Is It Damaging, Or is It Art?

Licorice pizza and Euphoria explore controversial themes



I will always be a defender of a creator to be able to explore all themes in their art, but 2021 movie “Licorice Pizza” raises both eyebrows. The plot centers around an almost- relationship between a 15-year-old boy and a 25-year-old woman in the ‘70s, who met when she was working as a yearbook headshot photographer. Moviegoers have left the theater halfway through or even boycotted the film altogether.

On the surface, it’s a romantic, slice-of- life movie, so what purpose does the age gap serve? The writing is witty, and the colors and costume design are captivating, but the plot is a bit endless and rambling. Alanah is the older character, but without any direction or emotional maturity, while Gary is like a miniature businessman, always on some sort of entrepreneurial adventure. They work together on Gary’s projects and share a clumsy friendship.

The movie poster features Alanah, the female lead, holding her romantic counterpart in the palm of her hand. This slightly ominous design choice leads hints that yes, the creators were aware of the discomfort the power imbalance creates.

Film is all about giving you an experience- some are comfortable, some are not. Comedy makes you laugh, psychological makes your brain hurt, and horror makes you scream. To me, “Licorice Pizza” explores what makes you cringe. Discomfort is definitely a tool- it makes you question, what was it that made me uncomfortable, and what does that say about our world?


D.A.R.E. has denounced HBO’s hit show, “Euphoria,” claiming it glamorizes “drugs, sex, and violence.” In reality, it presents an over-dramatized version of some of the most difficult experiences a teenager can experience- abusive relationships, addiction, and family trauma. Just because there’s glitter on the screen doesn’t mean the actions depicted are being glamorized.

Recently, the ideas of romanticization have turned people against entertainment meant to reflect real life in an art form. In “Euphoria,” the main character, Rue, is a drug addict. She’s shown ruining her relationships, going through withdrawal, and being unable to care for herself because of her addictions. Her declining health, loss of bodily functions, and painful outbursts are accurate.

There are other, more grounded criticisms of “Euphoria.” 30-year-old actors play juniors. High schoolers complain that much of the content is not relatable or reflective of real American high school experiences. Teenagers don’t dress, talk like, or have the experiences that the “Euphoria” teens do, but that’s what makes it cinematic. Creators are criticized for presenting controversial content, and then criticized for not having any substance to their shows if they don’t.

“Euphoria” wouldn’t be “Euphoria” without its over-the-top themes, in-your- face styling, and oversaturated, glittering colors. Its characters are unrealistic, sure, but they’re memorable.