Love, Addiction, Loss – A Deep Dive into Euphoria’s Special Episode

Alright, folks. It’s here. The post I’ve been dying to write since the start of this blog. Yes, that’s right. It’s a post about HBO’s Euphoria. It’s a fantastic hit drama that debuted last year, and with season two having been written before the pandemic hit, filming the rest of the series proved a little more difficult. The series grew so big that fans have been clamoring for new content nonstop, from sneak peeks to music soundtracks for the show. Thankfully, the show managed to put out a special episode that serves as a sort of epilogue for the first season, while also being a Christmas special. With many fans still reeling from the HBO gods appeasing them, it finally brought an opportunity to discuss the series, and new special episode, as a whole.

For those who aren’t aware, Euphoria is a show starring Zendaya as Rue, someone who struggles with drug addiction, and is in love with a girl named Jules. That being the central narrative, the series focuses on other characters, and the show follows storylines about students in school who struggle with relationships, sexual and queer identities, toxic masculinity and body image as well. While it may feel like a cable network’s mature take on a high school drama like Degrassi, HBO and Sam Levinson never holds back punches. The show is pretty raw. It’s real. In the first episode alone, Zendaya’s character says “I know a lot of you probably hate me right now…If I could be a different person right now, I promise you I would. Not because I want it, but because they do. And therein lies the catch.” She lets us know shit is going to get rough, and by all standards, it does. Without giving too much away of the entirety of the season, it’s worth noting that the show is pretty damn good. Leonardo DiCaprio likes it, too. With that said, go watch the series if you haven’t already, and then come back to read this, because we will be getting into FULL SPOILERS.

Trouble Don’t Last Always

Sobriety, and the Relapse

“The hardest thing about having the disease of addiction, aside from having the disease, is that no one in the world sees it as a disease.”

The episode starts with Zendaya’s Rue and her co-star in the episode, Colman Domingo, as N.A. sponsor Ali. They both are at a diner on Christmas Eve, just eating and chatting, as Rue discusses her newfound balance of her mental and emotional state now that she’s been clean and sober. However, Ali quickly notices strange behavior in Rue, which as it turns out, is because she isn’t sober anymore. After becoming sober for Jules, Rue gets her heartbroken and is abandoned by Jules and relapses. The two discuss the struggle of staying sober after falling back onto drugs. It’s sort of the entire focus of the episode, which bored a portion of viewers who were expecting this episode to have more than just the few characters. At the end of the day, this was not meant to be season two, and this episode was one of the few episodes that managed to actually have Rue gain true help over her addiction, despite how in denial she was at the beginning. The episode is, in its simplest form, an NA meeting and eventually, a full blown therapy session for Rue, and for us as well.

Second Step: “A Power Greater Than Me…”

“You ‘ve got to fall in love with the poetry. Because everything else in life will fail you. Including yourself.”

The episode goes deeper than addiction when Rue begins to admit something to Ali, who we later learn is a converted Muslim. She recounts the steps to achieving sobriety, which starts with putting one’s self first. The second step includes acknowledging a higher power above one’s self as well. Essentially, putting faith in God. For Rue, this proves to be difficult for her to do. It’s more than something like atheism; she has a genuine distrust in the notion of a higher power such as God. Rue recounts when she first lost her faith; it happened when she lost her father to cancer. She scoffs at the belief that everyone’s life has a purpose given by God, and argues that this is false; Rue believes that her father’s purpose in life was to raise her and her little sister. With him having passed, she resents the sentiment of this being a part of “God’s plan”. After all, bad things just happen, don’t they? Rue shuts down any acknowledgement of a power higher than herself, which leaves Ali feeling almost defeated. And God bless Ali, this character, because he really stuck around to let Rue open all wounds to him.

A Revolution: “Our Lives Matter”

“Chinese Muslims are sewing these Kaepernick sneakers for 7 cents an hour, and you’re telling me that my Black ass matters. Give me a fucking break.”

Ali tries to console Rue by reminding her that, with each life having a purpose, and each one destined to die for a “Greater Plan,” there is more to living. He compares this to those who have died for the Civil Rights movement to come to fruition, and how their deaths served such a high purpose. He begins to take a look at how revolutions used to change lives for everyone, and Rue jokingly suggests that she starts her own revolution to give her own life meaning. Ali scoffs and says, “Didn’t you hear? The revolution is already here.” Ali begins to explain how every cause spins out into a whole revolution, where it almost becomes a trendy fad for millennials and gen-z kids, and also for big names and companies as well. Ali makes a really funny point here, while taking a jab at capitalism for being “revolutionary” as a means of being popular. He walks into a Nike shop, seeing a mural on the shoe store’s wall saying “Our Lives Matter,” which pleases him. It makes him not only feel safer, but also loved for once. He sees kids, Black and white alike, taking photos with the mural, and he never questions the disingenuous love for the cause, and then he picks up a pair of Nikes and sees the $149.99 price tag, then says “What happened here? I thought you loved my Black ass.” With this hot take on capitalism, Ali brings the conversation back to the point of the matter, the root of it all. He speaks on what it means to start a revolution, and not a hot new hashtag, but a true revolution for yourself. A revolution in your soul, spiritually, can only happen when you change yourself as your core. It takes knowing who you are, who you want to be, and finding the connections between those two in order to make real progress and change.

“I Miss You”: What to Do About Love?

“Me in 20 Years”

At this moment, Ali steps out of the diner to give Rue a few moments to digest all of the heavy sage-like wisdom, and calls his ex-wife to wish her and his children a Merry Christmas. Meanwhile, Rue receives a text from Jules, the girl who broke her heart. The text reads, “I miss you.” This ends up bringing us back to Rue and Jules relationship, which, as it turns out, was a little different in Rue’s head than we were led to believe (she was high all the time, and probably not the best reliable narrator). We hear about Rue’s desire to fix things with Jules, but with Ali’s advice, she realizes that she will never be able to have a better life for herself if she puts her focus and energy into someone else. At the end of the day, she needs to put herself first for her own well-being, instead of this girl she loves; you cannot make a relationship work without fixing and focusing on yourself.

Forgiveness is the Key to Change – “Beyond Forgivable”

“You think, ‘Why change? I’m just a piece of shit. I better keep going now. What’s the difference?’ without realizing that forgiveness is the key to change.”

In order for Rue to begin to forgive herself for becoming sober again, she needs to learn to forgive herself for past mistakes; as Ali puts it, forgiveness is the key to true change. Rue struggles with this, feeling as though she has done things that are beyond forgivable (which is neat, considering that in the initial draft of the pilot’s script, she admitted to killing an abusive jock). The notion of hitting rock bottom is brought up, and Ali regales Rue in a story about his own abusive father, and how he swore to never become anything like him. Years later, Ali finds himself having struggled with the same abusive relationship with his ex-wife that his father had with his mother. He realized the generational trauma was deep, and he needed to break it. Rue sees that, if Ali is preparing to learn to forgive himself for something so unforgivable, then Rue would have to as well.

Dark Times (Forever)

Then, we hear the truth from Rue as she begins to contemplate whether or not she can forgive herself. She admits something to Ali. She says, “I just…don’t plan on being here that long.”

That is the dark truth. After everything that has happened to Rue, from her father she’s lost, the addiction she’s suffered through, and the heartbreak she’s endured, she has decided that she is not willing to forgive herself or start a spiritual revolution at her core. Instead, she would rather just give up on life altogether. But then Ali, being the tough and supportive mentor that he is, calls her bluff.

“Who do you wanna be when you leave this earth?” he asks. “How do you want your mother and sister to remember you as?”

Rue looks up at Ali with tears welling up in her eyes. “As someone who tried really hard to be someone they couldn’t.”

Faith

We do too.

And at that moment, we realize that Rue doesn’t need to have faith in herself; not yet. As long as she has loved ones who have faith in her…she’ll eventually make it, won’t she?

This episode of Euphoria was not only the best deep take into Rue’s character, but it was also some of the greatest content to be put out by the writers, especially during the pandemic with low budget costs, smaller casts, and a single set piece being used. It served as a great epilogue for the first season, and hopefully the next special episode does just as good of a job in that way.

Check out Euphoria on HBO, or stream it on HBO Max.

Interview with Lexie Marie – Influencer to Human Rights Advocate

S: I just wanted to start off by asking you to sort of introduce yourself. You and I are good friends, but there are a handful of readers who might not know you, so this will be for them.

L: My name is Alexis, but I’m primarily known as Lexie Marie. For those of you who don’t know, I consider myself to be a social media influencer, but for the most part I’m just a regular girl with big goals and dreams, and I’m motivated with a huge passion to bring change in this world.

S: Since you’ve been active as Lexie Marie online, you’ve garnered a bit of a fanbase, you know? People don’t just follow you, but there are a lot of people who are influenced by your style, looks, and trend-setting vlog posts on YouTube. Do you feel as though your social media influence can make a big positive impact?

L: I definitely feel like my social media influence can make a significant impact! I want to be able to inspire my fans to be whatever they want to be. I want to inspire them to not be afraid, and to be their unique selves. I want to use my voice and platform to promote & raise awareness on the Black Lives Matter movement, LGBTQ+ rights, immigration reform, and especially help give voice to victims and survivors of sexual assault. 

S: I’m glad you’re mentioning more than one way of making a positive impact. Lately, it feels as though some issues get drowned out by the sound of the next viral movement.

L: I would rather be known as a girl who cares about the world than the girl in it for the fame and money. I know what my intentions are.

S: The power of intention is real. Especially now, because things are really intense in the world right now, with a lot of very bad and heinous things happening. It’s a worldwide awakening, and there’s a movement for just about every injustice that our oppressors need to be held accountable for. What’s one that you’re looking to bring change to?

L: Human rights for everyone is something that we cannot ignore right now. That being said, justice needs to be served for the black community; the black community continues to suffer and fight for their lives every day. We also need to be more accepting towards the LGBTQ+ community and learn that we are not different from the other, and that everybody is equal. Families are being separated and destroyed at the U.S. border as well. All of these things are always happening, and we need to support these oppressed victims. One thing that I do intend on bringing change to is sexual violence, not just against women, but against men as well. That includes sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexual abuse, etc. I believe that our victims of sexual violence do not get the recognition or voice that they deserve. It’s something that should be taken very seriously, and there aren’t enough people trying to normalize having this necessary conversation. It can cause a lifetime of pain, suffering, and trauma to one’s mind and body. We need to wake up, open our eyes, and do better for each other.

S: Yes, we need to do better for our brothers and sisters right now. All of the abuse and violence against minorities and survivors of sexual assault needs to end now. Sexual assault is a painful thing for us both to talk about; “My Body, My Choice” is something that comes to mind when I think of consent with my body. Do you think there is more to the idea behind “My Body, My Choice”?

L: I definitely do believe there is so much more to the idea of “My Body, My Choice”. Of course, the main thing is that it supports the idea of having the option to have an abortion or not, and I also believe it has a lot to do with consent, body positivity, and sexuality. It helps women to be free from pretty much everything society tells them not to do. For example, if you’re an exotic dancer or stripper, you’re automatically considered a whore. If you sleep with a handful of men, people will say you don’t have dignity or self respect for yourself, and call you a slut; these are just a bunch of judgmental and toxic views against women that needs to change. It’s 2020, I think our views against women should’ve changed a long time ago. ❤️

S: I agree, we have come so far, and we should continue to progress forward rather than regress backwards in 2020. Letting go of the shaming and the labeling is a great first step to doing so. There needs to be an active change in how women are ridiculed, and how we need to stop silencing women’s voices. Before we wrap up, I noticed there was a new non-profit you started promoting on your Instagram. Tell us about it.

L: It’s called RAINN, and it stands for Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network; It’s the largest anti-sexual violence organization ever constructed. It is created to help survivors/victims who suffer from any form of sexual violence by providing counseling services, important information which can also educate the public more about the topic, as well as provides a hotline to those who are in need of aid after an assault, or for those who want to help loved ones. I think it’s important that we get Involved with RAINN, help donate, and bring awareness to those who suffer everyday from these kinds of things. You’ll never know whose life you might help or change, and making a change is absolutely a good feeling.


She’s right. There is a lot that needs to be done before we move forward. The oppression, the abuse, the suffering that is being inflicted on us needs to come to an end. Obviously, writing about this can only do so much. Reading about these things doesn’t do enough for change, but it starts with you and me. Remember, there is no activism without self-activism.

Learn more about RAINN here.

Follow Lexie on her YouTube, Instagram, or Twitter.

Stay safe, folks, and please, be kind to one another.

The Hate Plague, and the Other Half of 2020

Hi, folks. I missed y’all. It’s been hard to write these past few days, if I’m being quite honest. I’ve been caught up between two distinctly different worlds these past few days. You know what I’m talking about. The way we wake up now, and it feels like if we try really hard, and I mean really try, things can sort of look like they used to before. I mean, hey, now we can sort of go out places! Keeping in mind, of course, the necessity of face masks still. Also, no large gatherings in, say, movie theaters or pools this summer. But, squint hard enough, and it’ll start to look just like things used to be.

Do you remember how things used to be? When the biggest thing on the news would be the showcase of the effects of police brutality and the injustices that black communities faces every day? Black Lives Matter, of course. They always have, and for anyone who is surprised that this is surfacing amidst everything else, it is time to really process that as truth, and if any reader is against that notion and sentiment, now would be a good time to turn away from this page.

It’s currently 11:14 pm, on June 11th of 2020. At the start of this year, prosperity and a higher good were things I began to spiritually manifest, and to be quite frank, it’s been difficult recently. Between the start of 2020 and now, we have all collectively undergone a massive shift in terms of energy and understanding. Between individual human rights being distorted by the COVID-19 outbreak and being trampled on by the police, things just do not feel safe anymore. I’ve had to take a break from my day job, beginning to feel a lack of security and safety from not just the initial virus, but from the other virus.

Oh? Have I lost you? Yes, in case you weren’t sure, there are two virus outbreaks. COVID-19 and Hate.

I’m calling it the Hate Plague. You know, like the Bubonic Plague from way back when. Only, the plague this year is fueled by hate. It’s just hate. Hate that has been systematically structured to oppress, manipulate, and break down the human spirit as a means to force us to “settle” into the American Dream. But that’s the thing about dreams, isn’t it? You have to be asleep to enjoy it.

It’s time to wake up.

As a creator and writer, I’m all for dreams, but there is no sleeping past anything that’s happened in the past week. Just in the last week alone, at my day job at a local food joint, I had to deal with angry racists, homophobes, and surprisingly the least threatening encounter, being a cop parking his police vehicle across two parking spots. Thankfully, none of these people posed as genuine threats. Not at my workplace, that is; at the end of the day, I’m at my workplace, and people know better than to assault workers at their job, because that’s an easy lawsuit for me to win. That being said, the hate is real, the anger is almost tangible, and it doesn’t mean that these people aren’t one bad day away from taking it out on me and my job’s establishment.

So let’s backtrack, because this isn’t about my experiences. No, my experiences aren’t where the danger and hatred lie. I let those experiences wash over me, because outside of my reality, and presumably yours, there are worst things happening. And we’re going to talk about it.

Starbucks, the coffee shop that you may or may not rely on to start your mornings, has banned workers from wearing Black Lives Matter clothing at work. Mind you, their uniform only consists of an apron and hat. But, no, they cannot wear t-shirts, or hats, or I don’t know, maybe even custom masks, that say “Black Lives Matter.” Why? It’s a movement, just as valid, important, and necessary as a pink ribbon supporting Cancer Awareness, am I right? No? Well, then, let me ask you this. If Blue Lives Matter was ever a thing, then there’s no reason for any employer to not allow their employees to wear Black Lives Matter merch. No ands, ifs, or buts about it. Starbucks coffee tastes like cardboard trash anyway, so I have no problem boycotting them. Do you?

Some of you may know me as a former Bobcat over at Texas State University. If you know me from there, or are a Bobcat yourself, or are just a college student of any sort, then this story needs to be heard. In Austin, a TXST student, Justin Howell, stood next to a protester who threw a water bottle near a police officer. Mind you, it was a WATER BOTTLE. You know, plastic. Half of my readers probably don’t even think twice about whether its trash or recyclable. You know, since it’s plastic. Non-lethal, right? Well, the police officer who saw this bottle in the air shot Howell with a “less-lethal” munition in the head. Knocked the kid out. Protesters helped carry him to the police department, in hopes of seeking medical attention for Howell. Of course, the police proceeded to shoot the group with “less-lethal” munitions. I keep placing quotations strategically around “less-lethal” because it isn’t the same as non-lethal. These are heavy, metal cores inside of rubber bullets bigger than tear gas canisters, and even those are getting thrown and shot at people head on. Here’s footage, because a picture is worth a thousand words, and this is worth much more than that.

Maybe you’re tired of seeing the graphic content, right? The violent, shaky video footage, it’s all…what, out of context? Sure, sure, let’s say that the issue stems from lack of context. Well, this Instagram user, @bysalsabil, shared a pretty disturbing photo, in my opinion, of an officer from NYC, Officer Quinn, blowing a kiss at the protester as they took a photo of him. The caption in the photo describes the first hand experience from the photographer’s end, and to my knowledge, omitted more disturbing details outside of that single snap-shot moment. This is for those who, I don’t know, only need a photo that’s worth only a thousand words.

If a thousand is a good worth, then I suppose $1M is as well? Or, $750,000 to be exact, seeing as that’s how much it took to get Thomas Lane, ex-cop charged with George Floyd’s murder over a counterfeit $20 bill, out of jail. Because, at the end of the day he was “just following orders” as a police officer. Where have I heard that before? Somewhere in my textbooks from high school. I’m sure some of my readers remember, right? No? Nazis. Nazis used to say they were just following orders. That’s where I’m going with this.

Well, since the Floyd case has essentially been open and such, with the murderers *ahem* oh sorry, ex-cops, just getting a slap on the wrist with their get-out-of-jail-free card, things can calm down now, right? No. No they cannot. A black EMT, Breonne Taylor, was shot in her sleep EIGHT TIMES, by two officers conducting a drug sting. She was asleep. Eight shots were not necessary whatso-fucking-ever. A law has been passed in honor of Breonne Taylor, which prohibits officers entering anywhere without knocking first. So, essentially vampire rules. Cool. Kinda stupid that they think they can barge into, say, my house or yours, and potentially shoot us eight times in our sleep because they think a drug ring might be operated out of our home. Except no, that shouldn’t be the case at all. Whatever, her murderers are walking free, just like Thomas Lane is. Real life villains, ladies and gents.

Oh wait. No, I lied. The villains are stemming from the entirety of the US, if I’m being blunt. They’ve been abusing our human rights for, like, a month, but has slowly been going on all year long, if I’m being perfectly honest. Which I am, because you’re my reader, and all I wish to do for my readers, is to enlighten you in the slightest way. My fluff pieces about anime and comics may lighten things a little, but I’m tired of pretending that the blog titled Stars and Monsters wasn’t ever going to shine light on the monsters in this world. Because they’ve been here, folks. But it’s just like I said; it’s time to wake up.

Me Explaining This to My Family on Facebook

I’m sorry for the dramatic shift in tone. I’m also sorry I hadn’t addressed any of this sooner. I took a week of silence as a creator to help amplify black voices, and after that week, things began to weigh down on me, and my outlet was, of course, writing. If you’ve made it this far, than congratulations; You’re concerned enough to want hope.

Click here for Places to Donate and Sign Petitions.

In case some of you want more accessibility to footage that isn’t from Twitter or Instagram, and you’re tired of the propaganda the news airs, then here. It’s a Google Spreadsheet with a ton of videos of police brutally being violent with protesters, with categorization options. Yes, there’s enough footage to categorize the videos. That’s too many cases of what police are doing to people out there. Do with this what you will. It’s for you to digest, and use your best judgement of the subject matter.

And, again, in case there’s any confusion about any of this…Black Lives Matter. Simple as that. Didn’t need to say it again, but we tend to forget about important things, with the way we move onto the next hashtag and trend. For once, let’s not forget. Let’s not go back to sleep.

Notes with Sources (straight from Twitter and Instagram because, let’s be real, that’s where the raw stuff is at. This is for my Facebook readers, for easy access.

Starbucks Bans Workers from Wearing Black Lives Matter Merch (Via Twitter)

Young TXST Student Injured in Austin by PD (via Twitter)

Cinematic Photograph of Cop “Blowing a Kiss” to the Camera (via Instagram)

Ex-Cop Charged with George Floyd’s Murder Released after Posting $1M Bail Bond (via Twitter)

Breonne’s Law Passed in Lousville (via Twitter)

US Abuse of Protestors and Their Human Rights (via Twitter)

Google Spreadsheet of Police Brutality footage (Updated and Categorized)