When the finale of the second season of “Euphoria” aired Sunday night on HBO, the social media dialog in regards to the gritty teen drama revolved round one character’s loss of life, a battle royale between two different characters and the arc of Rue, the troubled teen performed by Zendaya.
However a real-life particular person twice as previous as any pupil on the present’s East Highland Excessive Faculty was additionally a serious a part of the fan dialogue and meme-ing on TikTok, Twitter, Reddit and Instagram. And a lot of the social media posts about him weren’t compliments, as followers questioned why a number of plotlines had not ended otherwise.
Sam Levinson, who created “Euphoria” (adapting an Israeli program of the identical identify), wrote all 18 hourlong episodes and directed all however three of them, has emerged as a central determine within the narrative across the present, with followers routinely taking to social media to criticize his visions of the characters.
His identify appeared in 300,000 tweets since this season started airing on Jan. 9, Twitter mentioned final week, a determine dwarfed by mentions of the present’s hottest characters however virtually unheard-of for a author. (His mentions are roughly akin to these of “#Fexi,” the shorthand for the wished-for romantic pairing of the characters Fezco and Lexi.) On TikTok, movies hashtagged #SamLevinson have obtained almost 40 million all-time views, the corporate mentioned.
Whereas some status tv exhibits have made their showrunners celebrities of a sort, for an offscreen writer-director to characteristic so prominently in fan discourse is uncommon. And the tenor is arguably completely different than through the later seasons of an earlier HBO hit, “Sport of Thrones,” when many followers argued that the showrunners have been making an inferior product. Even Levinson’s critics admit that berating him for ill-serving a present they love — the identical present he’s making — is, as Slate’s Madeline Ducharme wrote lately, “a extremely bizarre solution to interact in a discourse about your favourite tv present.” (Levinson declined to remark.)
The extraordinary discourse round Levinson outcomes from a number of notable options of “Euphoria.” It has no writers’ room, as most exhibits prefer it do, HBO confirmed, so followers would possibly really feel it honest to impute most inventive choices to Levinson. It has ballooned in recognition, drawing outsize consideration. Maybe most significantly, it tells complicated tales about folks whose tales are sometimes not lent nuance in in style tradition: folks of coloration, drug addicts, queer and transgender folks — and high-schoolers.
Put all of it collectively, and also you get in Levinson an artist whom followers like to hate, who makes one thing they love to like.
“It’s humorous to recommend he ought to be taken off the present. It’s clearly his child,” mentioned Drew Gregory, a filmmaker and critic who has written about “Euphoria” for the queer information web site Autostraddle. However she described followers’ irritation with Levinson as ensuing exactly from issues he had performed proper in writing, casting and directing.
“You created these characters,” she mentioned, describing some followers’ angle. “I’ve grown hooked up. And now you’re letting them down and letting me down.”
Paul Sales space, a professor of media and cinema research at DePaul College, mentioned Levinson’s curious standing represents without delay a continuation of developments in fan tradition courting again a long time and a recent acceleration of these developments.
Social media, he mentioned, “makes you’re feeling a part of a group.” He added, “As a result of as a fan you’re contributing to a bigger cultural understanding of the textual content, there’s a way of possession that takes place.”
Viewership has exploded this season, with the primary episode garnering almost 19 million viewers since its premiere, together with on each HBO and HBO Max, the community mentioned, which was greater than two-and-a-half instances the variety of viewers for final season’s premiere over the course of that season.
One frequent fan objection is that Levinson inappropriately sexualizes sure lady characters. Cassie, a high-school character performed by Sydney Sweeney, is filmed topless in a number of episodes. Sweeney mentioned in an interview this 12 months that she had pushed again in opposition to being nude in some scenes that Levinson had scripted — including that Levinson readily accepted her options. A second actress, Minka Kelly, informed Vainness Truthful that she too had objected to being filmed suggestively in a single scene this season, prompting Levinson to rewrite it.
Each actresses made clear they’d no exhausting emotions. However many “Euphoria” followers do.
Francesca Hodges, a senior on the College of California, Berkeley, wrote in a student-run newspaper that Sweeney’s conspicuous nudity and intercourse scenes positioned her squarely “within the male gaze,” including that “Levinson makes use of Sweeney as a vessel for the projection of male fantasy.”
Some followers have objected to a diminished function this season for the character Kat, performed by Barbie Ferreira. In a gaggle interview in The Lower, Ferreira mentioned her character’s arc this season “is a bit more inner and a bit mysterious to the viewers.”
A subtext to lots of the complaints about Levinson is one that’s acquainted from a wider dialogue in lots of cultural spheres over who will get to inform which tales, and about creators’ appropriations of characters, eventualities and experiences which are intently recognized with marginalized teams to which they don’t belong.
Some followers have questioned why characters who’re numerous in lots of dimensions reply to a 37-year-old white man who grew up within the leisure trade. (Levinson’s father is the Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson.)
“It’s the entire premise of this straight cis man who’s writing a story about himself — about his previous struggles with dependancy — however then doing it via these completely different, numerous characters,” Hodges mentioned in an interview.
Levinson has described the present typically and, specifically, Rue — who narrates the present — as extraordinarily private, saying he drew on his personal expertise with drug dependancy.
“I really feel like I’m watching a model of myself navigating the world at a younger age,” Levinson mentioned in a clip produced by HBO in 2019, when the primary season ran.
“This present can’t be written by anybody else as a result of it’s so private,” mentioned Zendaya in the identical discuss, including to Levinson, “I’ve this concept that each one the characters are simply completely different aspects of your character.”
The playwright Jeremy O. Harris, a co-producer this season, defended Levinson in a TikTok video. “It’s been actually enjoyable to see folks discuss ‘Euphoria’ and make theories,” he mentioned, however insisted the set was each secure and enjoyable for the forged.
Levinson and others related to the present have mentioned there may be substantive inventive collaboration between Levinson and forged members. The one time he shared a writing credit score, it was with Hunter Schafer, the transgender actress who performs Jules, a trans character who was the main focus of the episode.
The episode “excites as a result of it’s not only one voice, letting a breath of recent air into quarantine-tight quarters,” the critic Alison Herman wrote in The Ringer.
Some followers analyze Levinson’s work via the lens of his id, however reward his imaginative empathy in voicing his considerations via characters who usually are not completely like himself.
“Let’s open this dialog up,” mentioned Hadera McKay, a sophomore at Emerson School. She wrote a column in a student-run newspaper that insisted it was necessary to look at Levinson’s “use of Blackness,” however nonetheless discovered issues to admire about it in “Euphoria,” the place Rue is the daughter of a Black lady and a white Jewish father, and “Malcolm & Marie,” a movie Levinson wrote and directed that appeared on Netflix final 12 months (and which additionally stars Zendaya).
McKay mentioned that she had “felt seen” by Levinson’s writing. “Many of the critics have been white and critiquing his use of Black characters to explain one thing that was his expertise,” she mentioned. “I felt that was too reductive.”