HBO’s hit show “Euphoria,” a series that explores the raw intensity of drug addiction, has returned for its second season.
In the past, the show’s lead Zendaya — who plays the role of Rue, the story’s tragic protagonist — has been accused of glamorizing the use of narcotics. However, in this season’s fifth episode, “Stand Still Like the Hummingbird,” the actress believes she has placed a human face on the national crisis.
According to Entertainment Weekly, the former Disney star wants people to empathize with Rue, particularly organizations and health and wellness stakeholders working in the space of addiction advocacy, like anti-drug education organization D.A.R.E., which recently spoke out about the show.
A spokesperson for D.A.R.E. told TMZ, “HBO’s television drama, Euphoria, chooses to misguidedly glorify and erroneously depict high school student drug use, addiction, anonymous sex, violence, and other destructive behaviors as common and widespread in today’s world.”
Zendaya believes that people are not considering that destructive behaviors are a part of the disease.
In an interview with Nerds of Color, she said, “This is a degenerative disease, and we don’t really treat it that way. I mean, it’s been criminalized and people often dehumanize, and I think it’s important to bring humanity into the experience of addiction and what it does to people.”
The former child star told Entertainment Weekly the show’s job is not to tell a “moral tale.”
In addition to showing rock-bottom scenarios, like when Zendaya’s character almost overdoses in season 2’s first episode, “Euphoria” shows ways that families are also impacted by the disease of addiction.
“Our show is in no way a moral tale to teach people how to live their life or what they should be doing,” she said to EW. “If anything, the feeling behind Euphoria, or whatever we have always been trying to do with it, is to hopefully help people feel a little bit less alone in their experience and their pain. And maybe feel like they’re not the only one going through or dealing with what they’re dealing with.”
The goal is to make people care about Rue as a person despite her addiction and extend that compassion to people in their lives.
“I think if we can still care about her after this,” Zendaya speaks about the episode that shows the ugly side of intervention, “Then I hope that other people can extend that to non-fictional characters, to real people, or just be a little bit more understanding and empathetic over the experience of addiction and what it does to people, what it does to their families.”
The public has responded to the gripping performances of the entire cast but has been particularly moved by Zendaya’s portrayal of the character, especially those who have been where Rue is.
One Twitter user wrote, “as someone who’s loved one struggled there while life with addiction, i have first hand witnessed that scene that Zendaya portrayed. give this girl all the awards. wow.”
“As someone who as gone through it and seen others go through opioid addiction/withdrawl,” another tweeted, “@Zendaya did a phenomenal job of portraying how it feels on this week’s Euphoria. It was so very intense but so very real.”
Another user posted, “This episode was horrible, brilliant brilliant acting on Zendaya’s part but like it just makes me feel sick because this might not be real but addiction devastating families is.”
Communication like this is commonplace now for the actor. She shared, “a lot of people reach out and find so many parallels from all ages, all walks of life.”
Zendaya continued, “So many parallels with Rue and her story and Rue means a lot to them in a way that I can understand, but also maybe in a way that I could never understand, and that means the most to all of us.”
Newsweek reports that many believe that for her thoughtful performance in this episode, she may be considered for another Emmy. While critics and fans are saying S2 E5 is the award-winning performance, there are still three more episodes before the season finale. Who knows what is coming up next.
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