Realistic or Romanticizing?


There is a conversation currently circling around the internet today: Are teen dramas these days being realistic, or are they romanticizing horrible situations?

Take the currently very popular HBO show “Euphoria”. A very explicit teen drama following various characters as they deal with addiction, identity, sexuality, heartbreak, and trauma. The show puts a microscopic view on just what young people go through when put in certain environments and around certain people.

After the new episode of its latest season just dropped, there was a large amount of outrage and disapproval. This is not new for the show, it also happened after each episode of season one dropped. But as Euphoria releases its new season with more “Rated R” stories, the same group of people strives again to make their opinions heard. There is a large group of people on social media who don’t support the show because it romanticizes drugs, trauma, etc.

And it got me thinking about how the line between being realistic and bringing awareness versus romanticizing or normalizing is apparently very thin.

I’ll admit, there are many scenes where a viewer might need to pause and take a breath before continuing. The show is explicit beyond the average teen drama expectations, and maybe that’s why it is only available to be watched on a streaming service instead of local cable. Many times I do stop and ask myself “was this scene really necessary to add…?” Euphoria is very uncomfortable.

However, that is the intended purpose of the show.

It’s not meant to be comfortable. It’s not meant to be the family favorite dinner time show. You can’t just recommend it to everyone. But that’s the point. These situations are real. You can pause the show, turn your tv or laptop off and go do something else. But there are people out there right now who are not in the position to do that. For them, this is their everyday life. There is no pause or play button. They can’t cut or skip scenes when things get a bit too graphic and challenging. 

The writers and the creators are aware of this. “There are going to be parents who are going to be totally f* freaked out,” creator Sam Levinson told The Hollywood Reporter. Levison made the show based on his experiences as a teenage drug addict.

Shows like Euphoria are necessary. People don’t like to be uncomfortable. That’s why when the commercial about the puppies in shelters comes on, my mom immediately changes the channel. Showing these moments makes you aware of what’s really happening. Seeing them removes you from your own reality and reminds you about the endless amount of others who are going through indescribable negative experiences.

However, despite all this, the question remains: Is it being realistic or is it romanticizing? Normalizing? 

There is a *valid* argument, however, being made.

The excessive amount of explicit situations being shown cross the very thin line from necessary to romanticizing. It does make you think, why am I being shown a teenager relapsing multiple times? Or why am I being shown a minor being coerced into sexual acts with an adult multiple times?

Do you really dislike the scenes because they are “romanticizing” or because they make you uncomfortable?

The show’s captivating cinematography can definitely mislead a casual viewer on the message they are trying to bring. But to a person with a little more time to pause and think, it is not that confusing…

Maybe its purpose is to bring attention to how many times a child is in need of help and there is no one around to give it. Maybe it’s to show how a child can easily be inadvertently forced into a loop of continuous abusive behavior without the guidance of a justifiable humane adult. 

The problem with romanticizing is that you can easily turn a situation that should never happen to a person into this idea and concept that it is “cool” or “fun”. Young people can see this and think “oh drugs are cool, I’m going to do it so I can replicate this one scene in Euphoria in real life.” But we know that realistically it is not glamorous or ideal that it’s the right thing to do…

However, this is why disclaimers and warnings are important and necessary. Even the cast and production members posted disclaimers about how uncomfortable the show was and to watch at your own discretion.

The truth of the matter is this – art imitates life and life imitates art. It is plainly unavoidable to distribute any form of art and hope that no one will want to replicate and vicariously want to apply it to one’s life.

I’m not saying that the creators are completely not responsible for how their content affects people. It is also their job as content creators to think about how people will react. But if the world molds to appeal to every “triggered” person in the world, change won’t happen. We wouldn’t progress into responsible, caring, and humanitarian efforts, a fruit of our labor to strive to make positive changes.