Representation?

Euphoria’s Newest Queer Love Story Is Super Cute, And I Hate It

HBO’s Euphoria has broken ground for queer representation in plenty of ways, particularly through its central relationship between Zendaya’s Rue and Hunter Schafer’s Jules. But in the third episode of the show’s second season, we got a new queer love story — focused on one of the show’s most hated characters.

Each episode of Euphoria opens with a sequence giving us extra insight into one character. This episode, that character was Cal Jacobs, normally played by Eric Dane, now known for eating ass in the previous episode. Here, though, Cal was portrayed by Elias Kacavas, who played a teenage version of Cal in the ‘80s.

Cal’s backstory showed his relationship with his best friend Derek, played by Henry Eikenberry. The two boys were attached at the hip, maintaining a special connection even as they explored sex with their high school girlfriends. Meaningful glances, longing stares and some homoerotic wrestling scenes all pointed to the boys’ relationship being more than just platonic.

Those suspicions were confirmed in a scene where Cal and Jacob celebrated their graduation by going to a local gay bar, because it would let them drink without IDs. Sure, sure, that’s the only reason. At the bar, they do shots, dance and play air guitar. They get closer and closer, until finally, they share a kiss. Actually, several kisses. It’s a beautiful scene.

Of course, it can’t last. In the next scene, Cal gets a call from his girlfriend: She’s pregnant. Just like that, Cal is trapped in a life of heteronormativity. It’s heartbreaking, especially just after seeing him finally express his feelings for Derek and having them reciprocated.

But, hold on a minute — does this show have me rooting for Cal Jacobs?? Feeling bad for him!? Cal has done no end of horrible things: having sex with minors, recording sexual encounters without consent, terrorizing his son Nate (who’s a monster in his own right, but that’s a whole other story). 

I’m torn on this backstory. On one hand, Euphoria has never had a narrative centered on gay men in high school, so it was exciting and validating to see the show explore this story. On the other, knowing who Cal will become makes the whole sequence difficult to enjoy. I’m not saying characters can’t be flawed — hell, almost every Euphoria character is low-key a terrible person — but Cal, the show’s main representation of gay men, is one of its biggest villains. If there were some more queer characters in the mix, it’d be a little easier to swallow.

Luckily, this episode also confirmed that new character Elliot, played by singer Dominic Fike, is queer. Maybe Elliot can give us the MLM love story the Euphoria audience deserves without all the baggage. In the meantime, I have Twitter to entertain me with its reactions to the show.

Read More