HBO’s Euphoria debuted in 2019 as one of the best dramas of the decade.
Creator and writer Sam Levinson has given us compelling stories and representation, including queer and trans characters, none more complex than Jules Vaughn (Hunter Schafer).
When we first see Jules through the eyes of central character Rue (Zendaya), she comes across as mysterious and unique as she rides her bike along the road.
Nothing about the ethereal Jules blends in with everybody surrounding her, especially as she’s further woven into Rue’s world.
Unfortunately, as events unfold and their relationship becomes something more, Jules becomes villainized.
Notably, Rue admits she is an unreliable narrator, especially when it comes to her personal relationships.
We witness Jules’ horrible experiences with men (most of whom don’t know or care that she’s a minor), her manipulation at the hands of Nate Jacobs (Jacob Elordi), and some of her experiences as a queer trans person with mental health issues.
Yet a huge majority of the Euphoria fandom saw Jules in the same villainous light as Nate in season one, dehumanising her and likely drawing from transphobia.
In reality, Jules is young, navigating what her relationship with Rue means, and dealing with her own trauma on top of tending to Rue’s recovery, something that shouldn’t be her sole responsibility in the first place.
Their relationship is explored more deeply in Jules’ pre-season two special, Fuck Anyone Who’s Not a Sea Blob, one of the most beautiful episodes of the show.
This episode gives a glimpse into the very core of Jules, exploring the reasons behind her actions that led to her deciding to leave town and leave Rue at the train station in the season one finale.
This was seen as incredibly selfish by many, including Rue, who relapsed that night –something that Jules feared would happen if she became less available to her.
Jules admits to resentment over the burden of helping Rue maintain sobriety by being available 24/7, a valid feeling that was missed or dismissed by Rue in season one.
Episode four of season one (Shook Ones, Pt II) explores Jules’ past, including her mother admitting her to a psychiatric hospital for gender dysphoria and self-harming, and reveals that Jules’ mother is an addict who was recovering during the events of the season.
The timeline switches throughout the special episode explain why Jules was acting irrationally at some points.
Her recklessness and what was deemed toxic behavior weren’t solely about anything we’d seen – they were about her mother coming back into her life and the trauma attached to it, how her complicated feelings about Rue resemble those she has about her mother, and how their addictions weigh heavy on her.
The reducing of Jules to a villain for her behavior was never justified in the first place, but even less so with the revelation of what she was going through.
Some viewers seem to also forget that Jules is a teenage girl, dealing with the realities of being trans and queer, as well as having an addict parent and a love interest who relies on her to stay sober.
All of that forms a big pool of confusion, complexity, and trauma.
Allowing Jules to be imperfect is one of the most pivotal things to take away from her special.
She does love Rue and wants to repair their relationship, which is far from resolved, as the special’s ending reveals.
Jules was never meant to be lumped in with the likes of Nate as far as villains go.
She’s a character who should have been met with compassion and understanding, not anger, vitriol, and transphobia disguised as valid criticism of her character.
The upcoming season two will surely further explore Jules’ life and whether she will tell Rue about her mother.
For now, we know that Jules isn’t and never was a villain.
Euphoria is available to watch on HBO and on Binge in Australia.
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