, mental illness and domestic violence.

Zendaya posted her own advisory on Twitter in June, warning fans it contained “scenes that are graphic, hard to watch and can be triggering”.

The Telegraph’s Adam White believes there is “a lot to like” in the series, praising its “strong” acting and “pop-video, heroin-chic sheen”.

Yet he questions its veracity as “as a grand, expensive statement on Gen-Z apathy”, finding “little joy” in its “constant barrage of anxiety, self-loathing and hopelessness”.

Writing in The Times, Adam White also expresses admiration for its “sleek, stylish elan” while finding its “affectless” tone “dated”.

“Perhaps it will shock its audience into thinking,” he writes in his two-star review. “But about what?”

Based in an Israeli series first aired in 2012, Euphoria draws heavily on lead writer Sam Levinson’s own experiences of teenage drug addiction.

A second series has been commissioned, to the delight of the many fans who have been raving about it on social media.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sam Levinson (right) is the son of Oscar-winning director Barry

“#euphoria is honestly one of the best shows I’ve ever seen,” wrote one viewer on Twitter. “The casting, writing, storylines, acting, makeup, lighting, cinematography… it’s literally perfect.”

The show has attracted its share of famous fans too, among them Oscar-winning heartthrob Leonardo DiCaprio.

“I just saw Euphoria,” he told reporters at the US premiere of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood in July. “That show is amazing.”

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Source: bbc.co.uk

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