Dr. Delaney Ruston – The HBO show Euphoria has attracted a massive following of young adults and teens and tells the story of Rue and her high school classmates dealing with drug use, relationships, addiction, loss, and much more. 17-year-old Rue, in particular, is struggling with an opioid use disorder.
The series started streaming in June 2019 and is filled with many hard-hitting scenes of drug use and sexual violence. I find the show incredibly disturbing, though I know many of its viewers would defend it vigorously.
Over the three years since Euphoria’s release (while speaking at schools about the Screenagers movies)I’ve talked with youth about Euphoria. I have asked many 12 and 13-year-olds if they have seen the show, and over half have said yes. These teens tell me their parents are unaware they have watched it. Many parents have not discussed the show with their kids because they don’t know much about it.
I’ve even heard about Euphoria parties, where teens dress up in makeup and outfits inspired by the show’s characters.
What is particularly concerning about the show’s influence is that kids get flooded with ads, and video clips of Euphoria on their social media feeds all the time. These ongoing posts also increase the pull and pressure on younger audiences to watch the show.
I struggle to find much published research about the show and its impact on youth’s attitudes and behaviors regarding risky sex and substance-related choices. There is one paper that analyzes comments posted on Reddit about the show, and there are some papers that discuss and analyze the portrayal of transgender people in the show, but I haven’t found any deep dives into how Euphoria impacts how teens choose to experiment with things like sex and drugs.
Euphoria is the second-most-watched HBO show in 18 years (Game of Thrones is the first), and millions of youth have watched it. I’ve found that so many adults and I cannot stomach an entire episode, let alone two whole seasons (with a third one on the way).
My unusual request is to ask if you would invite any youth in your life to answer a few questions about the show so that we, adults, can glean more insight. I will be sharing their insights at a later date. And, of course, asking youth questions gets them to think more critically about the show just by answering the questions.
Also, as the adult, it can be helpful if you ask them these questions directly and try to hold your tongue about any concerns you have as they answer (such as if you just find out on the spot that they have seen it and you did not know, etc.).
Please ask at least one young person in your life if they would answer five brief questions. You can use this linked form to take notes from your conversation or just hand them the survey to fill out themselves. Their answers will be completely anonymous.
You might say, “A physician, Dr. Delaney Ruston, is trying to collect input from tweens and teens on the HBO show Euphoria. Can I read you Ruston’s five questions and get your input? This is an anonymous survey.”
It’s important to note that these survey results are not being used for a true research project and will never get published in an official research paper.
HERE IS WHERE YOU CLICK TO FILL IN THE SURVEY (the survey is not collecting emails and is completely anonymous). They do not have to have watched Euphoria to fill out the survey.
If you prefer not to do the survey, the questions are below, and you can email your kids’ responses to me at email@example.com.
- What age are you? And if more than one youth, what are their ages?
- How often do you see clips, memes, ads, references, or promotional materials for Euphoria in your social media feeds?
- While it is true that the show has scenes that inspire positive emotions, there are many scenes with drugs and sexual violence that bring up strong uncomfortable emotions such as anger, disgust, anxiety, fear, etc. Why do so many people still want to watch the show?
- Why is it so much harder for adults to stomach watching the show than it seems to be for teens?