Calla Merritt ’23
You’re in Advanced Photography class making yourself stupid in order to get the cool art girl in class to pay you any attention, since she’s the only person you like in the class. It’s Junior Year of high school and, for the most part, you’re just trying to get through school and out into the world. You don’t even want to seem like you care about the symbolism of “2001: A Space Odyssey” (even though you dreamed that you were Hal last night), and you definitely don’t want to seem so uncool that you care about your schoolwork (even though you cried when you got back a C on your AP U.S. History test yesterday). You’re pretty sure you just bombed an AP Calculus test in your last period because you didn’t study a wink. You know a girl that deals weed because everyone knows her; when you asked her if she had any molly, she looked at you weird, and said in a deadpan voice, “Everyone wants to be Cassie, but no one wants to be Rue.” And now you’re correcting yourself so you talk in the Maddy Perez coffee-grounded voice because you think it’ll make you sound like you’re cool but you don’t care.
“I don’t even, like, care about integrals,” you say in your best vocal-fried accent, not quite stopping the wince that escapes when the “gruhls” on “integrals” comes out too high-pitched. “It’s not even like I’m going to use math in my life, anyways. Or any of these classes. When else other than a high school photography class am I going to reference a Stanley Kubrick movie?”
“If that is honestly how you feel about your time in my class, then I think I won’t be as kind as I have been for the last few days in overlooking your dress code violations. Tell the front office that Mr. Brown sent you.” It would be hard to pass off the full body jump that you do in your plastic chair as sauve as the girl that you saw on TV on Sunday night.
You can feel the eyes of the entire class drawn to your matching, skin-tight tube top and short-shorts. The cool art girl rolls her eyes and turns to the guy on her left. “As you can probably tell, Calla has been watching Euphoria.” It seems as if it’s just to add insult to injury that this random boy rolls his eyes as well.
Although pure fantasy, I believe this is an accurate preview to how embarrassing my life would have been if “Euphoria” came out when I was in high school. If Zendaya had shown up on my TV screen in her oversized alien t-shirts and her sparkly eyeshadow just months earlier than the original release, I think that I would have tried to emulate it. Classmates would have been confused as I changed from wearing busty bodysuits to XL men’s t-shirts, trying to decide if I wanted to be more like Maddy or Rue from day to day. Although I would say most teens are smart enough to see Rue’s withdrawal scenes and take them into account, along with the scenes of ecstasy, I cannot guarantee that I would have had the same reaction. I wanted to be cool in high school, like a lot of teens, and I would have seen that “Euphoria” makeup was trending in “Cosmopolitan” and would have tried to sound as if I were from an LA suburb while I was actually in the middle of nowhere on the East Coast. Teenagers can reflect teen shows just as much as teen shows reflect the teenagers that they are set out to portray. The glorification of drug use and teenage violence makes for a good TV show, but it does not make for a good role model. This begs into question: is it the artist’s fault that someone impressionable gets their hands on your work? I don’t think so, but teen shows are marketed towards teenagers, and it is naive to think that a teenager will not watch a show that is set exactly in their demographic just because the rating is TV-MA. There is something to be said about realism, and obviously “Euphoria” would not be as popular as it is if it didn’t hit the nail on some aspect of the cynicism of young people’s lives right now, but they also just look so pretty in their cynicism. I am definitely not calling for a ban on “Euphoria,” a show that I have watched religiously for the last few months. I basically view “Euphoria” as a stylized soap opera and not high art, and no one holds a soap opera to any sort of ethical standard because it is just meant to sensationalize. It sensationalizes to the extreme, and we eat it up because the drama is fun. Soap operas are not meant to affect someone’s general worldview, but I was much more suggestable in high school. “Euphoria” is a great soap opera, but I am glad that it did not come out when I was in high school.