HBO's 'Euphoria' brilliantly portrays the different shades of teen sexuality despite being an absolute sausage fest on the side

Sausage fest and the nudes sharing culture aside, what Euphoria also provides us with is a sprawling variety of sexualities which really makes one reconsider their notions.


                            HBO's 'Euphoria' brilliantly portrays the different shades of teen sexuality despite being an absolute sausage fest on the side

This article contains spoilers from episodes 1 and 2 of 'Euphoria.'

At first glance, HBO's latest series 'Euphoria' might seem like a revamped version of the UK 'Skins', only with more instances of graphic violence and nudity. While the actual act of sex also gets replaced by actual porn occasionally making it to the screen, nudity is a constant - something that has made the show earn labels of too graphic and too explicit even with just two episodes in. But sausage fest and rampant sharing of nudes aside, what Euphoria also provides us with, is a sprawling variety of sexualities which really makes one reconsider their notions about the topic. In that, the show is not just about a transgender girl trying to fit into a new environment, or a brutal father engaging in indiscreet BDSM with underage trans-teens; 'Euphoria' attempts at showing the nuanced depictions of the intricacy of each character's sexuality, exploring why they are the way they are, without slapping a label onto them.

For starters, the central character - Zendaya's Rue Bennet - is never explicitly mentioned to be a lesbian. There has been no elaborate pomp and show about her liking women or men per se, but then again, the show concentrates mostly on her struggles with anxiety, OD, and drug abuse, and also, the show is just two episodes old. So maybe in future, the narrative might explore that side of her evolution, but that being said, it is remarkable how the first person she connects with is a trans-student, Jules (Hunter Schaffer), who has recently moved to town. Rue sees her in the midst of a self-destructive outburst at a school party and immediately develops a fondness towards her and the two of them soon hang out at Jules' place and get high. But it is also very clear that Rue is looking at Jules in the romantic aspect - something that breaks the stereotypical norms of building up a character to the point of her big sexuality reveal. 

Jules (L) and Rue (R) in a scene from Euphoria. Source: HBO

Even Jules, as a new trans student trying to fit into a world of nihilistic high school bullies, doesn't exhibit the inhibitions that someone who gets cornered so much, would be expected to show. Jules has seen the world and at the sensitive age of 17, already knows how her peers might see her. But she's not afraid to explore her options and indulge in the risque world of dating apps, no matter how harrowing the experience might end up being for her. She might be a trans-teen with bandages on her wrist, but the hardness of the world hasn't caused her to shut off from building healthy relationships both in terms of family, and friends. The way she gets right back up is quite empowering to witness, actually. 

Speaking of empowering, there is, of course, the whole normalizing of nudes on the show. This, coming right after Whoopi Goldberg publicly blamed Bella Thorne for having her nudes saved on her phone after a hacker threatened to expose them is nothing short of a middle finger to the whole stigma revolving around the issue. Like a voiceover from Rue remarks, "I know your generation relied on flowers and father's permission. But it's 2019, nudes are the currency of love. So stop shaming us." So not only is Euphoria saying a giant eff-you to those who shame people for taking nude photos of themselves, or sharing them consensually, but it's also stating that things we have considered controversial in the past, aren't all that big of a deal anymore. The consequences of taking nudes isn't always a happy one because of revenge porn and what not (which the show dabbles in too), but that being said, it's no secret anymore that people share nudes, so just get over it.

Barbie Ferreira as Kat in 'Euphoria.' Source: HBO

Speaking of revenge porn, we see Kat Hernandez (Barbie Ferreira) as a victim of that. She loses her virginity at a school party after a creepy boy manipulates her into it, but as stupid as this decision might sound on her part, it is also to be noted the amount of peer pressure that went into it. Obviously, Kat's having sex for the first time, the part gets recorded and shared widely, but at that moment where her entire life seems like it's falling apart, Kat decides to derive strength from the positive comments under her video's Pornhub post. As far from reality as that might sound to some, it is also true that today's teens look for validation at the most unusual places. And Kat decides to turn that moment of embarrassment into empowerment by deciding to become a cam girl. It's risky, but it's also quite realistic. If people were going to enjoy watching her naked, she might as well own that sh*t and make some fast cash out of it too.

But then comes in Nate (Jacob Elordi) - the human definition of toxic masculinity, whose sexuality isn't defined by the women he likes, but by how prone to needing his macho-protection these women are. Nate despises men showing emotion and women not showing coyness. He likes a girl not because she is smart or interesting, but because she is hairless and a pristine virgin who gives off the 'save-me' vibes. Nate's sexuality basically thrives on any woman who requires him to be the knight in shining armor; anything lesser and they are not worthy of his respect, let alone affection.

Jacob Elordi as Nate in Euphoria. Source: HBO

The darkest bit of this character's sexuality is how he lures Jules on the dating app, catfishing as a 'Shy Guy' called Tyler. Given his behavior towards Jules, he is also a massive transphobic douchebag who really, really hates her, so nothing good can come out of this. But at the same time, homophobia can also stem from inherent homosexuality that the person is trying to fight, and let's be real - Nate's father records his indiscreet motel room BDSM sexcapades with young trans people, the videos of which have been seen by Nate. So him luring Jules could either be out of his own inherent cravings or just out of spite to get back at his 'Dominant Daddy'.

It is these nuanced portrayals of every individual character's sexuality that helps 'Euphoria' stand out in a sea of its contemporaries. At its core, Euphoria is a deeply disturbing tale of the harrowing struggles teens in America are going through, but that being said, there's also this subtle normalizing of varying sexualities that the show explores, which is actually quite true to the world we live in. And that is what helps the show excel so phenomenally.

'Euphoria' airs on Sundays, at 10 pm, only on HBO.

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