Zendaya has responded to claims from Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E) that HBO's acclaimed drama series Euphoria, glamorizes drug use and anonymous sex among teenagers.
The acclaimed series, based on an Israeli mini-series of the same name and currently in the midst of its second season on HBO, depicts the life of high school students struggling with substance abuse and addiction, though the graphic nature of the series has been met with it's fair share of controversy.
D.A.R.E was among the many who objected to the series depiction of drug use and sex amongst teenagers, expressing their disgust in a statement released at the end of 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."
"It is unfortunate that HBO, social media, television program reviewers, and paid advertising have chosen to refer to the show as 'groundbreaking' rather than recognizing the potential negative consequences on school-age children who today face unparalleled risks and mental health challenges."
In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, Zendaya—who won an Emmy award for her work as narrator Rue for the show’s first season—expressed her belief D.A.R.E completely missed the point of the series.
The star said she could not disagree more with their claims the series "glorifies" drug use.
"Our show is in no way a moral tale to teach people how to live their life or what they should be doing."
"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 a producer on the series, went on to say it was a very pointed decision to have Rue faced with an intervention during a recent episode, emphasizing how there is hope for everyone struggling with addiction and substance abuse.
"We can't leave her here."
"It's really important that there's light at the end of the tunnel for her, because I think she has a lot of beauty inside of her."
"Whether or not she quite sees that yet, is her own thing."
"My biggest hope is that people are able to connect to it and those who need to heal and grow with Rue hopefully, by the end of this season, feel that hope and feel that change in her."
The 25-year-old star went on to say she believes the show's message, though it may have eluded D.A.R.E, has reached multiple fans with life experiences similar to that of Rue.
"I've had a lot of people reach out and find so many parallels from all ages, all walks of life."
"So many parallels with Rue and her story and Rue means a lot to them in a way that I can understand, but also maybe in a way that I could never understand, and that means that means the most to all of us."
Zendaya's response received praise on Twitter.
People agreed the series does not glamorize drug use, but rather exposes the inherent dangers which come with it.
For her part, Zendaya—who has a diverse fan base thanks to her early career on the Disney Channel series Shake It Up as well as her turn as MJ in the hugely successful Spider-Man film series—has made a point of warning her younger fans on Instagram Euphoria is meant for an older audience and may be difficult to watch for viewers of all ages.
"I know i've said it before, but I do want to re-iterate to everyone that Euphoria is for mature audiences."
"This season, maybe even more so than the last, is deeply emotional and deals with subject matter that can be triggering and difficult to watch."
"Please only watch it if you feel comfortable."
"Take care of yourself, and know that either way you are still loved and I can feel your support."