In almost every episode of HBO’s hit series “Euphoria,” there’s no shortage of bare-breast nudity and intensely sexual situations involving actresses portraying underage teen girls.
Disclaimer: this article discusses graphic depictions of sex and nudity. It is intended for 18+ readers only. The ideas expressed are solely opinion and not to be construed as fact.
The massively popular series and its attractive cast members are often seen trending on social media and they’re arguably the new Gen Z icons. While each episode is reliably met with excitement and curiosity, some people on social media are calling out just how suspicious and downright creepy they think showrunner-director-writer Sam Levinson seems to be.
Sam Levinson is the son of filmmaker Barry Levinson, who was also the executive producer for several HBO films, including The Wizard of Lies, which Sam co-wrote. His name may also ring some bells because of more recent acclaim. Sam made his directorial debut in 2011 with the film Another Happy Day, and he wrote and directed the 2018 film Assassination Nation before he gained mainstream prominence as the creator, writer, director, and executive producer of Euphoria, an American adaptation of an Israeli teen drama of the same name. Since then, he wrote and directed Netflix’s Malcolm and Marie.
Levinson’s work has a history of pushing boundaries to the extreme and portraying deeply dysfunctional characters. But Euphoria goes beyond that. Levinson’s apparent fixation with portraying underage female nudity and gratuitous, graphic depictions of often brutal and abusive sex involving characters who are teenage girls should raise some major red flags about his real motivations behind the show.
What Happens in Euphoria?
Euphoria follows the story of several high schoolers and is narrated by 17-year-old Rue (Zendaya), who was born three days after 9/11 and diagnosed with a number of mental illnesses and ailments from a very young age, for which she has been prescribed a number of medications. In her teen years, she finds herself on a path of drug addiction and overall ambivalence about her own life. We observe as she goes through high school, which hardly consists of any school at all, but rather drugs, parties, attempted rehab, relapsing, and numerous dangerous situations.
We also follow Rue’s circle of friends: Jules (Hunter Schafer), a transgender girl who lies about her age on dating apps and has sex with much older men; Maddy (Alexa Demie), a boisterous girl in an abusive, on-again-off-again relationship with a dangerous and violent bully; Kat (Barbie Ferreira), who has struggled with her body image since childhood and turns to sex work as a source of confidence after a video of her having sex gains significant traction on Pornhub; Cassie (Sydney Sweeney), who’s been adored for her beauty ever since she was a little girl and now seeks validation from boys via sex and relationships; Lexi (Maude Apatow), who has lived in the shadow of her sister Cassie her whole life; and Fezco (Angus Cloud), a drug-dealer and college dropout who seems to care the most about Rue’s sobriety. All the characters listed, besides Fezco, are 17-year-old girls.
While fans are fixated on the drama of Euphoria and whether or not their favorite characters will make it out alive, it seems to me as though Sam Levinson himself is fixated on nudity and sex, particularly involving the girls – it’s featured in nearly every, if not every single episode of the series. It’s especially apparent with Sydney Sweeney’s character, Cassie.
Sam Levinson’s History with Teen Nudity and Sex Started Before Euphoria
It seems to me that Sam Levinson likes to use the cover of showing the truth about the teen experience in order to satisfy his fixation on the sex life of teen girls. Unfortunately, Euphoria isn’t the first project where Levinson has displayed a penchant for teen nudity and an apparent fascination with deviant sexuality. In his 2018 film Assassination Nation, which also focuses on a group of teenage girls, one of the high school characters gives a disturbing and grossly inappropriate monologue to her high school principal (who later in the film is discovered to be into teen porn):
“All you're looking at is the nudity, but this isn't about that. This isn't about the sex or the porn or even being naked. This is about everything that goes into it. The pressure. The endless mindf***. The 10,000 naked selfies you took before this one, trying to get it just right. Trying to make sure the light hides your left nipple because it's slightly inverted or it's smaller or maybe your labia's too big, but if you pull your pelvic bone up, and bend to the left slightly in a low-light setting... then you will be beautiful. Hashtag flawless. Body confident. But it's all one big lie you can never be because nobody's flawless, and all it takes is one f***ing a-hole to remind you of that. One guy to say 'lol' or 'she's nasty' and you're right back at square one. So yeah, maybe it is explicit or extreme, but it sure as hell looks like life to me.”
The character’s written such that she’s describing her body in a way that hardly any teenage girl would. For the early parts of high school, many of us were too uncomfortable in our own bodies and overwhelmed with just existing in the novel environment that was high school. Normal teenage girls just do not conceptualize the world in this way.
I think that monologue isn’t coming from a high schooler, but from a 37-year-old man hiding behind her.
The Sex in Euphoria Goes Way Beyond Teenage Exploration
Brutal and abusive sex is a main focal point in Euphoria. It’s impossible for this show to depict a single loving or healthy relationship between two people or between an individual and their own sexuality. Nearly every character is subjected to abuse or exploitation. A few examples for the main characters (who, again, are minors) include:
Cassie gets high and orgasms on a carousel at the town carnival while men stare and leer at her and women look at her in disgust or laugh.
Jules goes on dating apps to meet older men in motels, where she lies about her age and has anal sex with them. One of these men, Cal (Eric Dane), is the father of her classmate Nate. The scene features full-frontal nudity, including an erect penis. While Dane revealed that he used a prosthetic while filming, he said that he originally offered to bare it all for the scene. “I’m willing to do anything that’s critical to the story and crucial to creating a very real and truthful feel to how the story is gonna go down,” Dane told Entertainment Weekly. “I suggested, ‘Look if it makes more sense to not use a prosthetic, I’m willing to go there.” We’ll get back to the prosthetic penises later.
Maddy, in an attempt to get back at her currently off-again boyfriend Nate, grinds and has sex with a guy in a swimming pool in front of dozens of people at a party, while some of them even record it. She’s also seen studying porn in her bedroom.
Rue narrates over a scene of Maddy examining bruises on her neck from being choked by her boyfriend Nate, saying, “It wasn't the violence that scared her. It was the fact that she knew no matter what he did, she'd still love him.”
After Jules receives nudes from her online lover “Tyler” (a minor), Rue breaks the fourth wall and teaches viewers about the true “window to the soul,” a.k.a. “your dick and how you f*cking photograph it.” She then presents a slideshow about the various kinds of dick pics, which include everything from “terrifying” to “horrifying” to “run for your life.”
Sydney Sweeney Gets the Worst of It
Sydney Sweeney’s character, Cassie, gets particular attention when it comes to nudity and brutal sex. Viewers have noted this across social media, like TikToker Kiera Breaugh. She points out that in virtually every scene, Cassie is naked or crying – her character falls right in line with the established stereotype of the classically beautiful girl being helpless without a man. This is especially appalling because, again, Cassie is a teenager, and she’s naked and in dangerous or traumatic situations so much of the time.
Cassie is described by narrator Rue as the girl who “doesn’t want to be alone,” who gives guys everything they ask for even if it doesn’t make her feel good, and even when there’s a repeated pattern of them sharing sexual videos they took of her online.
In one of the worst scenes, Cassie’s about to have sex with her boyfriend McKay, when suddenly eight frat guys barge into the room and rip McKay off the bed. They do more than just haze him: McKay gets pinned to the ground with his back up and the guys grind and hump against his body while they record him and chant “McGay!” at him. We don’t know that they won’t go after Cassie, but it seems incredibly likely as they attack her boyfriend.
In the end, it’s not clear whether or not McKay was raped or assaulted, but the frat guys leave and don’t touch Cassie. McKay recovers on his own and then asks Cassie to have sex. Feeling pity for him given the situation, she agrees, but the sex appears to border on assault. McKay takes out his humiliation on Cassie, who endures the rough sex silently.
In season two, a major part of Cassie’s character development involves her chasing after Nate (Jacob Elordi), Maddy’s on-again-off-again boyfriend. In one scene, Nate offers Cassie a ride to the party, then in his car, he starts aggressively speeding, making Cassie visibly uncomfortable. When they hit a speed bump, she spills a drink all over herself, at which she shrieks, “I’m soaking wet!” and takes off her underwear.
In a recent interview, Sydney Sweeney revealed that there were supposed to be even more scenes where Cassie was supposed to be shirtless (and probably crying). Sydney says she stood up to Levinson, saying “I don’t really think that’s necessary here.” Apparently, Levinson listened, said “Okay, we don’t need it,” and changed the scenes. But as TikToker Abi points out, if it truly wasn’t necessary for Cassie to be topless in those scenes, then why were they written that way in the first place? And how many more scenes of a shirtless Cassie were cut?
Levinson Hired a Porn Actress for a Role and Then Allegedly Wanted Her Naked Her First Day on Set
Sydney Sweeney isn’t the only one whose sexuality is exploited for the show. Chloe Cherry plays Faye, a sex worker who’s first introduced to the series in the second season. Interestingly, Cherry gained recognition even before her series appearance, as she starred in a porn parody of Euphoria before being hired.
Chloe Cherry as Faye
The first scene she filmed on the set of Euphoria was reportedly the one where her character gets stuffed into a motel room vent to avoid getting arrested alongside her drug-dealer boyfriend for an unexplained crime. At first, Levinson reportedly wanted her to do the scene completely nude and covered in fake blood. It took her on-screen boyfriend (Tyler Chase) intervening on her behalf for the scene to change so that she was clothed with only her mouth bloodied. This was their first time meeting, after all; he said the nudity seemed excessive.
Cherry described the situation: “We just met and said, ‘Hey, how are you?’ and then shot the scene. It probably would’ve been more comfortable had we had a little more time to know each other. Sam wanted to do the scene with me completely naked and Tyler was like, ‘That’s a lot,’ so they decided not to.”
In another scene, Cherry appears in a drug-related situation with Rue and Fezco where she strips down so some drug dealers can confirm she’s not wearing a wire. But curiously, Zendaya is also in this scene and her character stripping down is merely implied, not shown.
Is Levinson Trying To Cover Up His Female Nudity Obsession with Equally Shocking Male Nudity?
“Sure, the female nudity is shocking” some people may say or think. “But it’s not like the men aren’t naked either!”
It’s true that there are multiple prominent scenes featuring penises. Early in season one, there’s a genderbent version of the locker room scene in Carrie, where Nate walks through a locker room full of swinging, uncensored penises. Earlier, we mentioned Eric Dane’s character, Cal, having anal sex with Jules, a minor. Cal has a drunken meltdown in season two where he’s peeing all over the foyer in his family home, and the penis is uncensored there too.
However, all the penises in those scenes are prosthetics. According to Jacob Elordi, there’s an entire collection of prosthetic penises for the male actors, and Eric Dane used one for his scenes. In a Jimmy Kimmel Live interview, Elordi said,
“When you come into the makeup trailer, [the fake penises] are all kinda set up… And the makeup artists have to do makeup on the penis… Yeah, there’s like ‘penis checks.’ Like, they go down and start checking the penis.”
So really, people can’t say that there’s equally shocking footage of the men – they’re using prosthetic penises. The actresses are expected to bare it all when asked, and the men are given apparently all sorts of options other than baring it all.
It seems possible that Levinson only included these graphic and gratuitous male nudity scenes in order to balance out the female nudity – in other words, to distract from his fixation on the female nude scenes by claiming that the men are also shown naked.
It May Not Be So Easy for Actresses To Call Out Sam Levinson
Sweeney claims she never felt uncomfortable on the set of Euphoria, but it’s important to remember that just because an actress praises an executive, it doesn’t mean he’s cleared of having creepy intentions. There’s a high risk for actresses in coveted roles if they decide to criticize the showrunners. It’s even more ill-advised when the man who controls their career is acting as showrunner, producer, director, and writer.
After all, Harvey Weinstein was lauded by women who worked with him, notably Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Winslet. All of Hollywood knew how despicable his behavior was, yet dozens of actresses lined up to praise him at awards shows, afraid of what might happen to their career if they didn’t. If an actress didn’t toe the line with Weinstein, she could even be forced to publicly suck up to him in penance. One of the most obvious incidents was when Jennifer Lawrence went above and beyond to praise Weinstein at the 2013 GLAAD awards, after forgetting to mention him at the Oscars. She expressed not just gratitude, but love for him, and Weinstein responded, “Thank you, Jen. But you can stop kissing up to me for forgetting to thank me at the Oscars.”
We already know that there’s a real risk of any of the actresses’ roles in the show being jeopardized should she butt heads with Levinson – after all, there are rumors circulating the internet that claim that after Barbie Ferreira, who plays Kat, “wasn’t vibing” with Levinson’s vision for season 2, she had an argument with him about the direction of her character and walked off set. After that, a significant portion of her lines were cut, and she’d even been given what fans consider to be really weak lines and little character development. While the rumors are unsubstantiated, they also haven’t been debunked by either Levinson or Ferreira. Furthermore, Zendaya – who also serves as executive producer for the show – revealed that the scripts “were significantly reworked.”
Barbie Ferreira as Kat
Just Because the Actresses Are Over 18 Doesn’t Make It Okay
In the end, many people will still defend Sam Levinson and Euphoria. These actresses aren’t underage, after all. That would be illegal. They could say things like “the show is meant to push boundaries” and “it’s not like no teenager ever hasn’t lived through situations similar to what the show portrays!”
Here’s the issue: what we know we’re seeing versus what we think we’re seeing are two different things. Porn videos have been taking advantage of these blurred lines in order to hire youthful-looking 18+ actresses to play (and look like) children. “Teen” is now one of the most popular porn genres, in the top five categories on Pornhub. With all the shots and situations the underage female characters are in, it appears as though Levinson caters to normalizing these blurred lines.
For some time now, there’s been an increasing push to be “understanding and supportive” of pedophiles. Proponents of this claim that pedophilia is a sexual orientation – if we’ve been accepting of other sexual orientations before, what’s stopping these proponents from arguing that this one should be accepted too? When shows like Euphoria depict minors consenting to sex with older men, what’s stopping pedophiles, and frankly other people, from seeing this as normal behavior from teens?
More to the point, it is Sam Levinson who created an entire show that centers around graphic, brutal, and abusive teen sex. It doesn’t matter that the actresses are over 18, because the characters are not.
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