HBO’s Euphoria is about teenage life but far from family viewing

22-year-old American singer and actress Zendaya in HBO/s controversial series <i>Euphoria.</i>

22-year-old American singer and actress Zendaya in HBO/s controversial series Euphoria. Photo: HBO

As American parents call for HBO’s explicit, sex scene-packed drama Euphoria to be axed, an Australian child psychologist is encouraging parents to watch and reckon with teenage sexuality.

Days before its launch, the show’s full-frontal depiction of teenage sex, drugs and violence has already divided critics.

Foxtel’s executive director of television Brian Walsh warned parents Euphoria is “is not for your 14-year-old”.

Mr Walsh advised parental guidance: “There is no question it pushes the boundaries, but it is provocative, authentic and unforgettable.”

”The Hollywood Reporter’s headline about Euphoria asked, ‘How much teen sex and drugs is too much?’ and Variety called the HBO drama ‘a wild, unsettling ride’.

The show has been considered so explicit the American Parents Television Council has called for the plug to be pulled. It said Euphoria appears to be “intentionally, marketing extremely graphic adult content” to teens and preteens.

In one episode “close to 30 penises flash onscreen”, the show’s star, actress and singer Zendaya, 22, overdoses on drugs and one character “commits statutory rape”, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Zendaya in Euphoria

Zendaya in controversial Euphoria. Photo: HBO

Perth-based child psychologist Jordan Foster works with teenagers in schools covering topics such as sexting, sexual consent, pornography and consensual sexual relationships.

Given 95 per cent of 15-year-olds have seen pornography, Ms Foster told The New Daily shows like Euphoria could create an opportunity or “talking point” for parents to talk about sex with their children.

“Shows like these, they offer insight into human relationships that teenagers are going to be interested in,” Ms Foster said.

“In some ways they do depict the complexities of relationships, and these shows offer kids something they wouldn’t get from a Google search.”

Each episode of the show is told from the point of view of one of the main characters, including Rue (Zendaya), a 17-year-old suburbanite who spends her summer holidays in rehab, and Jules (Hunter Schafer) a transgender girl.

There’s also a breakout performance from Maude Apatow, daughter of This is 40 and Knocked Up filmmaker Judd Apatow.

Due to air on Australian screens on Foxtel from Monday, June 17, Euphoria has been likened to another gritty teen series, Skins, that was axed in the US for drawing similar controversy.

Euphoria’s similarity to Skins underlines the battle HBO has to bring raunchy TV to an American audience.

Queensland University of Technology film lecturer and filmmaker Phoebe Hart told The New Daily Australian and British audiences generally accepted more “confronting sexual content”.

“Possibly it’s more restrictive because Christianity morality is more of a concern when marketing cultural products within the US, so media content producers tend to be more cautious about what they make,” Dr Hart said.

The risqué content on Euphoria even caused unheard of HBO programming censorship, according to Zendaya and creator Sam Levinson.

They said executives pushed back on scenes, including a canned opening shot depicting a visceral birth scene with the camera angled right between the Zendaya character’s mother’s legs.

“They were like, ‘Nah you can’t open in that way,” Levinson said, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Barbie Ferreira Euphoria

Euphoria’s Barbie Ferreira. Photo: HBO

The content caused cast member Brian Bradley, 22, to drop out after allegedly discovering his character would experiment with homosexuality in future episodes.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, HBO hired an ‘intimacy coordinator, Amanda Blumenthal, to assist the cast.

“[Euphoria’s] not for everyone” but “it’s not sensational to be sensational,” HBO programming president Casey Bloys said.

Some critics agreed, arguing the show aims  to be a “cautionary tale about the dangers teens face today, such as revenge porn or fentanyl use”.

It also stands up to the reality of teenage sexuality.

Almost half of Australian high school seniors have had sex, and more than a quarter have also admitted they had experienced an unwanted encounter, according to a National Survey of Australian Secondary Students released this week.

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