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Matthew’s Place

Why you need to watch Euphoria’s exploration of queerness

By Christine Siamanta Kinori

Hunter Schafer and Zendaya in “Euphoria,” Eddy Chen/HBO

Unless you have been living under a rock, you know about Euphoria. The pop-culture lightning rod of a show is currently on its second season and follows a group of high school students and their struggles navigating love, drugs, money, and social media as they try to establish their identity. It has also given us some of the most dynamic, teen LGBTQ+ characters in recent memory- as well as eye-shadow inspiration for a generation. While the drama has been deservedly scrutinized, it has also unleashed important online discourse on what it means to be young and queer. Let’s look at 3 characters who are changing the way the LGBTQ+ community is reflected in pop culture.

Zendaya in “Euphoria,” Eddy Chen/HBO

Rue Bennett

Rue is a non-binary, 17-year-old struggling with drug addiction. She identifies as a lesbian, but in the first season, we see her struggle with compulsory heterosexuality. She admits to her therapist that she thinks her need to be ‘feminine’ has been a result of the male gaze and that she prefers women over men. It took her a few uncomfortable sexual encounters with boys before she realized that she is a lesbian. Her family is aware of her sexuality, and she even talks to her mom about the love of her adolescent life, Jules. Zendaya’s portrayal of Rue is incredibly refreshing, and it is meaningful to see an authentic non-binary character centered in a major show.

Hunter Schafer in “Euphoria” Season 1, Eddy Chen/HBO

Jules Vaughn

Jules has had a difficult life but across both seasons, has remained radically inspirational. For Jules, femininity and being a real woman is initially directly connected to sleeping with random adult men she meets through dating apps. She states that “I feel like if I conquer men, I conquer femininity.” She believes these men are validating her womanhood until she meets Rue and realizes that she not only likes women, but also doesn’t need to be with men to be considered a real woman. Jules’ character powerfully shows the impact trauma can have on a queer person’s trajectory. Her relationship with Rue also shows the lack of importance placed on labels in this current moment. Trans model and actress Hunter Schafer also plays her brilliantly and will steal your heart in the first episode.

Eric Dane in “Euphoria,” Eddy Chen/HBO

Cal Jacobs

He just might be the most hated character on the show, and it is understandable why. This bisexual character with the most chaotic backstory is brought to life by Eric Dane who you might remember as McSteamy from Grey’s Anatomy. Cal is a serial cheater who has no qualms about sleeping with high schoolers from his son’s school. He has also been dealing with LGBTQ+ repression but this is no excuse for his actions. He has no redeemable qualities as far as I am concerned.

In this latest season, we get to dive more into his past. Back when he was in high school, he had feelings for his best friend Derek and for a moment it seemed like they had a shot, but all that was blown out of the window upon learning his girlfriend was pregnant. Given that it was back in the 80’s, it is understandable why their romance never blossomed, but it doesn’t give him the right to abuse others.

Euphoria is one of the most groundbreaking LGBTQ+ teen shows for its complex portrayal of queerness. As much as the show gets a lot of criticism for its portrayal of drugs and dangerous sex among teenagers, it has unapologetically captured what it is struggling with identity in this era. The good thing about the show is the character’s sexuality is not their main trait- it is just part of their story. Hopefully, more writers will continue to bring innovative ways to represent the LGBTQ + community authentically.

About the Author:

Christine Siamanta Kinori grew up in a little village in Kenya known as Loitoktok near the border of Kenya and Tanzania. All she wanted to do when she grew up was to explore the world. Her curiosity led her to join Nairobi University to pursue a degree in Journalism and Mass Communications. She later got a job with an amazing travel magazine Nomad Africa which gave her the opportunity to explore Africa. She also writes for numerous travel websites about Africa and tries to create a new narrative in the media about our aesthetic continent.

Christine claims to have somewhat unhealthy addiction to TV and reading, as it is a fun way to keep herself occupied during the long journeys for her travel writing. She is also a believer of letting people be their beautiful selves. To her, love is love and it is the greatest gift we have as humans.



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