The teen drama series will premiere this Sunday, June 16. Created by Sam Levinson, it focuses on a group of high schoolers navigating through traumatic waters. The series will deal with sexual assault, death, and drug addiction. This is a giant leap from Zendaya's more family-friendly content as she comes from a Disney background that includes the KC Undercover and Shake It Up series. The change has some parents concerned that the show is marketed to a too-young audience.
Of course, HBO is notorious for its explicit content and people shouldn't be all-too surprised that a show on the network will feature graphic elements. One of the primary concerns, however, is the depiction of drug addiction in teenagers and how the creators will handle that sensitive topic. Some mental health advocates are recalling Netflix's treatment of 13 Reasons Why and the controversy that stirred.
The cast is comprised of young Hollywood A-listers like Zendaya, Jacob Elordi, and Maude Apatow plus a few newcomers.
The young actors in the series are popular with a younger generation and are sure to draw a teen audience. This show marks Zendaya's transition from a child star to an adult actor. The 22-year-old actor plays the show's narrator and lead character Rue who struggles with drug addiction.
Zendaya told the New York Times, "I don’t think any of my 8-year-old fans know that this show exists... If they do, I don’t think their parents will let them watch it."
While male nudity is one concern, the primary issue should be how the show will depict drug addiction.
Creator Sam Levinson wrote the eight episodes, based on an Israeli show of the same name, with his own experience with addiction in mind.
Two graphic scenes in the show depict vivid overdoses and a statutory rape scene with a visibly-erect prosthetic penis. President of HBO told The Hollywood Reporter, "It's not sensational to be sensational... It may seem boundary-pushing, and the idea of putting them on TV may be, but somebody lived them."
HBO announced the show during the airing of Game of Thrones and Big Little Lies season two. It's worth it to note that neither of those two shows are "kid-friendly" either.
The show may depict teenage experiences but HBO doesn't necessarily market to teens. Game of Thrones and Big Little Lies are two series that showed nudity, graphic sex scenes, and sexual assault often. Just because this show features former Disney faces, doesn't mean it's for that audience.
Hopefully, upon watching the first episode any concerns that prospective viewers have about its sensationalized depiction of addiction and overdose will dissipate. While it's acceptable to show these heartbreaking real-life horrors, it's the way in which they are portrayed that is important.