Zendaya Defends 'Euphoria' Against Backlash: 'Our Show Isn't A Moral Tale'

By Emily Lee

February 8, 2022

Photo: HBO

Zendaya is hitting back at criticism of Euphoria. The show, which she both stars in and serves as an executive producer, faced backlash from D.A.R.E for glorifying "drug use, addiction, anonymous sex [and] violence."

"Rather than further each parent's desire to keep their children safe from the potentially horrific consequences of drug abuse and other high-risk behavior, 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," D.A.R.E.'s statement reads.

"It is unfortunate that HBO, social media, television program reviewers, and paid advertising have chosen to refer to the show as 'groundbreaking,' rather than recognizing the potential negative consequences on school age children who today face unparalleled risks and mental health challenges," the statement continues.

While chatting with Entertainment Weekly,  Zendaya, who plays 17-year-old struggling drug addict Rue Bennett, defended the series against D.A.R.E's criticism. "Our show is in no way a moral tale to teach people how to live their life or what they should be doing," she explained. "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."

"It's really important that there's light at the end of the tunnel for [Rue]," Zendaya said of her character. "Because I think she has a lot of beauty inside of her. Whether or not she quite sees that yet, is her own thing."

Ahead of the second season premiere, Zendaya even shared a content warning for the new batch of episodes. “I know I’ve said this before, but I do want to reiterate to everyone that Euphoria is for mature audiences," she wrote in a note to fans. "This season, maybe even more so than the last, is deeply emotional and deals with subject matter that can be triggering and difficult to watch. Please only watch it if you feel comfortable. Take care of yourself and know that either way you are still loved and I can still feel your support. All my love, Daya”

Just last week, HBO revealed Euphoria will return for a third season. The news comes just halfway through the series' sophomore season, which follows "the intertwining lives in the town of East Highland" with a particular focus on Zendaya's character as she attempts to "find hope while balancing the pressures of love, loss, and addiction."

“Sam, Zendaya, and the entire cast and crew of EUPHORIA have taken Season 2 to extraordinary heights, challenging narrative convention and form, while maintaining its heart," Francesca Orsi, Executive Vice President, HBO Programming said in a press release. "We couldn’t be more honored to work with this gifted, wildly talented team or more excited to continue our journey with them into Season 3."

The news that Euphoria will return for a third season isn't too surprising, as the season two premiere episode debuted as the most viewed episode of an HBO series ever on HBO Max with more than 14 million viewers across platforms. This astonishing number puts Euphoria at more than double its average audience of Season 1. Not only that, but the season two premiere was also the most social premium cable episode since the Game of Thrones finale in May 2019, according to the press release.

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