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HBO Is Being Accused of Normalizing Normal Behavior on 'Euphoria'

By Dustin Rowles | TV | June 18, 2019 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | June 18, 2019 |


HBO’s Euphoria, which I kind of love for the way it broadens the scope beyond white dudes as the only acceptable flawed, drug-addled, sexually promiscuous hero — is coming under attack from the usual suspects (Fox News, the Parents Television Council) for “marketing extremely graphic adult content - sex, violence, profanity and drug use - to teens and preteens.” This should not come as a surprise, obviously, from a news network that promotes white supremacy and a conservative organization that literally believes that CBS’s The Neighborhood is one of the best shows on TV, because “America desperately needs a show that proves we can all get along,” and what better show than the one that trades in stereotypes about black people and white people, after Schmidt from New Girl moves into a black neighborhood?

Anyway, none of this is surprising, and it barely merits mentioning, except one line from the PTC that I found particularly distasteful:

“What HBO is doing with this show is taking the most extreme conduct that a teenager can experience and normalizing it. The content that children consume impacts their views and their behaviors. They are influenced — their conduct, values, and beliefs about society [are shaped] by what they consume in entertainment.”

Yes, yes: You know what’s extreme conduct? Attending parties where teenagers get drunk and screw, because we’ve never seen that in every teenage movie ever, including the ones where teenagers f**k pies. Is vaping in a country where 37 percent of seniors have vaped unusual? Or drug use among teenagers where the rate of opioid overdose has tripled. One out of six women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape, so that’s not out of the ordinary, either, unfortunately. Likewise, twenty percent of teens have sent nude or partially nude selfies, while 40 percent have sexted, so there’s nothing out of the normal for that, either.

For better or worse, what’s depicted in Euphoria might be considered “extreme,” but it’s also not out of the ordinary and frankly, I’d rather kids see it than experience it. I mean, I’ve only seen one episode, and I don’t know where the series is headed, but being a teenager is rough, and I think it’s best if teenagers at least understand that they are not alone in the feelings they are experiencing and the decisions they are confronted with.

Granted, if I had older teenagers, I’d probably tell them they’re not allowed to watch Euphoria, either, but then I’d give them the HBO password so they can watch Silicon Valley and then walk away. And if you’re a parent of an older teenager? Watch the sh*t out of this show, because while sex and drugs have not changed since you were a teenager, the culture surrounding both has, and we need to understand it so that we can deal with the questions we hope our kids trust us enough to ask. Ultimately, that’s part of what inspired creator Sam Levinson to make Euphoria:

I think that gap has grown in a very significant way. I think part of what’s so difficult to try and navigate the world at this age right now is there is no map. There’s no compass, there’s no one to kind of guide you one way or another. Because it’s a brand-new world every five years. I think that’s what makes it particularly difficult is that kind of very real and big disconnect between parents and children. So if anything, I hope that it at least opens up a dialogue between the two because it’s hard being a teenager. It’s difficult, especially too if you’re struggling with addiction and battling those things. Hopefully, it’ll open up those means of communication.”

And if you’re adamant about not having those conversations with your kids, at least let the TV do the hard work for you, not in a way that “normalizes” extreme behavior, but in a way that prepares teenagers for what is already normal for a lot of teenagers.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

Header Image Source: HBO