Warning: The following post contains spoilers for episode three of HBO’s Euphoria.
Last night, HBO’s Euphoria angered perhaps one of the largest non-BTS music fanbases on the planet—Directioners, fans of English boy band One Direction—when the series brought its own raunchy backstage BJ fan fiction to multi-colored life.
Narratively, the very TV-MA episode helped further the show’s double life thematic—that teenagers have dueling existences on cyberspace and in meatspace. The series frequently underscores that double life through depictions of on-screen texting and making split screen sequences common.
One double-life scene, however, seemed less playful than offensive: the erotic fan-fiction career of Kat Hernandez. Kat’s double life is perhaps most pronounced among the show’s many confused teenagers. In meatspace, Kat is goaded and harassed. Though she’s friends with some of the school’s popular girls, she remains always on the periphery, her character positioned always on the edge of scenes and blocked out of frame. But in cyberspace, Kat takes center stage. (And, quite awkwardly, center Skype frame). Her Tumblr fan fiction—due to it’s lurid sexual content and “NC-17 ratings”—nets her hundreds of thousands of reads. Kat is social media famous.
Her biggest online erotica story, titled “The First Night,” recounts a sexual encounter between One Direction band mates Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson.
As Zendaya’s Rue narrates, an animated re-telling of Kat’s fiction shows viewers the two singers backstage, embracing, and then performing fellatio on each other. The animation sequence, which seems to parody overly-expressive Japanese anime, then ends with a certain numerical sex position silhouetted against an acid-tripped, cosmic night.
The whole scene is ridiculous, obscene, and, honestly, hilarious. The loudest parts of the internet, however, didn’t seem to think so, and many Directioners dragged the show through the mud.
The latest episode of ‘Euphoria’ focused on a character who’s a popular fanfiction writer.
During the show, an animated NC-17-rated fan fiction scene with 1D’s Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson was shown, and fans are asking for the scene to be removed. pic.twitter.com/xBV2oEUBhZ
For all the anger, the fanfic sequence actually makes sense, not only tonally (the show’s dark humor does occasionally succeed), but also generationally. Actress Barbie Ferreira, who plays Kat, noted in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that the band’s superstardom was a particular fixture of her high school years (she’s now 22). “It’s such a reality for so many people, and so many children and teens that are fans just have this escapist world.”
That escapism was also the point.
Euphoria creator Sam Levinson told the LA Times that the choice of the animated sequence was in keeping with the show’s subjective realism. Levinson said he was interested exploring Kat’s “burgeoning curiosity about sexuality.” Animation, Levinson said, best reflected that kind of fantasy.
That Kat had been previously hurt emotionally by a boy at school highlights why the fantasy involving “real men” who “can’t hurt her” would be so attractive.
In the end, the sequence (which lasts less than two minutes) plays out in a relatively harmless manner, and it’s demonstrably Kat’s fantasy on display, not Styles or Tomlinson’s own sexuality. Besides, if you watched last night’s episode and chose this scene to be most offended by, well, we’ve got some questions for you.
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