Zendaya, star of HBO Max’s runaway hit, Euphoria, has responded to allegations of irresponsibility by D.A.R.E., the anti-drug education program founded by former L.A.P.D. Chief Daryl Gates. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the actor stated, “Our show is in no way a moral tale to teach people how to live their life or what they should be doing,” in response to the campaign’s accusation.
A representative of D.A.R.E. recently told TMZ that Euphoria “chooses to misguidedly glorify and erroneously depict high school student drug use, addiction, anonymous sex, violence, and other destructive behaviors as common and widespread in today’s world.”
Euphoria pulls very few punches when it comes to portrayals of drug use and the consequences of addiction. A recent episode featured Zendaya’s character, Rue, literally breaking down doors in her family’s apartment in order to find out where they hid the opiates she’s addicted to. The episode is a whirlwind of destructive behavior that affects everyone around Rue and ends with the character running from her family in an attempt to find drugs to stave off her withdrawal symptoms.
The actor contends that this is in no way an attempt to glamorize drug use; rather, “If anything, the feeling behind Euphoria, or whatever we have always been trying to do with it, is to hopefully help people feel a little bit less alone in their experience and their pain. And maybe feel like they’re not the only one going through or dealing with what they’re dealing with.”
Zendaya, who is also an executive producer of the series, insists the series gives viewers insight and compassion regarding addiction. In the EW interview, she goes on to describe Rue as being in the “midst of a degenerative disease… [that’s] taking control of her life. And in many ways, she feels out of control. She doesn’t have the ability to control her emotions, her body.”
D.A.R.E. was founded in 1991 by the controversial LAPD police chief Daryl Gates and the Los Angeles Unified School District as an initiative to prevent the use of controlled substances by elementary-age school children. The program has generated a great deal of criticism over the years, and many have alleged it to be ineffective. One 1994 study concluded that “DARE imparts a large amount of information, but has little or no impact on students’ drug use,” as reported by the Associated Press. The Village Voice has stated that the program’s 90s curriculum “isn’t really education. It’s indoctrination.”
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, actor Nika King, who portrays Rue’s mother Leslie on the show, commented on the trauma inherent in the series. “We need to see this Bennett family really go through it because that’s the only way the audience and people who are also going through this in real life understand,’ said King, “And they’re like, ‘Wow, this is authentic. This is real.’ “