Opinion: Kat’s ‘Love Yourself’ Scene in Euphoria (S2)

The depiction of the online world having serious effects on mental health had everyone raving about Kat’s scene, but was it an accurate representation?

TW: Mental Health

In episode two, season two of Euphoria, which aired on 16th January this year, a particular scene caught everyone’s attention. Kat Hernandez (Barbie Ferreira), a seventeen-year-old student who recently gained newfound confidence in embracing her sexuality and realising her style, finds herself this season questioning what part of her confidence is real.

The scene is narrated by Rue (Zendaya), in which this particular line stood out:

“Kat hated herself. But the problem with hating yourself is that you can’t really talk about it. Because at some point recently the whole world joined a self-help cult and won’t shut the f**k up about it.”

The scene then moves to a deep dive into Kat’s emotions. Influencers in bikinis turn up out of nowhere in her bedroom telling Kat how she is amazing, that she should love herself, how it’s society telling her she is unworthy and not her inner thoughts. Reflecting how overwhelming social media is at times, the ‘self-help cult’ may have lost its way in terms of actually empowering people. Kat’s reactions to the influencers highlight how these words of ‘self-love’ may be invalidating her mental health struggles.

Any medium that talks about mental health needs to do it concisely and well thought out, otherwise it can be damaging. On the one hand, this is one of the first mainstream pieces of media I can recall that touches on the toxicity of online promotion of self-love. The current trend of ‘that girl’ and the constant ‘what I eat in a day’ videos that will appear on For You Pages paints an unrealistic version of how people may lead their lives. Someone who doesn’t get up at 6 am to go to the gym, drinks two litres of water a day and makes grilled chicken and broccoli for dinner can interpret that their lifestyle is wrong and counter-productive, which is resembled in Kat’s reaction to the influencers in her bedroom. Any lifestyle is valid, however, the ‘self-help cult’ trends depict a certain image online that is becoming the standard for young people. The way the scene depicts Kat’s inner pressures from consuming this online media is well put-together. The reference to ‘society’ and the ‘patriarchy’ being the ones to blame for Kat’s mental health struggles is a very interesting arc, as it takes away from other aspects of her life that could be contributing to her feeling the way she does.

On the other hand, this scene definitely has some issues. The purpose of this sequence was to make people aware that the perfect lifestyles online can damage someone’s self-esteem. Yet this seems contradictory with the show itself. While Euphoria certainly does not portray the perfect lifestyles, dealing with issues from addiction to family trauma, it is known for the characters lavish outfits and extravagant makeup. Characters such as Nate (Jacob Eldori) and Cassie (Sydney Sweeney) are 18 in the show but played by 24-year-olds. 17-year-old Kat herself is played by 25-year-old Barbie Ferreira, as well as Maddie, who is 17, is portrayed by 31-year-old Alexa Demie. Older people playing younger characters is nothing new, but adding hyper-stylised outfits, perfect hair and makeup just for school is not the most realistic approach. It is debatable whether Euphoria’s makeup and clothing are comparable to ‘that girl’ online routines, due to the shown being known for its creative makeup, an artistic choice not meant for realism. However, an 18-year-old asking themselves why their hair cannot be as perfect as Maddie’s for school could potentially be a fallout from the show.

Barbie Ferreira as Kat Hernandez in Euphoria (Photo: HBO)

Director and writer Sam Levinson has also been under scrutiny for representing discourses in which he does not reflect as a person. For example, in his most recent film Malcolm and Marie, where Malcolm (John David Washington) who is a black Hollywood director serves as a mouthpiece of Levinson’s own discretions of race and the film industry. Perhaps ‘woke’ culture and trying to create identifiable content is proving to be problematic. It is obvious that if you have not had certain experiences, some things will slip through the cracks when you are trying to make relatable media.

This being said, there has been a great amount of support for this particular Euphoria scene on social media, saying that it is a great depiction of how online presences can become increasingly overwhelming and suffocating. In an interview with Barbie Ferreira on Euphoria’s YouTube, she explains there was a collaborative effort with her and Levinson on what direction to take Kat’s character and how to explore her relationship with the online world and how this affects her mental health. With this in mind, Euphoria seems to be much more informed than Malcolm and Marie, making Kat’s scene the most talked about topic that week, sparking a relatability on screen we may have not even realised we could relate to.

Mental health is a topic that needs to be approached with carefulness, otherwise messages can be misinterpreted and damaging. Arguably, this scene in Euphoria has opened up the conversation of the ‘self-help cult’ and how breaks from this content are needed. Mental health problems are still very much ignored by mainstream media. Certain depictions of mental health, especially those aimed at audiences like Euphoria’s, have a long way to go. However, it is refreshing to see the depictions on TV as someone who grew up consuming the content of the ‘self-help cult’ and to know it can affect other people’s self-esteem in similar ways.

Watch Kat’s Scene here

Helpful Links

The Mental Health Foundation

www.mentalhealth.org.uk

RETHINK

Helpline:  0300 5000 927

www.rethink.org

Time to Change

www.time-to-change.org.uk 

Mind

Mind Infoline:  0300 123 3393

www.mind.org.uk

Hub of Hope

www.hubofhope.co.uk

Be Mindful

www.bemindful.co.uk

Shout

Text Shout to 85258

www.giveusashout.org

Samaritans

Tel:  116 123 (Free)

www.samaritans.org

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