After a long hiatus, “Euphoria” is back. Now halfway through its second season, “Euphoria” continues to showcase its many strengths, revelling in its intricate character writing and creative cinematography. “Euphoria” is known for dealing with many heavy issues, from addiction to abuse to sex — lots of sex — so the show also contains a lot of nudity.
In many ways, “Euphoria” offers a really refreshing stance on nudity; male characters are naked almost as much as female characters and the nudity generally strives to make a point. Using nudity, “Euphoria” has directly confronted issues including porn and how it can shape people’s perceptions of sex, the benefits and dangers of sex work, and how young people view their own bodies and their relationships with sex. These are important conversations, undertaken with a frankness that helps to make“Euphoria” so hard-hitting. In particular, Rue’s (Zendaya) presentation on different types of dick pics, Kat’s (Barbie Ferreira) cam-work featuring men masturbating, and a porn montage explaining how porn warps teenager’s expectations of sex are extremely clever and impactful.
However, some people have questioned how the show has continued to utilize nudity in its second season. In the first episode, there is a scene where everyone in a room is asked to strip. The scene is intense and fraught, but who does and does not get naked on camera is notable.
Like many other shows featuring nudity, most of the characters who are actually naked onscreen are minor characters or extras, while the main cast can usually avoid taking their clothes off. For example, Nate’s father Cal (Eric Dane), a well established male actor, uses a prosthetic penis in his scenes while many other cast members, and specifically main female characters, are actually naked. This is especially true for Sydney Sweeney’s character Cassie, who is frequently naked for shallow reasons. The complaints that Cassie’s nudity this season has been excessive are ironic considering Sweeney herself has said she was originally] intended to have more nude scenes, but asked show creator Sam Levinson to cut some of them. There seems to be a disconnect between what the creators were trying to accomplish and how viewers are interpreting the numerous scenes where Cassie is naked. Unlike other uses of nudity in the show, it feels gratuitous and cheap.
Other shows have exhibited a similar issue. In season one of “The Witcher,” powerful mage Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) was frequently naked, usually gratuitously, but by season two, her nudity was silently removed. This is likely in response to criticisms that the show’s nudity was excessive, especially when the titular character, played by Henry Cavill, was able to keep his clothes on. “The Witcher” continues to feature plenty of naked unnamed female characters though, so it clearly has not learned its lesson.
Some peer shows of “Euphoria” like “Sex Education” and “Bridgerton” that also feature themes of sexual exploration have shown a rise in the explicitness of sex scenes — including those which many would consider benign. Even recent teen shows that don’t overtly focus on sex like “Tiny Pretty Things,” “Ginny & Georgia,” “Dynasty” and even “Riverdale” feature a higher quantity of intimate scenes. There is also the added dimension that in many of these shows, but particularly in “Euphoria,” the naked characters engaging in sexual activities are minors being played by actors in their twenties. The common trend of casting actors who are six or more years older than their characters is not new and is damaging in lots of ways, but obviously a show like “Euphoria” wouldn’t be legal or appropriate without adult actors. Yet how ethical is it to watch actors pretending to be minors engaging in this sort of behavior?
This sexualization of characters also prompts questions of what it means to have explicit scenes. It seems that the standard for intimacy in TV is shifting, where it is no longer enough that it is communicated to the viewer that characters are having sex or naked but the actors need to be visibly unclothed.
For sex scenes, it’s strange that there now appears to be a higher expectation of implied nudity. After all, why should actors be asked to simulate sex acts while naked? Why does anyone need to watch that? Porn exists for a reason. Even though everyone involved is a professional and there will be an intimacy coordinator so that everyone is comfortable, it is still concerning that these sorts of scenes are becoming so commonplace.
Nudity in TV is not a bad thing and can add value to a story. However if it is only used for shock factor to justify a higher age rating or because someone on the creative team managed to get their wet dream into the script, then it’s just uncomfortable and unnecessary for everyone.
—Staff Writer Millie Mae Healy can be reached at email@example.com.