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Inside Beat

Generation Z's cultural moment 'Euphoria': Popular, problematic but mostly entertaining

Alexa Demie and Hunter Schafer are two of the stars of Generation-Z juggernaut "Euphoria," which tees itself up to be the show of a generation.  – Photo by HBO  / Instagram

Social media exists as a public digital space to share ideas, and nothing moves faster on it than entertainment news. Shows that captivate our attention have the tendency to be long-running and successful, but the writing usually declines in later seasons as the original showrunners and actors leave the show to start other projects.

"Euphoria" is one of the most popular shows out at the moment, and its second season is being released to rave reviews and loads of good publicity.

The obvious appeal of the show to young adults is best shown through its colorful cinematography and three-dimensional characters — though it does require some suspension of disbelief when you see A-list actress and 25-year-old Zendaya play a high schooler in the most popular series on television.

Other actors have benefitted from the popularity of "Euphoria," as well. Zendaya's co-stars, actress Hunter Schafer and singer-songwriter Dominic Fike, now have elevated publicity due to their main roles in the show that showcase their talent.

One of the places where the show's popularity is most prevalent is Twitter.

Twitter’s primary function these days is discourse — and no discourse is more popular than that of "Euphoria." The show nets 650,000 engagements per episode, which is far and wide the most popular topic.

Tweets from stars Zendaya, Angus Cloud and Storm Reid make watching the show feel much more interactive, and these social media sessions with the cast feel spontaneous, yet meticulously planned.

The viewership of "Euphoria" has doubled since last season, with approximately 13 million viewers tuning in across HBO’s platforms to its season two premiere, a great increase from season one's popularity. While the first season established characters' traits and important background information, the second season adds an important emphasis on the relationship between a character's actions and the consequences they might face.

Many characters introduced in the first season are much more fleshed out this season, and backstories are given for characters that we never knew about before. This allows old fans to understand the context of their decisions made in season one and new fans to become enveloped in the show's storyline and join in on its popularity.

While the high viewership of "Euphoria" and weekly discourse have helped the show’s publicity and appeal to viewers in many different ways, Generation Zers primarily use "Euphoria" to compare their own experiences to what they see on TV — viewers can live vicariously through the show or relate to the characters.

The heavily featured nudity and loads of controversy make the experience of watching "Euphoria" all the more exciting. All the drug use and explicit sex scenes serve as part of Hollywood’s successful tactic of trying to appeal to audiences by shocking them.

Thousands of tweets state their disbelief that the main characters are in high school, and this generational separateness between parents and children manifests itself in how the show's adults — like adults in real life — are far removed from most academic and peer-based environments youth are in.

The high schoolers are depicted doing drugs, having sex and driving drunk, which highlights their reckless lifestyles and refusal to submit to authority that so many Generation Zers can relate to, even if older people balk at this behavior.

But the show’s popularity and controversial material haven't shielded it from controversy of its own, especially pertaining to its director, Sam Levinson. Most of this comes from the intense sexualization of the character of Cassie, played by Sydney Sweeney.

Sweeney’s request for fewer nude scenes came after she found many of them to be unnecessary, while characters like Rue are rarely ever seen without clothes. Even when they're shown nude, the male characters are arguably not sexualized in the same way as the show's female characters.

While the show features many powerful female lead characters, the sex scenes can feel gratuitous and unnecessary instead of advancing the plot and developing the characters.

Now that the show's been renewed for a third season, the staying power of "Euphoria" is evident and most demonstrated in its stellar cast and brilliant marketing. By placing itself at the forefront of youth culture, it's able to entertain a society ravaged by a pandemic and riddled with low attention spans, and it places millennials and Generation Z into a rare combination of excitement and awe.

The legacy of "Euphoria" is secured in the public consciousness — entertainment has a rare way of unifying generations in a digital space. By the end of its run, it’ll be remembered as a show that briefly reminded us all of the joy and uniqueness of collective entertainment.

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