When the finale of the second season of “Euphoria” aired Sunday night on HBO, the social media dialog concerning 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However a real-life individual twice as outdated as any pupil on the present’s East Highland Excessive Faculty was additionally a serious a part of the fan dialogue and meme-ing on TikTok, Twitter, Reddit and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 title), 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 title appeared in 300,000 tweets since this season started airing on Jan. 9, Twitter stated 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 acquired practically 40 million all-time views, the corporate stated.
Whereas some status tv reveals 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 throughout the later seasons of an earlier HBO hit, “Recreation 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 just lately, “a very bizarre option to have interaction 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 reveals prefer it do, HBO confirmed, so followers may really feel it honest to impute most inventive selections 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 widespread tradition: folks of colour, 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 counsel he must be taken off the present. It’s clearly his child,” stated Drew Gregory, a filmmaker and critic who has written about “Euphoria” for the queer information website Autostraddle. However she described followers’ irritation with Levinson as ensuing exactly from issues he had finished proper in writing, casting and directing.
“You created these characters,” she stated, describing some followers’ perspective. “I’ve grown connected. And now you’re letting them down and letting me down.”
Paul Sales space, a professor of media and cinema research at DePaul College, stated Levinson’s curious standing represents without delay a continuation of developments in fan tradition relationship again many years and a recent acceleration of these developments.
Social media, he stated, “makes you’re feeling a part of a neighborhood.” 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 practically 19 million viewers since its premiere, together with on each HBO and HBO Max, the community stated, which was greater than two-and-a-half occasions 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 girl characters. Cassie, a high-school character performed by Sydney Sweeney, is filmed topless in a number of episodes. Sweeney stated in an interview this yr 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, instructed Self-importance 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 laborious 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 position this season for the character Kat, performed by Barbie Ferreira. In a gaggle interview in The Minimize, Ferreira stated her character’s arc this season “is a bit more inside 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 can be carefully recognized with marginalized teams to which they don’t belong.
Some followers have questioned why characters who’re various 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 by these completely different, various characters,” Hodges stated 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 stated 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,” stated Zendaya in the identical speak, including to Levinson, “I’ve this concept that every one the characters are simply completely different sides of your persona.”
The playwright Jeremy O. Harris, a co-producer this season, defended Levinson in a TikTok video. “It’s been actually enjoyable to see folks speak about ‘Euphoria’ and make theories,” he stated, however insisted the set was each secure and enjoyable for the solid.
Levinson and others related to the present have stated there’s substantive inventive collaboration between Levinson and solid 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 by the lens of his identification, however reward his imaginative empathy in voicing his considerations by characters who are usually not completely like himself.
“Let’s open this dialog up,” stated Hadera McKay, a sophomore at Emerson Faculty. 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 girl and a white Jewish father, and “Malcolm & Marie,” a movie Levinson wrote and directed that appeared on Netflix final yr (and which additionally stars Zendaya).
McKay stated that she had “felt seen” by Levinson’s writing. “A lot of the critics have been white and critiquing his use of Black characters to explain one thing that was his expertise,” she stated. “I felt that was too reductive.”