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In HBO's Gen Z Drama, Euphoria Isn't Happiness

GEN Z IS SAD—OR SO THEIR ELDERS HAVE HEARD. AND IT isn’t just teen angst.

Judy Berman

Too young to remember 9/11, they had relatively peaceful childhoods that have given way to existential struggles on both political and environmental fronts. Adults haven’t been much help. We haven’t meaningfully addressed the sources of their stress—like school shootings—but we have capitalized on it with moody Burger King commercials and anhedonic hitmakers from Billie Eilish to Lil Uzi Vert.

Teen TV these days can be dark too. Riverdale and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina are Archie Comics twisted by murder, organized crime and the occult. In an apt metaphor for kids fighting a generational war, Marvel’s Runaways battle their own villainous parents. Netflix’s controversial 13 Reasons Why helped make teen suicide a YA talking point. But Euphoria, an extremely TV-MA series that premieres June 16 on HBO, may be the first teen drama to fully exploit the Xanax- numbed aesthetic that defines Gen Z in the popular consciousness.

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June 24, 2019

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