! Just watched the finale, and then the little after-interview with Zendaya and Hunter Schafer (who I just found out is from Raleigh!!!!). This show!! At first I was kind of overwhelmed and emotionally distant to it because, just, how many more of these ‘The Youth Are Corrupted’ shows can my heart take??? I’ve already watched: BOTH Skins, The O.C., Riverdale, Gossip Girl, 13 Reasons Why, and a million Harmony Korine movies. Enough is enough!
But I did keep watching and post episode 2 was the tipping point for me, I was into the characters and hooked on the style/everything. The thing that most impresses me about this show is how every aspect of production is so high level and feels unique. The set design, editing, acting, writing, camera work, MAKEUP—–I could write an entire separate post about the makeup. Each character has a different look that is so specific to them that I’ve NEVER seen before. That alone is insane. Jules is the obvious standout, with these neon negative space eye looks, but Maddy’s individual gem eyeliner and cleopatra turquoise winged lids, Kat’s whole lip thing, Rue’s under-eye/cheek glitter tears, even Cassie’s slutty angel vibe-I don’t know what to tell you, it’s all good.
Even the WAY the show is filmed, we get these shots that are really sweeping and feel reckless, like when Jules and Rue are running somewhere, or group shots of people going upstairs at a party-then there’s entire scenes where the camera does a long close shot or doesn’t move at all and it’s super stationary and quiet. Sometimes a whole scene turns upside down for a while, or revolves around, spinning, like when Jules and Rue kissed for the first time in bed and fell asleep together. There’s also these abstract/surrealist choices that happen sometimes where people can walk on walls or Rue is a detective, or pill bottles can talk, it really affects the feeling of what’s happening, and makes it feel like you feel the intensity of the moment the way the characters do.
I love the structural echo of each episode beginning with a voiceover narration and review of the entire life of one character that reveals these in-depth truths that are often dark or disturbing but also humanizing. TV that reminds us that everyone has their own story and their own shit and perspective is good and that is a philosophy I have found helpful moving through the world.
The entire reason I started watching this show is because I follow the actress who plays Kat (Barbie Ferreira) on Instagram for being a plus size model. Kat is a whole thing for me because she is fat-not actually, she’s like maybe a size 10-but on TV that’s not allowed unless you’re a Grandma (even the moms have to be hot!!) and they have her explore sexuality in a really interesting way, a lot online.
A personal aside about this–something I’M personally experimenting with as a Small Fat on Instagram is posting photos of myself that are more revealing or sexual than I would be in real life because it feels safer. When I wear revealing or tight clothes Out In The World, I often feel really vulnerable/scared because I attract a lot more male attention that makes me uncomfortable and sometimes worried. Online is a way to put this image of myself out there but not have to deal with initial/immediate fear of someone’s reaction to it because I’m not physically present. I think there is a really reductive way people talk about women being sexual online, “thirst traps” in particular in a term I hate because it implies that the intention is for the viewer- for the reaction it elicits-but from personal experience, often being sexual for people who don’t have culturally sanctioned ‘sexual’ bodies (i.e. hyper thin) is a way to show OURSELVES that we are sexy and that it is ok to be that way. If other people appreciate it that’s cool, but to say it’s *for* them to me is missing the point. So it felt really natural to me that Kat explored this new sexual identity anonymously online, I really liked that they did that and having her get there through positive reactions to the leaked sex tape was really interesting/viable to me because also men ARE attracted to bigger women, like actually! That’s always been a disconnect for me, as well, the desexualization of bigger women in entertainment but in real life it’s often not the case. Lots of thoughts!!! I told you!!
I really vibed with that and I like her whole character and I LOVE Ethan (Austin Abrams) who I will marry even though he doesn’t exist and marriage isn’t real, mark my words!! The whole Kat thing–there’s a lot there. I’m interested to see where the dom persona goes for her, I love that they’re talking about people being attracted to bigger women but something that also happens is that bigger women are fetishized and that’s not great either,,,,hoping she learns this lesson/it is mentioned in some way? But I guess her financially profiting off others is a good way to be in control of this dynamic that exists beyond her and if it makes her feel powerful then it’s good. I lived and breathed for the scene of her fucking the salesperson in the dressing room and was sad it was a hallucination. That whole episode I wanted to be 2 years long. Where do we have fat women talking about being hot??? Nowhere!!!
The addiction stuff with Rue is brutal to watch but feels so accurate, I have so much empathy for her mom and Fez and sister Gia (Storm Reid) and Lexi-really everyone in her life and it feels important to have a main character that you don’t always like and to remind yourself addiction is a disease and a lot of the things addicts do that you don’t like aren’t their fault. The scene where Rue and her mom are fighting and her mom pushes her I appreciated so much because you know how much her mom cares about her but everyone has a breaking point and I love that they showed that, usually they just show parents crying and sliding down a wall with their head in their hands and it just felt like a needed element. I want more with the sponsor but I also feel like that’s unfolding on a realistic timeline, it takes a while before you bring someone into your life and trust them and build a relationship where you turn to them.
The gender stuff could also fill a fucking book, but I will say, having characters who do not dumb anything down in dialogue and speak and make jokes and references that feel fresh and real about this stuff-I don’t know that I’ve ever seen before. Jules saying to her friend she visits, “No room for heteronormativity in here” when they assume the person she’s in love with/hooking up with is a guy, or Jules saying to Rue, “I love how I dressed you but I hope I’m not fucking up your gender expression” in the bathroom stall at prom (there’s a million other examples but I just watched the finale and I don’t feel like rewatching old episodes to cull quotes from them but I remember it happening multiple multiple times). It’s like they’re just starting from a point of understanding and whether you’re there or not it’s just going forward and they assume you will figure it out and get on board (like real life should work!!!!).
Fez (Angus Cloud) I would die for, 10/10 good person, I love him, basically every scene with him is heartbreaking because he’s just this ultimate caretaker and it feels like he has no one helping him. His ‘business partner’ is a child, he lives with his convalescent/bed-ridden Grandma, Rue is spoiler alert: a drug addict and is not always present for him/they have a dynamic that is pretty one sided right now (but I feel like we’re gonna learn more about their relationship next season). Earlier when I said I would marry Ethan I was wrong and I would marry Fez if love was real!!!! Mouse is horrifying to me and feels like personified evil, I wonder if we are going to have an insight to him as a fully realized character or if he remains the boogeyman. I can see either one. The fentanyl scene fucked me up.
Ok, this perhaps is an unpopular opinion because it’s wrong but I DO want Nate (Jacob Elordi) and Jules to get together. I want him to figure his shit out and realize he’s enacting his trauma on other people, get help/confront his fears/insecurities/dad, become a real person again (hopefully he was once?) then have a beautiful and sweet relationship with Jules. That’s what I want!!! Nate I have a lot of feelings about, the violence stuff is absolutely horrifying but the texting with Jules didn’t feel like a game, I genuinely think he’s in love with her he just doesn’t want to accept that part of himself. I was SO confused by his conversation with Rue outside the dance in the last episode, not the threats, that made perfect sense, but why did he keep insisting on telling her she looked really beautiful? That was really weird and I didn’t understand it fully. Nate is a really fascinating character to me. This is really neither here nor there but in Maddy (Alexa Demie)’s episode when they were describing Nate and said he had a list of things he wanted in girls, and it was oddly specific like down to long necks and no body hair, I thought that was so real-people construct this image of what they think they want that’s so specific and divorced from the reality of who they are or the reality of the world in a lot of ways.
Also, aside: Jules telling Rue she dresses like Seth Rogan 90% of the time is hilarious and I RESPECT them letting her wear baggy pants and converse with her sparkly dress!!!!! If she had been in full femme attire it wouldn’t have felt right and I just loved that, felt very accurate.
Cassie (Sydney Sweeney) having an abortion in the finale was an interesting choice, I don’t QUITE know why it was in there, (glad there hasn’t been a rape*, I don’t think we need any more people getting raped on tv/movies forever until the end of time), it didn’t really feel interesting or important to me? Is that callous? It was out of place with how I feel about the rest of the show-like that was a part I’ve felt like I’ve seen many times before, but maybe it was important to someone somewhere. Idk. Cassie is interesting to me, the way they showed both sides of the nudes/sex tapes, first from McKay’s (Algee Smith) side then hers was HEARTBREAKING, as was the reveal with her dad’s addiction. I also love that Cassie and Lexi are sisters, they’re such an interesting pair. The choice to make them friends is so strong, usually when one sister is hot(ter than the other) it’s a competition thing and they hate each other but to make them friends who fight occasionally but are mostly there for each other was cool in my book.
*The scene with Jules and Nate’s dad is legally rape bc of age of consent but it didn’t read as rape to me-I think it’s important to let people define and judge their own sexual experiences and it didn’t feel like Jules felt raped. I was speaking with a friend about this and we agreed that it was really difficult to watch but ultimately just felt like bad sex. Also as my friend pointed out, “anonymous sex is inherently less intimate and prone to [being bad in this way].” I do think other people could watch this scene and interpret it as rape and that’s understandable but personally I do not.
We haven’t gotten a background on Lexi (Maude Apatow) yet and I cannot wait, I find her so intriguing and perhaps the most relatable? I want her and Rue to date!!!!!! I feel like that’s why we haven’t gotten a solely her episode yet, I think it’s coming and it will be huge and good.
Speaking of what I want, it is: Rue and Lexi to date, Jules and Nate, Kat and Ethan, Cassie to be single and devote herself to the ice, Maddy to find a sweet nerd (still hot) who isn’t a sociopath, Fez and me, McKay to go to therapy & figure his shit out and find social circles that aren’t so toxically male-dominated because the football/frat rushing experience was t r a u m a and I want more/better for him.
We haven’t gone deep into the lives of any of the parents really yet, and that’s a path most of the other teen shows go down, so I’m curious how much we’ll see of them. Jules’ and Rue’s mom & dad having a drink together I LOVED. It would feel too Brady Bunch if they started dating but I’m here for their adult friendship. Through the abortion I’m glad Cassie & Lexi’s mom got another dimension or two added to her that’s not just darker Amy Poehler mom from Mean Girls. Nate’s dad I guess is the exception but we haven’t seen anything from his perspective yet really just situations from other characters he’s been in.
Speaking of Nate’s dad, I like how they don’t make him the stereotype aggressive, controlling angry figure a lot of closeted tv sports dads usually are. That scene at the carnival where he pleads with Jules is so raw for both of them, it felt very human. Where she’s like, “I don’t have any reason to want to hurt you,” was a great reminder that people are good and sex is just bad sometimes. That first scene between them didn’t seem 100% great, like the anal seemed REALLY rough and was outside of the boundaries of what I would be comfortable with but everyone is different and it’s ultimately up to the people involved to set and decide what the experience was for them and Jules seemed ok? with it post.
OMG I ALMOST FORGOT the reason I wanted to write this review at all was to discuss the last scene of the finale??????? Making the entire first season a Zendaya music video was a BOLD and RISKY choice but ultimately, we stan. Do you know that I still listen to a YouTube playlist with Replay on it????? In 2019????? It’s also interesting that this show is a. based on an Israeli show with the same name and b. made by a man (Sam Levinson). Is that still allowed?? Drake also has a producer credit which is gross because it seems like he grooms girls and at the very LEAST is emotionally manipulative in relationships. When men are involved it does make me feel differently about choices surrounding sex stuff HOWEVER it’s not the only thing and some men aren’t evil (some) and so far everything has been handled incredibly well. Like the casting and the choices and honestly everything (except that abortion for me but I have the right to withhold full judgement until we see what the second season has and maybe there is a plan that this is a piece of that I will respect/like a lot). Also btw the song is called, “All of Us” and it has a Dylan Thomas allusion so I’m all about it and I’ve been listening to it on replay as I write this (see what I did there???).
Also, cannot believe I have gone this far without saying: Zendaya is so so soooo SO talented. The gravitas she brings to these scenes without words a lot of times, and the way she is able to endear this character to us immediately even when she isn’t being particularly likable, and how vulnerable, and how she can seem wise and naive at the same time—all of it, blows my gd mind and I want her to win everything. Also she started as a Disney star!!!! I saw someone else say this so it’s not my original thought, but to transition this gracefully into serious actor without having any scandal is essentially a pop culture miracle I cannot (and refuse to try) think of a single other Disney actor that has. Also thank god there’s trans characters and trans people are being hired for those roles. Anyway, everyone is great and Euphoria is great and I like that it’s on a tv schedule but hate that now I have to wait a long time to see more of it. (How does tv work? When is season 2?)
10/10 Gatorade bottles full of Everclear and Gatorade, would absolutely masturbate again. (Also if you want to turn this review into a fun drinking game where you go to the hospital, take a shot every time I say the word “interesting” !!!)