Mental Health Media

Euphoric Ultra-Violence Part 2: How the TV Show “Euphoria” Brings Up Teen Violence

This is the 2nd part of a three-piece series that explores violence in teenage relationships and the HBO show “EUPHORIA.”

*Trigger Warning: The following article contains themes of domestic and sexual violence.

The following is the trailer for the show “EUPHORIA.”

With the rapid growth in technology and changes in family and societal values, Generation Z is going through a lot more with building relationships than any past generations. The traditional social values once expected decades ago no longer fly with them. Just take it from Rue, a teenager in the new hit show Euphoria:

“Here’s the fucking thing that pisses me off about the world…like every time someone’s shit gets leaked…whether its JLaw or Leslie Jones, the whole world’s like ‘Well if you don’t want it out there you shouldn’t take the nudes.’ Well, I’m sorry your generation relied on flowers and father’s permission, but it’s 2019 and unless you’re Amish…nudes are the currency of love. So stop shaming us. Shame the assholes who create password-protected online directories of naked underaged girls” – Rue

“And I know it all may seem sad… but guess what? I didn’t build the system nor did I fuck it up.” – Rue

Euphoria is a show that follows the realities of teen life in a world filled with anxiety and uncertainty and a yearning to belong, to be loved, to be seen and to be heard. Upon first glance “Euphoria” seems to be graphic and difficult to watch, but I challenge you to take a second look at how they portray mental health themes and issues. In my opinion, they did a great job in various areas, especially with teen dating violence and teen violence in general.

In this part of the series, we are taking a look into how Euphoria portrays teen violence and shares the potential risk factors which may play a part in making a teenager choose to act violently. We will end with ways in which you can assess your current relationships and will provide links to resources on this topic.

Now, let’s take a look into one of the characters of Euphoria who represents teen ultraviolence, Nate.

Nate’s Story

Euphoria
Season 1, episode 3 (debut 6/30/19): Jacob Elordi.
photo: Eddy Chen/HBO

We are introduced to Nate and his story in episode 2. He seems very well-groomed and put together. His godlike physique is perfection. His high comes from winning; he enjoys the pats on the back and the cheers that come with it.

Rue’s introduction describes Nate as having been “obsessive.” Even though he may look like the good boy next door, his perfect exterior has been hiding something.

We find out that at the age of 11, Nate found his father’s pornographic videos. His father, Cal, is not only the producer and director of these films, he’s the star of the show. Filmed in the same shady motel for years, Cal had various encounters with individuals who were biologically male. We find out later that he also had sexual relations with one of the main characters on the show, Jules. Through these films Nate was exposed to how his father verbally spoke to his sexual partners, calling them “Fucking slut! Fucking cunt!” and physically dominating them as if they were a thing to possess and throw away. Seeing these interactions and keeping it in the dark is one way Nate has been influenced to engage in violent acts.

**As a side note, behaviors are caught, not just taught. Children are very observant and learn powerful lessons quickly through observing interactions, especially through seeing how their parents interact and live their lives. Have you ever seen a toddler match the tone of voice to phrases such as “Why not?” Role modeling is of the essence and it is an essential part of parenting. 

Nate buried this secret the same way his father has kept his sexual hobby a secret. By watching what his dad modeled in his own films, Nate was influenced to have a hyper-masculine and misogynistic attitude. The way he sees women is very old school; according to Rue, Nate categorizes them into likes and dislikes.

“He made a long mental checklist of the things he liked and disliked about women. He likes tennis skirts and jean cut-offs, but not the kind so short you could see the pockets. He liked ballet flats and heels. He hated sneakers and dress shoes. He was fine with sandals, as long as they were worn with a fresh pedicure. He liked thigh gaps, hated cankles. He liked tan lines, long necks, slender shoulders. He liked good posture and fruit-scented body mist. He liked full lips, and small noses. He liked chokers, but the lacy ones with flower cutouts or delicate patterns. He hated girls who sat like boys, talked like boys, acted like boys. But there was nothing on planet Earth he hated more than body hair.”

This description demonstrates Nate’s desire for conventional order. Any female that was boy-like induced in him an unsettling anger.

One night, when Nate is 11, Cal has a talk with him.

“You’re a strong man Nathanial. I’ve known from the moment you were born you have an iron will. Drive. Determination…I always admired that from you because someday it will lead you to greatness. But no one in this world will ever root for you. They’ll see what I see and they’ll despise you for it…sometimes you’ll know and sometimes you won’t. But the farther you go, the sharper their blade. Just don’t ever give them an opening.”

Over the year following this talk with his father, Nate began to lift weights and moved towards a path of perfection and invulnerability. The rest is history. Society repeatedly tells boys that in order to be a man they must be physically and mentally strong and in control. Nate has been raised to do exactly this and becomes hyper-masculine. Anyone or anything that was different from his standard of masculinity and femininity required correction, no matter the cost. The majority of Nate’s violent acts have been directed at those who appear weaker and identify as female. After all, he thought his mother was a “pushover and didn’t take care of herself.” He also turns to violence in the name of “love” (in actuality he sees his girlfriend Maddy as an object to possess). The values Nate uses to dictate his life make him feel powerful, however,  he has not come to terms with his sexuality. He has a hard time exploring his attraction to men as it gets him feeling uncomfortable. Rue tells us that “He hated being in the locker room. He hated how casual his teammates were about being naked.” As we continue to get to know Nate, we find out he is struggling with his sexual orientation and preferences. His girlfriend, Maddie, notices various sizes of penises on his cell phone and is willing to embrace his choices.

Nate is deeply in love with Maddy, who is the girlfriend he abuses on the show. In the beginning, we see how obsessive he is about protecting her purity. He frequently thinks about all the people who could potentially kidnap and hurt her and gruesomely fantasizes about how he would deal with someone who tries to harm her. He is willing to shoot people in the head and murder them, among other things. He “loves” Maddy to the extreme, and he sees her as a prized possession.

Rue gives away a few other characteristics about Nate that help us see the full picture of his violent, misogynistic, and psychopathic behaviors.

“He knew he had anger issues, but so did every guy. It’s not like anything in his life he can trace it back to. It was just who he was and who he’d always be.”

In regards to having kids: “…he also didn’t like the idea of having girls.”

Rue mentions Nate has a good relationship with his dad, however, she also mentions that “they never talk.”

LaTianna Williams is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist and Nationally Certified Recreation Therapist residing in Long Beach, CA. She currently provides rehabilitation therapy for the elderly and forensic population, specializing in the Dramatic Arts. LaTianna raises awareness in mental health using fashion, travel, her personal stories, and creativity on her blog and social platforms. In the past, she has performed in the Vagina Monologues to raise awareness and funds to domestic violence shelters in her community.

She has been working as a creative art therapist for over a decade, presenting drama therapy at Patton State Hospital and California Parks and Recreation Society’s Recreation Therapy Institute.

Her long term goal involves expanding her performance artistry and activism by writing and producing written works and plays that surround mental health issues and triumphs. In addition, she would like to continue her work in drama therapy and work with a playback theater troupe to perform stories told by the audience members.