HBO’s Euphoria is already stoking ire in the mighty Parents Television Council, whose president asserts that the program “appears to be overtly, intentionally marketing extremely graphic adult content—sex, violence, profanity and drug use—to teens and preteens.” They’re probably really upset about the approximately 30 penises that appear in one episode alone.
The Hollywood Reporter reported the controversy surrounding the upcoming series about high school students navigating love, drugs, and friendship in the age of finstas, starring Zendaya Coleman. One actor allegedly quit mid-shoot after taking issue with his character experimenting with homosexuality in later episodes, and even HBO execs pushed back on two scenes—including a birth scene—for being too graphic (this coming from the people who brought you Game of Thrones).
There are plenty of other tidbits The Hollywood Reporter highlighted that will surely cause some sort of concerned parents crusade online by Monday morning:
The male genitalia [an erect penis] in the pilot is not attached to any of the largely 20-something cast. Instead, it’s care of actor Eric Dane, who commits statutory rape with a 17-year-old trans girl (newcomer Hunter Schafer, 20). Though the sequence uses a prosthetic, it’s still likely to shock most audiences—as will a handful of other graphic scenes in the pilot, from a gut-wrenching drug overdose by star Zendaya, 22, to a sex scene between teens involving choking.
A cornucopia of peen:
The network also voiced concerns about a scene in the second episode featuring dozens of naked high school boys in what [show creator Sam] Levinson intended as a gender-bent homage to the famous Carrie locker room scene. What made it to air is a trimmed-down version of the original shot, which included “like, 80 more” penises, he says.
And micropenis masturbation:
As is the new norm at HBO, the network employed an intimacy coordinator, Amanda Blumenthal, the daughter of production executive Ginny Nugent. “If you got a visit from Amanda that day, you knew it was going down,” says actress Barbie Ferreira, 22, who had to film a scene in the third episode in which an obese man on a webcam pulls out his micro penis and masturbates to her.
This reaction, of course, is to be expected of any coming-of-age program that doesn’t masquerade as a tame after-school special. In 2011, when MTV attempted an American spin on Skins—the iconic British teen program that rarely hesitated to depict sex, drug use, and foul language—the outrage was immediate, despite the American version being far tamer (and, therefore, worse) than the original. The Parents Television Council called it “the most dangerous show for teens,” and after reactionaries claimed the show was essentially dramatized child pornography, advertisers were pressured to pull out of the series. In the end, Taco Bell, General Motors, and Wrigley did just that before the show was finally canceled after one miserable season.
But this comparison only goes so far, because Euphoria seems poised to make Skins—both versions—look like an episode of Degrassi.
Euphoria will be hounded with questions of whether this is a show about teens for teens or a show about teens for adults. The probable answer is that it is a program aimed at young adults that teens will likely tune into, because teens will watch whatever the fuck they want whether it’s for them or not. But even if the target audience were Baby Boomers, that wouldn’t stop people from wringing hands over a cast of adults portraying teens as imperfect creatures who sext, do drugs, and experience trauma.
After the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why was accused of having a ham-handed approach to depression and suicide, there’s certainly room for concern as to how Euphoria will handle tough topics like addiction and assault. But that’s not being discussed right now. Prosthetic dicks are. It’s fair to say that the former is, perhaps, a little more important.