By Ana Salgado, Feb. 7, 2022

“What is ‘Euphoria’ and why is it everywhere on our for you page?” Despite never watching the HBO show “Euphoria,” the hype surrounding the Jan. 9 season two premiere had me curious about the eye-catching and distinctive character design. I couldn’t help but wonder what else kept people’s attention.

I decided I needed to see the show for myself. At first, I thought it to be a bit naive analyzing just the first three episodes. How could I possibly latch on to the concept within 135 minutes? Yet, I was immediately triggered but engaged. Although I was almost positive the show would introduce the most absolutely staged and generic high school romance or drama that any 17-year-old would normally experience—I was wrong.

Since the COVID-19 lockdown, social media has become a leading avenue allowing young adults to connect with their loved ones and with what is going on in the world today. Social media is also playing a huge role in users’ self-image as society receives a false narrative of perfection. While we all have personal struggles and fight to be heard, mental health awareness declines. “Euphoria” enhances how we cope with our traumas despite our view of beauty standards and self-identity.

There is a slight twist with ‘Euphoria’ as we watch the entire cast deal with their own realistic issues. It’s more than just the aesthetics of the makeup with striking lines and emphasized vibrant colors paired with revealing outfits. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil the show for you. ‘Euphoria,’ a show that discusses serious issues like drug use, self-harm, assault, domestic violence and other serious matters, reflects Generation Z’s experience with these difficulties.

It all comes down to how social media affects our state of mental health. In an interview with HBO, creator of the show, Sam Levinson, said,“There is an incredible amount of judgements that are levied against younger people for being on social media and it’s always sort of perceived as this sort of narcissistic pursuit. How do you navigate this world that’s changing month to month?”

The dramatic makeup and costume design are meant to show that ‘Euphoria’ high is what Gen Z sees on social media. Yet, the reality of everyday life in high school is that we wouldn’t dress up or create extravagant makeup looks. Even if we wanted to, it would be against most American public high school dress codes. My own high school doesn’t even allow spaghetti strap tops because it’s said to be “unduly revealing and distracting.”

While all the characters look as beautiful as a Facetuned photo, they all fall apart as the plot continues. The show’s message is clear: this generation needs more than just to be seen; it needs to be heard. According to psychologist, Sophie Bethune, Gen Z teens like the ones depicted in “Euphoria” are experiencing heightened rates of stress.

“More than nine in 10 Gen Z adults (91%) said they have experienced at least one physical or emotional symptom because of stress, such as feeling depressed or sad (58%) or lacking interest, motivation or energy (55%),” Bethune stated, “Only half of all Gen Zs feel like they do enough to manage their stress.”

How many of us identify with an ongoing problem of being viewed as perfect on our social media photos? Sometimes, I feel the need to filter my photos to cope with my anxiety and stress surrounding the amount of engagement I have with my followers. There is nothing more intimidating than seeing trendy influencers express self-love when realistically, beauty surgeries have become part of their day-to-day confidence.

Rue Bennet, our sloppy narrator, is where the journey begins. An addict who’s trying to stay clean but must find a resolution to not only live with her Obsessive Compulsive Disorder diagnosis but her young identity.

Nate Jacobs is also a character struggling to discover who he is as a person, and who he’s sexually attracted to. Regardless of Nates’ interest in sexual attraction, he is not being honest with himself and is remaining anonymous in his motives. He’s showing us that although he looks like he is doing amazing in the outside world, he is fighting himself on the inside.

“Euphoria” identifies needy self-image as a contributor to poor mental health. The show portrays different flaws in our self-worth. We all feel the need for acceptance and many of us rely on a perfected self-image. Like the characters, we use vibrant makeup and bold outfits to feel like we have a voice and that we belong.”

Character Kat Hernandez, who is one of my all-time favorites, deals most prominently with this need for affirmation. She he is also frustrated with her sexuality in a slightly different way from Nate. She uses extremes to prove herself, but the exposure blows up in her face. Despite this, she works to stay empowered.

I strongly believe Levinson, wanted to show us aesthetic designs that we don’t normally see in day-to-day life. The director avoids the “happily-ever-after” cliche because even the prettiest person doesn’t have the prettiest life.

I’ve come to realize that hiding vulnerability through filtration is holding us back from processing our struggles because we want to be seen like something we aren’t. Hiding our imperfections intimidates others and projects a false perspective of what defines beauty standards.

Balancing appearances and mental well-being are causing extreme stress. Self-love is easier said than done, but “Euphoria” asks viewers to recognize that while our traumas are different, our struggle is universal, and nobody stands alone.

If you ever find yourself feeling emotional or physical symptoms caused by stress, do not delay in reaching out for help. Visit Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS).

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