From drugs and violence to full-frontal nudity and sex scenes, the HBO series "Euphoria" is so chock-full of raw, unsettling scenes that viewers wonder if it can, at times, be hard to watch-- yet they keep coming back every week.
Experts credit shock factor, which can make us feel both disgusted and intrigued at once.
Robert Thompson, director of Syracuse University's Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture, says Hollywood has a history of "trying to appeal to audiences by shocking them." However, a few additional factors have set HBO's first young-adult series apart.
Fans noticed a difference in how much nudity comes up for various actresses on the show. In an interview with The Independent, Sydney Sweeney says she asked to remain clothed in certain shirtless scenes that she felt weren’t necessary. Meanwhile, Zendaya, an A-list star who plays Rue, has shown much less skin, leading some to wonder if there are power dynamics playing out behind-the-scenes.
The pop culture expert explains, "Extra-textual information, what you learn offscreen, what you hear of controversies and so forth can very much color the way people look at things. It's impossible to not now in every episode think, 'Oh wow, that character Rue gets to keep her clothes on a lot more than the other ones do.' "
The fact that the show is set at a high school, with characters that are meant to be underage, adds another layer of complexity and discomfort.
Intrigue, especially in parents who have a generational separation between themselves and the characters, can motivate viewership.
According to another expert, "It does cause adults to have some curiosity about this world of high school that they're now far removed from. And they start wondering, 'Is this really what it's like?' and 'what about my kids?'"
Meanwhile, some adult viewers find themselves most uncomfortable by the idea that kids and teens may be watching the series too.
Thompson says it's difficult to determine the exact intended audience for the show but acknowledges teens would find it appealing. And the compelling characters are likely to hook viewers, regardless of age.
Despite all this discomfort, plenty of fans still tune in every Sunday.
“People are wired to seek out novelty. We're attracted to things we can't see (everyday)... ”
People are also attracted to "Euphoria" because they're "comparing their own experiences to what they're seeing in this program. People may get some gratification when they're engaging in that kind of social comparison... They end up feeling better (about themselves)."
Source: USA Today.
Photo Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images.