EUPHORIA’S MINOR MOTHER
Euphoria debuted on HBO in 2019, meeting with almost universal critical acclaim. The show is a teen drama that explicitly confronts controversial subjects like drug addiction, abusive relationships, and mental illness. At the show’s center is its narrator and protagonist, Rue. Rue, who is herself an addict, introduces her classmates and their situations in each episode.
A prominent character during the first season is Maddy. Maddy’s life is explored in the episode “’03 Bonnie and Clyde,” when viewers learn about her family’s working-class, Latinx background. Sonia, Maddy’s mother, is a prominent character in this episode, though she retreats later in the season. In her appearances, Sonia demonstrates her love and encouragement for her daughter, but their mother-daughter relationship is complicated by Maddy’s boyfriend, Nate, a white teenager from a wealthy and influential family. In this episode of Euphoria, the roles mothers have in their children’s growth and development is emphasized as their children experience systemic inequalities. Maddy and Sonia’s relationship is a realistic and raw portrayal of the complexities of mother-daughter relationships.
In the introductory montage of “’03 Bonnie and Clyde,” Maddy is portrayed as a frequent pageant winner, encouraged by her mother and father. In these sequences, we see her parents attending, clapping, and smiling at their daughter’s performances and wins. However, later in the montage, when a child molester in the pageant business is ousted, Sonia forbids Maddy from competing. Although Maddy and her parents never directly interact with the offender, Sonia wants to protect her daughter and prevent her from coming into contact with anyone who could harm her daughter. Maddy, however, rejects her mother’s argument and paints Sonia as the villain, standing between her and her dreams.
Maddy and Sonia’s relationship is a realistic and raw portrayal of the complexities of mother-daughter relationships.
As the montage continues, Maddy is said to idealize doing nothing, especially as she observes her mother at work. Maddy’s mother is an esthetician who works at a salon. Her father is constantly unemployed, so Sonia is the family’s primary provider. At Sonia’s job, Maddy observes Sonia giving a woman a pedicure and she glances towards Maddy. Maddy rolls her eyes and looks away from her mother. This shot demonstrates Maddy’s disapproval of her mother’s socioeconomic and physical position (2:04-2:09). As an esthetician, Sonia is at the feet of those who pay her. Seeing her mother at work causes uneasiness for Maddy who fantasizes about a lifestyle where she does nothing like the women sitting in the chairs. Moreover, in Sonia, Maddy sees a possible future where she, like her mother, will have to join the working class to make a living.
As the episode continues Maddy is adamant about not having the same life as her parents, so she falls in love with Nate. Nate and Maddy have a manipulative, physically abusive, on-again, off-again relationship which ignites a confrontation between herself and Sonia. In episode four of the series, Nate chokes Maddy and, in the following episode, no matter how hard Maddy attempts to cover the bruising, the abuse is discovered. The principle reports the bruises to the parents of the two teens and police officers. This prompts an intense argument where Maddy defends Nate and insists that her bruising is a misunderstanding. Since Maddy is still a minor, Sonia stands her ground and presses charges against Nate. Again, in this instance Sonia attempts to protect her daughter from being exposed to further violent attacks from her boyfriend. Sonia also declares that Nate “needs to know that there are consequences.” Thinking that Nate’s influential family will not be able to get around the legal system, she uses it to bring justice for her daughter. Later in the episode, Sonia and Maddy continue their argument and Maddy exclaims, “The one thing I know is that Nate loves me no matter what!” Since Maddy does not want the same relationship her parents have, Maddy continually defends her relationship with Nate and again makes her mother the bad guy. Like before, Maddy refuses her mother’s arguments and leaves her house looking for support in her friends.
Moreover, in Sonia, Maddy sees a possible future where she, like her mother, will have to join the working class to make a living.
In the final episode of the season, Maddy and her mother have a brief but significant interaction. Titled “And Salt the Earth Behind You,” the final episode merges the storylines of major characters at the high school’s winter formal dance. During this episode, Maddy shares a brief interaction with her mother and has an epiphany about her relationship with Nate. First, while leaving for the dance, Maddy and Sonia say goodbye. As Maddy runs into her friend’s car, Sonia yells, “Have fun, mija!” Maddy smiles and yells back, “I will!” Despite their previous disagreements, Maddy and Sonia share a tender moment where Sonia continues to encourage her daughter and trusts her to be independent. Since her confrontation with Sonia, Maddy realizes that Nate will continue to be physically and verbally abusive as he continues to repress his sexuality. At the dance, Maddy is not Nate’s date, but she does dance with him and tells him, “You’re abusive, psychopathic. […] And most of the time I hate the way you make me feel. It’s not good for us. […] Meaning we shouldn’t be together.” Maddy now understands her mother’s arguments and efforts to keep her safe. She acknowledges the toxic presence Nate has in her life and expresses her desire to leave him. Although by the end of the episode they are not definitively broken up, Maddy takes Sonia’s judgement into account and makes the difficult step of admitting to herself the dangerous relationship she has with Nate.
Euphoria has pushed the boundaries of the teen drama genre in its presentation of controversial topics such as the abusive relationship between Maddy and Nate. In addition to the emotional and physical abuse Maddy suffers at the hands of Nate, their relationship highlights how systemic inequalities impact teenagers. Since Maddy has grown up witnessing the disproportion between her mother and the upper class, she is attracted to Nate’s wealth and privilege, but Sonia is left to suffer the consequences of these inequalities. Sonia attempts to protect Maddy from Nate’s abuse and encourage her daughter to grow from her mistakes. By the end of the season, Sonia and Maddy’s relationship is still developing as Maddy begins to accept her mother’s position.
Julissa Guerrero Iniguez
Julissa Guerrero Iniguez is a recent graduate from the University of California, Riverside. She has a BA in English with a minor in Latin American Studies. During college, she was a contributing writer at Her Campus and worked part-time at a retail store. She lives in Los Angeles.