Zendaya Responded to D.A.R.E's Criticism of 'Euphoria'

Zendaya emphasized that Euphoria is intended to encourage empathy toward those battling addiction.

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While the HBO series Euphoria has proven to be a major hit, the show recently received negative criticism from the youth-targeted campaign D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education). Now Zendaya, who portrays Rue on the show, has weighed in on the group's response to the show.

If you're just now catching up, a rep for D.A.R.E. commented on the show in a statement to TMZ in late January: "Rather than further each parent's desire to keep their children safe from the potentially horrific consequences of drug abuse and other high-risk behavior, HBO's television drama, 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."

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly released Sunday, Zendaya responded to the organization's remarks. "Our show is in no way a moral tale to teach people how to live their life or what they should be doing," she tells the publication. "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." (

Euphoria's Season 2 episode "Stand Still Like the Hummingbird," is one of the show's most striking depictions of the pain that can result from drug use. Rue struggles through an intervention from those closest to her, flipping tables, slamming doors, and battling debilitating withdrawal — as well as stealing, fleeing from police, and being held captive.

"I think if we can still care about her after this, then I hope that other people can extend that to non-fictional characters, to real people, or just be a little bit more understanding and empathetic over the experience of addiction and what it does to people, what it does to their families," says Zendaya of the episode in her EW interview. (

The actress, also an executive producer on the show, said that while the specifics of the episode changed throughout the writing and creation process, the theme remained the same. "The general idea was always the same, which was this idea of, we cut right into an intervention and it's Rue just ripping her life apart and setting her life on fire and kind of tearing everything to the ground to basically come to hopefully what feels like rock bottom for her," she tells EW. (

Euphoria creator and executive producer Sam Levinson previously told Deadline that the series seeks to portray substance use in a "mindful" way. "The hardest thing about portraying a drug addict is — there are a lot of cautionary tales, there are a lot of after-school specials — but what I really wanted to get to the core of is the pain and the shame about what you're doing and you're inability to get clean despite the havoc and destruction you're wreaking round you. We have to be authentic about it," he said in the interview. "If we're pulling our punches and we're not showing the relief that drugs can bring it starts to lose its impact. Drugs are not the solution but they can feel like it at times, and that's what makes them so destructive."

In her response to the D.A.R.E. statement, Zendaya emphasized that the goal was to provoke viewers to connect with Rue's story — not to glorify it — echoing a sentiment she's shared in the past. "It's not a show to emulate," she previously told Interview. "The show's intention, for all of us who make it, is to open up the door to empathy for another person's experience."

If you or someone you know is dealing with a mental and/or substance use disorder, you can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration helpline at 1-800-622-HELP (4357) or text 435748 (HELP4U).

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