Fox12's Review of Euphoria

What is good? And what is evil? And how do we know the difference between the two? These are questions posed in the seminal work known as "Euphoria." In Euphoria, seven individuals from an educational academy wake up in a white room. Six of them are students, and one is a teacher. One is a male student, and the others are female. The characters are told that the male student will have to complete a series of trials in which he will commit an act of sexual violence, and that he will choose one woman for each trial. If any of the characters refuse to participate, then they will all be killed.

From the beginning, euphoria is making a series of profound statements. The protagonist is not the oldest, the smartest, or the most accomplished, and yet he wields all of the power. Even the teacher, who one would expect to be at the top of the hierarchy, is subjugated beneath him. This is an obvious commentary on the patriarchal system that controls our society. The protagonist, being male, holds control, not only over his own agency, but over the agency of others. Even those artificially "above him." If any of the women speak out, then all the women are punished. This social pressure encourages the woman to enforce the very patriarchal system that subjugates them all, and to punish any women that choose to act out.

Euphoria does not stop here, however. Instead it proceeds to deconstruct our understanding of morality. Classically, morality was created by a deity. The moral system typically reflected the culture of the society, and different deities had different concepts of good and evil. Over time humanity moved past religion and mysticism, raising some difficult questions about the nature of morality. Nietzsche was the first to realize that, without God, human morality, as it was understood, had no bedrock, no foundation, to justify it. He attempted to rectify this with a unique brand of humanism that, while noble in its intent, was woefully insufficient to address the issues at hand.

Instead it was Max Stirner, and his philosophy of egoism, that succeeded in reframing our understanding of morality. Simply put, good and evil do not exist. Humans are generally motivated by self-interest, and will base their ideas of morality on what is good for them personally. Morality is defined by the boundaries created when an individual seeks a course of action that is to their benefit, and come into conflict with other individuals who are also seeking their own self-interest. If two men want the same plot of land, then they may come into conflict, and the stronger of the two will be able to take the field by force. However, no man can have everything he wants all the time, because no man wield supreme power. As a result, people compromise. The two men, being of equal strength, may not want to risk losing, and so they may split the land. In this case the men in question have a less then ideal outcome. No one person has all of the land, because no one individual had enough power to enforce their will over the other. However, compromise is still advantageous, because in the absence of a guarantee of success, being guaranteed half of the land may be seen as better then risking having no land at all. And the two men can work together to protect each other, if another individual should attempt to come and take their land away from them. This is called a union of egoes. A collective group of individuals working together for an outcome that is generally advantageous for them all. What stirner understood is that morality is, essentially, a series of power dynamics in which people attempt to gain a desired advantageous outcome.

Euphoria explored the nature of morality through the protagonist. In society he is a normal person, who is generally well respected and liked, but who is not exceptional in any way. He behaves in the way that society tells him to, because if he were to reject society as a whole, he would suffer a more negative outcome then if he conformed. However, when placed in a vacuum, and given supreme power, his behavior begins to change. There are six different routes in the story, and in each one the protagonist exercises control over the other members of the cast. While he initially pretends to care about the sense of morality that society has instilled in him, the thin veneer of civility quickly melts away when he realizes that none of the other cast members can stop him from committing atrocious acts of violence. He cares, now, only for his personal self-interest, with no concern whatsoever for the well being of others.

And this is when Euphoria delivers a master stroke of thematic brilliance. The cast escapes from their underground prison, only to be captured by a gang of armed hoodlums. The protagonist is no longer the individual who wields supreme power. The cast members are stripped naked, and made into a oroboros, in which they excrete waste into each others mouths in a perfect circle. This symbolizes the cycle of suffering created by a class hierarchy defined by power. The protagonist, who had until recently been revealed as a sadist, falls back into the moral system or regular society. He shows concern for the women he once victimized, as they are now equals. He shows distaste for the people who victimize him with force, despite, in many ways, being the same. The grand irony is lost on him, but it is not lost on the audience. Euphoria asks the audience if humanity will even be able to rise above its animalistic desires and greed, and break the circle of victimization, or if we will forever be a link in a chain, forced to consume and excrete feces into each others mouths, in the circle of life forever.

9/10

This review made me come harder than a character subjected to hardcore sexual violence.

 

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