Since its debut on HBO in June, “Euphoria” has provoked conversations around teen sexuality, trans representation, full-frontal male nudity, and One Direction slash fiction, to name just a few. Only one of the series’ many envelope-pushing plot-lines revolves around sex work, specifically online webcam modeling, otherwise known as camming. After losing her virginity at a party, Kat the luminous Barbie Ferreira in a breakout role discovers a video of the interaction has been uploaded to PornHub without her consent. Once she sees how many views it’s gotten, she decides to take matters into her own hands and turn a profit from her viral fame.
To some sex workers who watched the show, it’s the rare positive media portrayal of sex work; an empowering and relatable example of sex work as self-actualization, as Kat learns to love her body and take ownership of her sexuality. For others, the character’s arc by the end of Season 1 is not only unrealistic but worrisome, and tainted by the show’s overwhelmingly male gaze and highly critical lens on porn.
“I like that sex work is only a small part of her storyline. I think that humanizes sex workers as multi-dimensional,” said Allie Oops, a queer indie porn performer and filmmaker who also works as an on-set intimacy coordinator.
“I think it's a very realistic portrayal,” said Ari, a therapist and former sex worker who has worked as a camgirl. “She's so smart. She sees that people really liked her video and she's like, ‘I'm gonna capitalize on this.’ I identified with that so much. I was like ‘Yes, bitch. Exactly.’ I saw her wheels turning. I had the same thing happen that caused me to go into sex work myself. If somebody's giving you that kind of attention, why not make money off of it?”
Almost instantly, Kat finds a generous client who showers her with money for humiliating him, otherwise known as a pay pig, or financial domination. Later, an anonymous client buys her entire Amazon wish list before she even agrees to a session.
“You don't just put up a video online and it goes viral and you suddenly have tons of cash pigs. There's all these rich men just willing to give her so much money without her showing her face,” said Oops. “It takes months, even years of full-time sex work to build a clientele and start making decent money. It just didn't connect to what I know about sex work.”
“She’s just figuring it out. She's kind of fumbling through what her boundaries are, what are hard no's, what feels flexible, she's just exploring her sexuality both professionally and personally in a pretty realistic way. She's trying to figure out what her worth is. Sex work is just a minor part of that,” added Ari.
Adapted from the eponymous Israeli series, “Euphoria” was created, written, produced, and directed by Sam Levinson — by all accounts a straight, white, cisgender man. It’s also executive-produced by Drake. The teen-drama-for-adults is ripe with complex female and genderqueer characters, and the central romantic friendship between Rue Zendaya and Jules Hunter Schafer has been hailed as a highlight. As Levinson’s name cycles endlessly through the end credits, it’s impossible to forget that everything onscreen is filtered through his male gaze. In the case of Jules being an object of desire, this is undoubtedly a positive shift for trans representation.
“The sex work plotline seems to be written by a man's shallow understanding of someone's relationship to sex work. A lot of the show feels similarly male gazey — lacking depth in the most sexualized characters,” said Oops. “The writer's own negative relationship to porn and sex work comes through at many moments.”
She cites a scene in the show’s controversial first episode, a “rape fake-out” where the camera freezes on a frame of Cassie Sydney Sweeney being choked during sex and saying “no.” “I promise you that this doesn't end in a rape,” says lead character Rue Zendaya in her direct-to-audience voiceover. “But here's the thing, everyone on the planet watches porn — fact — and if you were to click on the 20 most popular videos on Pornhub right now, this is basically what you'd see.” The screen then cuts to a dizzying montage of laptops opening and pants unzipping, spliced with disembodied images of extreme pornography, the use of which HBO allegedly did not get permission, a claim the network denies.
“You didn't license porn because you don't see porn as valuable, you don't see the humanity of the performers involved, you think it's all for your disposal. To put porn stars on an international TV show without their consent is in act of violence against sex workers — you are outing them. You can't make a hot take on revenge porn while simultaneously pirating sexual content from real life sex workers. The juxtaposition of that is really bizarre,” Oops said, admitting that her opinion of the show is filtered through knowledge of the alleged licensing controversy.
“It's such a shallow take that porn influences violence in teenage boys. It's the lack of pleasure based sex-ed that is the real issue here. He's constantly taking jabs at porn on one hand, yet pornifying many of the teenage girls on the show.”
The time and care put into getting the Jules character right — Levinson reportedly consulted transgender sensitivity trainer Scott Turner Schofield extensively — doesn’t seem to have translated to the sex work elements. HBO confirmed the production did not consult any sex workers in the development of the show. In Kat’s last interaction with a client, her overly generous pay pig uses a creepy voice modulator to deepen his voice, and she slams the laptop shut and walks away. Is this foreshadowing a darker relationship to sex work for the next season, or an example of Kat having good boundaries?
“For that [much money] to be dangled in front of her, and for her to listen to her gut and listen to how shaky she felt, to shut the computer and set that boundary, I think that's huge,” Ari said of the computer-slamming scene. “If she didn't listen to herself and felt disoriented and confused, but continued doing the call and then went to bed and was crying and had a nightmare and then wasn't sure if she wanted to do sex work anymore, that would be a really negative portrayal. But this one was really positive. She listened to her gut. She set a boundary.”
Oops pointed out that Kat being underage raises the question around consent, and whether the storyline can even be considered sex work — not to mention the fact that it would be very difficult for her to work online as a camgirl.
“How is she uploading this stuff to the internet being that she's underage? How would a 16-year-old get a sex tape online and be soliciting cam clients?,” she said. “Also, a lot of teenagers who have gone into sex work have gotten there through survival sex work. Often they're queer, they're being kicked out of home, and then turn to sex work. So to see this rich privileged 16-year-old be the face of teen sex work, is this representative of a lot of 16-year-olds who get into sex work?”
It’s unclear whether Kat will continue camming in the second season, and if sex work will ultimately be a tool for liberation or a path to self destruction. But if “Euphoria” wants to do right by its sex worker character, the way it did for Jules, Levinson should listen to sex workers.
“I would like to see her strengthening her boundaries, maybe getting access to sex work community,” said Ari.
Oops has grander ideas.
“I would make her into a sex work rights activist and start standing up to all the slut shaming and revenge porn that's happening at school and organize the other characters around it. I hope she discusses SESTA/FOSTA, censorship and discrimination. I hope to see her get a little more politically charged because of the work.”
Israeli broadcaster Yes has ordered a comedy drama from Betipul In Treatment writer Yael Hedaya and Euphoria co-creator Daphna Levine.
Fifty is an eight-part series from Endemol Shine Israel that tells the story of 49-year-old widowed screenwriter Alona Nachmias, played by Ilanit Ben-Yaakov who is struggling to raise her three children; 22-year-old Carmel, 17-year-old Yali and 11-year-old Shira.
Alona has two important goals to achieve before she turns 50. Firstly, to sign a development deal for a comedy series she wants to write about 50-year-old women. Secondly, to have sex. By the end of the season she achieves one of these.
Created and written by Hedaya, the series is directed by Levine and stars Ilanit Ben-Yaakov, Dudu Elharar, Guy Arieli, Ofri Prishkolnik, with a guest spot from Guri Alfi. Endemol Shine will distribute internationally and holds the format rights to produce or license local versions of the show around the world.
Hedaya said, “Fifty is inspired and fuelled by the charged particles of my life as a writer and a single mother by choice, of three children. The single part was not by choice, but the kids were. Everyone admires me for my courage, but truth is I was probably just exploring new methods of self-destruction. When I turned 50 I decided to let nature do the job, so that I can sit back and enjoy being an aging dysfunctional parent.”
Amir Ganor, CEO of Endemol Shine Israel added, “Fifty is about a woman who would rather drop dead than embrace “The Change” and who believes that characters that embrace things should not be on TV to begin with. “We saw the potential from the very beginning as Yael Hedaya encapsulates the internal conflicts of a time that often feels like the bad remake of adolescence, only this time there's no one to rebel against. This darkly funny series will resonate with audiences anywhere and with such excellent Israeli talent both on and off screen, we are confident it will be a sure-fire hit.”
Sunday night marked the end of season one for HBO's boundary-pushing drama Euphoria, wrapping up eight episodes with breakups, hookups, a drug relapse and — bet you didn't see this coming — an emotional musical number.
Set under the lights of winter formal, Rue Zendaya and Jules Hunter Schafer continue their uncertain romantic relationship, with Rue suggesting that they run away together, only to back out once on the train and have Jules leave without her. Back at school, Nate Jacob Elordi and Maddy Alexa Demie try to make each other jealous by bringing separate dates to the dance, and end the episode with a discussion about their toxic relationship — which they may or may not continue. Cassie Sydney Sweeney has an abortion and breakups with McKay Algee Smith, Kat Barbie Ferreira and Ethan Austin Abrams finally admit their feelings for each other and Fezco Angus Cloud, desperate to pay off the drug dealers blackmailing him, takes a dark turn with a high-risk robbery. The season ends with Rue relapsing after three months sober and a vocal performance by Zendaya in the new song "All For Us," which she performs among a crowd of dancers clad in her signature hoodie.
Following the dramatic finale, The Hollywood Reporter spoke to Euphoria creator Sam Levinson — who has said he mined his own past for much of the show — about that final scene, Rue's fate and what to expect in season two.
How did that final scene come together?
I was writing as we were shooting and I knew where Rue was headed and I knew what was going to happen, but it felt like in some ways seeing her relapse felt dark to me in a way that doesn't fully encapsulate the cycle and the madness of addiction — how you're thrown back into it and thrown out of it and it's dizzying and at times beautiful but also really fucking terrifying. It just felt like that was the right decision emotionally for the piece, so I had written it in there and it came down to the planning and coordination of it. A lot of credit is due to Ryan Heffington for his choreography, which is just absolutely magnificent and beautiful. I think the idea is in the back and forth of Rue getting shoved towards this mountain of bodies and the metaphor of that, and what it means to be an addict and also the people that we've lost to addiction and being pulled up that mountain. It came together in a way that was more emotional than I ever anticipated.
Did you know from the beginning that you wanted Zendaya to do a musical performance at the end? What were those conversations like?
I had had a musical number written into one of the episodes earlier on just because I really love musicals and I thought we could do an interesting take on it given the nature of our show. Also Z is just so unbelievably fucking gifted that it felt like something that we had to tap into because it's an expression of the character and it is so much of this show and it becomes another way to enter her emotional experience. I remember after we shot the pilot I told her that I wanted to do a musical number and she was like, "Are you for real? Are you fucking with me?" And I was like, "No, no, I'm serious." And she was like, "With dancing and singing?" And I was like, "Kind of. I don't know if you're fully dancing but you're definitely singing." She was like, "Let me see it first. I'm curious how you're going to pull this off, but I trust if anyone is going to do it, you could do it in some way that feels right. I can't totally imagine it right now." And then just in terms of working with Labrinth and "All For Us" becoming this thematic thread of the temptation and also the guilt and the shame of addiction and the emotional turmoil that existed within the character of Rue, it just felt right for it to be that song. I talked to Lab about it and Lab had revised certain lyrics toward the end, and then we went into the studio and Z recorded it and just watching her was one of those moments where you're so taken aback and you realize there's absolutely no ceiling for her as an artist. She is so brilliantly talented and such a perfectionist, we had this funny moment where I said to her after watching her work on a certain line for a couple of hours, "By the way, never give me shit for lighting a scene for two hours every again." She was like, "I don't give you shit!" but it was really remarkable to watch her do it and it was nice because I had one of those moments as a writer and director where you've got no responsibility, so you can just watch her creative process unfold. It's really exciting and beautiful.
What did you want to convey or want people to take away from that final scene?
I love what people's interpretations are of it. Rue's not dead, if that's the question. I thought it was interesting when I read a pieceand loved the piece but I think Rue has a big journey ahead of her, and a tough one. It's not something I want to cut short because of who Rue means to me as someone who has battled with addiction and come out the other side, and because I think that there's a lot more to delve into and unpack in terms of the effects of addiction on Rue and on her family and those around her. The possibilities are endless in many ways.
So we can put those "Rue is dead" rumors to rest then?
Yes, Rue is not dead. That I can say for certain.
We also have the realization that Rue's hoodie was her dad's and that's why she wears it everywhere. What was the importance of reveal?
I know Heidiapproaches costume design like a method actor in some way, so she likes backstory to clothing and she thinks about them as well, and I think Z early on had an idea that the hoodie that she wears had belonged to her father, so it was something that they had woven into Rue's story. We see her father wearing it in the hospital and in a few other moments, and as the show went on and I had written the final episode, I was very loose with how I wrote that memory sequence and that montage of her home life because I wanted to allow for as much life to seep into it. As we were shooting it, the slug line is, "Rue's father is wheeled out of the bedroom on a stretcher," and there was this moment where I realized that she should walk in and find that sweatshirt. We placed it there and it just unfolded in a natural way, the way that Z holds it to her face and smells it just killed me. For as rigid as our show is at time aesthetically and narratively, those are the moments where you just allow a certain freedom and how the actors exist in that space. It just felt like the right emotional bookend to that moment in her life, that she's wrapping herself in his hoodie and that being the color and representing the mourning and loss and connection to him. And Heidi had the idea to take that and push it further with the robes and the hoodies in the streets and create this unifying color palate that represents the loss that Rue has felt and the cost of addiction.
This episode featured an intense scene between Jacob Elordi and Eric Dane as father and son, and Jacob revealed he got a concussion from filming that scene. What was that like to shoot?
Reading that was the first time I had ever heard that. As I was reading that I was going, "Wait, what?" We take the safety of our actors very seriously and we had padded the entire floor with soft foam — that's not to say the fight wasn't physical, which it was — but we've got medics on set, we've got stunt coordinators, we have stunt doubles, we have a whole team of people that are looking out for our actors' safety in any number of these scenes that are physical. So when I read that I was a little bit stunned, I have to say, and something that I don't think he communicated to anybody on set because I would've heard about it. So I don't know, maybe he's still in character But that scene was a really frightening scene to shoot because Jacob has a way of being so inside of the character that it's really remarkable and there's so much mystery and pain and anger, and just seeing at the end of this journey, after seeing everything we know about the character, to see it all distilled in that one moment says everything it needed to say. But it was a physical and gut-wrenching scene to shoot.
Now that you're through the season, what reaction to it surprised you the most?
At the end of the day, just the simple fact that people are connecting to this show and the characters in it and are responding to it with such a level of empathy and love and excitement is something that is deeply moving to me. I've done other things, some of which have not been successful, so to make something that people seem to really connect to and really enjoy is beyond anything I could ever dream or wish of, and makes me want to put my head right down and get back to work.
Have you thought about where you're going to take season two?
Yeah, I don't outline when I write because I get bored if I know too much, but I have a pretty clear sense of where it's headed. I'm excited to let the characters lead me in terms of once I start writing. I just follow the characters and allow it to take on its own world. But I've got a fairly clear sense of where it's going and I've already started writing a good portion of it.
Do you have a set number of seasons you'd like to do?
No, I think ultimately this show can exist in many forms and ultimately is about how it evolves. We need to continue to push it in terms of its ideas and characters and themes and also cinematically, and I think as long as we're growing as actors and filmmakers then the possibilities of it are endless. There are new characters who can be woven in, there's new trajectories, there's people who leave and come back, so there's not a set number of seasons that I have in mind but there's definitely stories that I want to tell, particularly about Rue and Rue's family, before we move onto other things.
Some characters like Lexi and Fezco didn't get as much screen time or episodes devoted to their backstory. How did you choose who to explore? And will you explore those characters more next season?
I wrote the role of Lexi for Maudebecause she is a genius, so I've always had a very specific plan for her character. And in terms of Fezco, the same holds true. I have the same wishes that I think the audience has because I'm just so enamored by Fezco. His story didn't belong in season one, it belongs in season two — and that's something that I knew pretty early on. I think what's interesting about the prologues and the design of the show, and knowing that we're making something for television that's released week-to-week, is I want the audience to make certain assumptions about certain characters and I want them to judge them in ways that ultimately get upended once we fully understand the complexity of their lives and what they've been through and how they got to where they are. I think the nature of growing up is the understanding that people are far more complicated than we initially assume and everybody is trying to overcome the little traumas or big traumas in their lives, and that journey of whether or not we overcome them is ultimately what shapes us as human beings. It's been interesting watching it unfold and I'm excited by people who are going to go back and watch it again knowing what they know now. And also going into season two, we know who all of these characters are, so the possibilities of it become pretty exciting from a writing and filmmaking standpoint.
StudioCanal is behind the feature adaptation of 'The Last Letter from Your Lover.'
Augustine Frizzell— the director behind the pilot of HBO's hit show Euphoria— has come aboard to direct the feature film adaptation of Jojo Moyes' The Last Letter from Your Lover.
Moyes' story is a dual narrative that takes place in two different timelines. In 1960, Jennifer Stirling wakes in the hospital and remembers nothing, but finds an impassioned letter, signed simply "B," from a man for whom she seemed willing to risk everything. In 2003, journalist Ellie Haworth stumbles upon the letter and becomes obsessed with learning the unknown lovers' fate.
A casting search is currently underway for the leading women.
Esta Spalding— the showrunner on the Kirsten Dunst comedy series On Becoming a God in Central Florida— is behind the screenplay.
The project has been in development for a while, set up at indie production company the Film Farm. French producer-distributor StudioCanal is now backing the project.
Another adaptation of a Moyes novel, the Emilia Clarke-starring Me Before You, proved to be a sleeper success in 2016, earning over $200 million at the global box office.
Frizzell made her feature directorial debut with the critically well-received indie comedy Never Goin' Back, and gained notices for directing the pilot of the envelope-pushing Euphoria, which stars Zendaya. She also helmed episodes of the second season of Sweetbitter.
[Editor’s note: The following post contains spoilers for “Euphoria.”]
Since the June premiere of HBO’s summer hit “Euphoria,” fans have theorized that Zendaya’s lead character Rue is dead and has been narrating the events of the series from the afterlife think Kevin Spacey in “American Beauty”. “Euphoria” fans have pointed to Rue’s omniscient narration as proof the character is dead, and it’s a fan theory that was only accelerated after the first season finale. The episode ended in ambiguous fashion as Rue relapsed, throwing her into a musical fantasia with clues her interacting with her dead father, her falling off a mountain of people that suggested she might be dead.
“Euphoria” is already renewed for Season 2, but would it kill off its biggest star in the hiatus between seasons? Jacob Elordi, who plays tormented jock Nate, certainly hopes not. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Elordi said he can’t see the “Rue is dead” fan theory shaping out because it’s just not the show creator Sam Levinson has set up.
“That is the first I'm hearing it,” Elordi said when asked about the theory. “My feeling is that that's pretty morbid. That's a different show isn't it? I hope not.”
Elordi couldn’t speak about “Euphoria” Season 2 because he’s totally in the dark about where the series goes next. “I know nothing about season two,” he said. “When we were making season one, I knew nothing about season one. We kind of just go for it. I mean, not that [Levinson is] holding back information or anything. We just finished season one, so I'm good. I can wait.”
Elordi’s Nate had one of the most shocking scenes in the season finale when he went head to head with his father Eric Dane. The fight ignited an emotional breakdown for Nate, which ended with him screaming on his bedroom floor. Elordi told EW that Dane actually got physical with him on set during the filming of the scene with permission, of course.
“He fucking smashed me,” Elordi said. “I was bleeding. I got a concussion. I ended up throwing up after work. It was gnarly. It was really, really gnarly.”
HBO has yet to announce when “Euphoria” will return for a second season, but it most likely won’t happen until summer 2020 or later. The show’s first season is now streaming on HBO Go and HBO Now.
he Season 1 finale of HBO’s new drama series Euphoria drew 530,000 viewers in its premiere airing at 10 PM on Sunday. While that was on the lower end of linear premiere deliveries for the breakout new series starring Zendaya, replays and viewing on HBO GO/NOW brought the total premiere night viewing to 1.2 million viewers — a series high for Euphoria. he gains were driven by a series high performance on digital, where the finale night viewership was up +31% from last week and up +160% from the series premiere night in June.
Euphoria, which has already been renewed for a second season, ranks as HBO's youngest skewing original series and as the network’s second most social series, behind only mega hit Game Of Thrones. Its Season 1 episodes are averaging 5.6 million viewers across all plays/platforms.
Created by Sam Levinson, Euphoria follows a group of high school students as they navigate a minefield of drugs, sex, identity, trauma, social media, love and friendship.