The Contemporary aesthetics of adolescence
How Euphoria uses style to spectacularize representation of modern youth in the articulation of a teenage gaze
Keywords:teenage gaze, aesthetic pretensions, performance, teenage image, Euphoria
The release of the second series of the HBO hit television series Euphoria was met with large popular culture criticism of the stylization of the teenage experience. In this analysis the method of visual rhetorical analysis is used to demonstrate how visual elements of the television series Euphoria, in its performance, communicates ideas about how Euphoria prescribes audiences a certain way of viewing the experiences of adolescence in a thematically significant way, producing a ‘teenage gaze.’ Euphoria relies on a heavily stylized manifestation of mature themes, described by critics as aesthetic pretensions, to convey a sense of performance that is well suited to the visual rhetorical analysis of color and light, aesthetics of technology, fashion, and setting (Vanity Fair, 2021). This analysis expands on how these visual elements contribute to spectacularized performance, supported by commercial adoption of the teenage image and experience that is oppressive in the othering of real teens and their authentic experiences. In addition to deconstructing spectacle, this analysis focuses on the role of liminality in the visuals presented by Euphoria, and how they negotiate visual and thematic boundaries to produce nostalgia, an essential element of the teenage gaze. The evolution of the teenage gaze, and its study in popular culture contexts, is significant when considering the current sociopolitical environment where youth are often marginalized in the face of crisis. This study of visual rhetoric in Euphoria finds that through the articulation of the teenage gaze amongst mature Euphoria viewers and producers, the teenage experience is assimilated into mainstream culture by a media industry that can force experience into oblivion through stylized, aesthetic representation.
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