Why We Love To Hate Jules
by Soha Aftab, Staff Contributor
Binging the hit tv show Euphoria in all of one week was an eye-opening experience.
The elements and the subject matter of this show shocked me-- truly frightened in a wholly, wonderfully addicting manner. Every feature and aspect of it drew me in; the ethereal purple-pink cinematography, the seemingly idyllic and peaceful suburbs clashing against the pleasantly melancholic, dispiriting subject matter of the show and the material, as raw and fucked up as it was, I was hooked.
Although I was a bit late to jump on this Euphoria bandwagon; opting to watch nearly a full year later than when it was released in 2019; I couldn't stop myself from thinking about it all the time. During online classes where my mind would drift away from learning about cognitive psychology or the different social groups in society, and I was in between episodes, my mind would roam wild and wonder about the other characters that the show possessed.
I felt myself nearly falling in love with how addicting and well, for lack of a better word, fucked up Euphoria was. I found myself nodding along to lines of dialogue about sex and trauma and how the two were intermingled in the horrible, disgusting way that interested me, no matter how toxic I consciously knew it was.
Matched with the dark, foreboding soundtrack done by Labrinth that followed the entirety of the show like a wispy ghost, etching onto the very surface of what the show was. The tempo was slow and haunting, and Labrinth's glorious crescendo just pulled you deeper into the story.
Euphoria was a compelling show; one that effectively showed how drugs, alcohol, crime, and sex in the digital age can ruin someone's life without their words and actions becoming patronizing.
Euphoria possessed some of the most developed, fleshed-out, and real characters that I had ever seen. The roles played out in Euphoria were magnetic. Like Rue; the self-proclaimed narrator and main character of the study; gave the story a humanistic touch-- Rue was flawed, and she knew it. This was something all viewers found nearly comforting, if not a bit disconcerting. Other characters brought something similar to the mix.
Maddie, the gorgeously popular girl, had the desire to be wanted by someone terrible for them was a cautionary tale towards an abusive and toxic relationship. Cassie, the pretty blond girl, the one valued only by her looks and her promiscuity in bed, who in all reality, just wanted to be safe and love. With a side of daddy issues and the wanting for a genuine connection, you couldn't help but feel bad for her even if you couldn't always understand all the decisions she took.
Nate, the pinnacle of toxic masculinity, of awfulness, the very man that comes to mind when you think of the phrase MEN are trash. White, seemingly cishet, privileged, traumatized by what he felt he had to be from a young age, it's hard to find any sympathy or even empathy for him. He hated any sign of weakness, anything that would make him feel smaller or inferior compared to others. The viewers as a collective body hated him and viewed him as someone who would never be redeemed and someone who didn't deserve it either. Yet, you couldn't help but want to know more about his character and why he did the things he did.
There is plenty of other well-fleshed out and multifaceted characters that I can talk about for pages and pages. Euphoria has supplied me with nothing but material through the form of little details and complexities that you'd probably begin to expect on your third or fourth watch.
Yet, the character that I want to be focusing on here is one highly debated amongst the fandom of Euphoria-- well, at least the part of the fandom I'm apart of-- Jules Vaughn.
Jules' arrival in town; a city girl moving to the suburbs; is the inciting event of the entire story of Euphoria. She's first seen as Rue gazes out of the window, letting her mom drive her home from rehab. Like in most of the show, Rue's narration plays in the background as the scene unfolds.
The narration details on how summer was just about to end and that there was a week for school to start up again and how Rue had no intention to stay clean. Jules had just moved to town.
Jules is a city girl; pretty, blond, bold. Her entire disposition tells her enough to know about the surface level of her. When I first saw her character, I was intrigued. I knew that she was meant to be a love interest to Rue in the show, and as someone who loved seeing representation in mainstream shows, I was excited.
One thing that I loved in Euphoria's portrayal of Jules is that she wasn't immediately defined by her relationship with the protagonist. She was seen in her environment, which immediately gave us insight into her personality.
She liked dressing up in traditionally feminine clothing, liked feeling as much of a girl as she humanly could. Jules portrayed all the usual aspects of what she thought a girl should be and what she wanted to be. She wore striking makeup, dressing up, and making herself look nice for not only herself, at the time, but also the men that she had made a habit of seeing over the years.
Not only did she find herself actively seeking out men but also a particular type of man; a guy who was the stereotype; not like her. White, straight, cisgender, and always unavailable. Not that it stopped Jules.
In episode 7, Jules described her relationship to men as, 'weird'. "If I can conquer men, I can conquer femininity." This was a sentence that was stuck in my head so much so that I still remember it. When asked why she needed men to conquer femininity, Jules had no answer.
This is very telling to the very foundation that Jules' relationship with men is based on. To a point, you can think of it as a relationship where both parties use each other. The men would use Jules as an escape from the societal and every-day pressures that they would face, and Jules would use the men to figure out where her relationship with femininity stood. But when she realized that she didn't need men to conquer femininity, it almost awoke something in her.
The concept of 'obliterating' femininity rather than just conquering it appealed to Jules so much that she seemed willing to do anything to do that and go on to the next level. For someone so young, Jules had a clear idea of what she wanted with her life.
Jules had a definitive plan for her life even after she got uprooted by the flawless, metropolitan haunts of the city and moved to the suburbs. She saw big things for herself-- New York, Parsons, and living life the way she wanted to; not dictated by her past, her family, or anyone else at all.
And then everything became so much more complicated.
Jules was often portrayed as a morally grey character in the show, especially in regards to her relationship with several characters, i.e., Rue, 'Tyler' and who Tyler was in reality-- Nate. These three ideas of people in her life represented what she thought she needed, what the girl wanted, and what Jules was scared she'd end up with.
Most of the show revolved around the relationship between Rue and Jules. From the warm and sweet nature of them at the beginning to their tragically toxic and nearly melancholic ending of it, the viewers stayed hooked, hating, and loving their relationship at the same time.
Rue and Jules' relationship was instant, easy, and fun at the beginning. Back when Rue was just a girl, fresh out of rehab, no intentions to stay clean and Jules was just looking for a friend and someone to have fun with, they worked well. Rue's wry sarcasm matched with Jules' sharp and bright wit was a match made in heaven. From the very get-go, the viewers knew what the writers wanted us to feel as we watched these two girls bond and fall into infatuation with each other.
The same symbolism of the name of the two girls (Rue and Jules) was a callout to the tragic love-story so worn out and beaten down-- Romeo and Juliet. This meant that their love story was not something that was going to last; that both of them together was going end badly—Rue's heavy dependence on Jules to keep her sober and sane hurt both of them. Jules' reluctance to be exclusive with Rue, despite that being what Rue wanted, put a severe damper on their relationship.
Jules; like many young teenagers; just wanted to be free and not confined by rigid and deep relationships so young in her life. She was a free spirit and had her unhealthy coping mechanisms and issues to deal with. She just couldn't deal with being Rue's anchor all the time.
The fandom didn't deal with this very well.
The finale of Euphoria delivered upon the tragic ending of Rue and Jules that viewers expected since the very start of the series. In a quick, split-second judgment of Rue not wanting to lose Jules, she'd offered something up to Jules, something that she thought no one else could give her-- leaving this town and going to the city, instead.
With Rue's history with anxiety, bipolar disorder, and being an addict in recovery, the viewers knew that a decision like this was undoubtedly in poor taste and would end badly.
And we were right.
The episode ended with Jules riding away from the suburbs and into the city. Without Rue, despite the blonde girl's pleas for her to come with her. That, coupled with memories of her father, caused Rue to relapse back into her drug addiction.
This instantly caused the fandom to despise Jules. In their eyes, Jules was the primary one to caused their relationship to go toxic. She was never committed to Rue, she enjoyed life the way she liked and never thought about others, including her father, who did nothing but support Jules throughout her life.
But, at the same time, we adore Jules. We value the way she looks and the way she talks. We love her fashion, and we find her eloquent manner of not giving a fuck charming.
Characters like Jules are complex and intricate. We love their character but detest the way they affect other characters and their lives.
And therein lies the catch when it comes to one Jules Vaughn.