Late last year, the second season of HBO’s hit teen drama, Euphoria, was launched. With it, over sixteen million viewers tuned in, making it the streaming service’s second most-watched show ever. It falls behind only Game of Thrones, which, despite its final season ensuring the autonomous repression of it from the wider cultural conscious, was huge. And not only that, according to Twitter, it is also the most-tweeted about show of the decade – in the US, at least, with over thirty million tweets having been posted in relation to the series.
Its success is such that even as someone like me, who has ashamedly not tuned into the Gen Z tour-de-force of Zendaya, glitter and flared two-pieces, is aware of not only the entire plot, but also the cast, director and much of its critiques. (Downloading TikTok should have come with an automatic spoiler warning.) The show’s popularity – and perhaps, more crucially, its aesthetic – is insurmountable. All across the Internet exist memes, fan edits, opinion polls, and outfit inspiration boards, with the fascination also having steeped into the lives of the real cast members. Zendaya, the biggest star of the show, is obviously a mega-celebrity in her own right, but the obsession over the actresses who play the leads of Maddy (Alexa Demie) and Cassie (Sydney Sweeney) has accelerated to disproportionate levels. Their dating lives, style choices and – most notably – their bodies, have been placed under intense scrutiny by seemingly everyone.
Perhaps one of the greatest examples of this infatuation is the recent virality of Cassie’s morning routine. The skincare regimen, which involved a scented swamp of creams and what are essentially rolling pins for the face, inspired hundreds to record their attempts emulating it. Now similar videos with titles such ‘Eating Like Alexa Demie,’ or ‘How to Get a Body Like Sydney Sweeney,’ are proliferating across social media, the creators of which claim to hold intimate knowledge over the stars’ lifestyle choices. Their contents, for the most part, appear relatively harmless – the meal plans tend to be healthy, the workouts not overly arduous. However, the reaction that they inspire; young women who constitute the thousands of likes and comments expressing an intense desire to look like them, is a lot more troubling. It seems with the actress’ rise to intense fame, so to has come the inevitability of both idolisation and comparison.
Of course, while the universal appeal of Euphoria has made this phenomenon more obvious, it is certainly not unique to it, nor is it even the worst propagator of this kind of content. With an even greater ubiquity, similar videos have been made about the diets of wildly popular celebrity models such as Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner, which routinely accrue views in the millions. Arguably, while obsessing over the appearances of Euphoria stars isn’t healthy, attempting to achieve the figures of women who work in an industry regularly criticised for it’s encouragement of critically low BMIs and disordered eating is potentially incredibly dangerous.
To their credit, many of the most popular videos of this genre approach the premise as a kind of experiment. They are candid with their audience over whether Hailey Bieber’s alleged meal plan satiated them or not, how they feel, how feasible the workouts are. Oftentimes the food looks delicious, too, with portions that are, if not plentiful, reasonable. You might even imagine that indulging in a vibrant admixture of fruits and chia-seed granola will give you the same radiant glow.
The real issue is that no matter how reasonably this information is presented, it is undoubtedly going to inspire others to copy it. This is especially problematic when you consider the fact that the information being shared over the celebrity’s diet may not even be accurate. While ‘What I Eat in a Day’ videos have been made incredibly popular by various Victoria’s Secrets models, there is no way to verify if the information that they are sharing about their diets is actually true. Crucially, though what they disclose online appears to be sufficiently nourishing, there is no way to tell if they, number one, really eat like that and, second, how intensely they work out. Erin Heatherton, a former Victoria’s Secrets model, admitted in 2016 that sometimes she would consider simply not eating in order to lose weight in time for the show. Unfortunately, she is not the only model to have spoken out about similar pressures either.
For any woman, though particularly those suffering with a disorder, being constantly bombarded with information over the eating habits of women with bodies that are glorified in the media is difficult to deal with. Attempting to follow one of these diets and to still not end up looking like the celebrity of choice – whether it be due to genetics, false information, or simply not being able to keep up with it – can be extremely harmful. While we are certainly able to make some changes to our physique through healthy eating and exercise, we can’t just “get” an entirely new body. Nor, really, should we want to.
It is interesting to observe that the male stars of Euphoria, namely the show’s reprehensible heartthrob, Nate Jacobs (Jacob Elordi), haven’t inspired the same litany of content amongst fans. Why do women seem to compare themselves more intensely to what we see on screen? Why has Sweeney and Demie’s rise to fame come with the seeming inevitable caveat of competitiveness, comparison and self-hatred?
According to a recent US-based study, eighty-eight percent of women admit to comparing themselves to images they see in the media. Many of Euphoria’s viewers admire the confidence of Maddy, yet feel that her look is also a necessary component towards achieving it. We seem so dissatisfied in our own skin, our bodies, our fashion choices, that we feel in order to be the person that we want to, we also have to look a certain way too. In a world where women’s value is so intrinsically and tirelessly entwined with their outer appearance, it’s unsurprising that we run to videos which claim to reveal how much and of what these celebrities, who possess what we perceive to be perfect bodies and lives, actually eat.
I cannot propose a solution. As the show’s popularity rises, so too will the probing of the main star’s looks. And even after that, new female celebrities will be brought into the spotlight, and still further unhealthy attempts to emulate them will ensue. On an individual level, though, it would brilliant – even, revolutionary – if we could realise we can be exactly what we want to be, while still looking like ourselves.