For the Girls
Honoring all of the Women and Girls in Film
Cassie Howard: An Important Tale of Self-Love
Sam Levinson's HBO drama, "Euphoria," has proven to be a raw, and sometimes disturbingly realistic, representation of high school in this day and age. From depression, abuse, sexual identity, drug addiction, and more, these characters showcase a variety of real life issues teens and young adults struggle with- sometimes alone.
In a show that tackles many topics so gracefully, Cassie's story arc, all too familiar, is one that should be always be taught.
One of the very first things we hear about Cassie is told from Nate to McKay- "Just fuck her like the whore she is, and then dump her." Fast forward to Rue's description of her, and she's "actually a nice girl." Cassie is one of the characters on the show who truly struggles with her reputation- a reputation made up by small boys who want to feel big. What, she sends nudes? She's not the first person to do so, and she most certainly isn't the last. Some woman in Renaissance-era England had her nudes painted and sent to some king somewhere, and nudes have since been passed around. Boys send nudes, unsolicited, and it's laughed off as a bad joke- disgusting, but expected. A girl sends nudes to a boy she likes, and she runs the risk of having her photos passed around like a "Buy one, Get one free" coupon. And just like many girls in today's era, Cassie has chosen to ignore it, but her self-love has been diminished.
So what's at the root of Cassie's struggle with self-identity and love? We may never know the full story, but what we do know is that just like many of the characters on this show, and just like many cases in life today, Cassie suffers the consequences of toxic and neglectful parenting.
The truth is that parents are human beings, dealing with their own demons. Does that excuse their questionable parenting? Hell no. Should they have probably not had children? Definitely, but they did, and as they traverse the rocky terrains of their insecurities and mistakes, they also have this small human, who is so impressionable, depending on them. And they love their children- most of the time- but they just can't seem to be the parent they need to be. Cassie's parents undoubtedly love their daughters, but that doesn't change the fact that they have ruined her conception of love and what it means.
Episode 8 of Euphoria, "the Trials and Tribulations of Trying to Pee While Depressed"
This episode perfectly narrates how Cassie's inconsistent relationship with her father, the negligence of her mother, the outright perversions of elderly family members, and the manipulative pressures of horny teenage boys shaped her view of love and its place in this world. Parents should be the first people in our lives to show us consistent, healthy love, but that is not always the case. When Cassie's father encourages her to take on skating, but then stops because he cannot afford lessons- that is one of the first instances of inconsistency in her life, and it was far from the last. The first time Cassie did something for a man she cared about, that she didn't want to do, was when her dad showed up to her house at 1 o'clock in the morning. And through all of the ups and downs, Cassie is shown to be a strong believer of forgiveness and pleasure being the key to forever. She takes compliments about her looks as a real testament of love from boys, because that's all her worth has been placed on, by her mom especially. Her mom becomes her "best friend" as a teenager, and she always complimented her looks. Even when she needed a mother, she always got a friend instead. The other men in her family also started treating her differently around that same time, emphasizing her looks over everything else, unable to hide their disgusting urges. Many girls know what that's like- when that one uncle wants you to sit on his lap, even when you're very clearly too old for it.
Because Cassie has been so influenced by the failures of the adults in her life, she has a misplaced idea of what gives her worth. At a certain age, women's worth is simplified in society by how we look and how we can satisfy the needs of others. It's not okay, and we have had to grab these standards of women and femininity by the balls and break them down piece-by-piece.
The Pressures of Sex
The pressures of sex and dating as a teenager, and as a young adult, are all-too real. It's even shown in one of Rue's first sexual encounters- when she is coerced into giving a blow job, because the boy will tell the whole school she did it anyways. Sexual manipulation isn't always that blatant, though is it? Cassie falls in love with every man she dates, because she fears being alone. And because of her ideal that pleasing = love, and because of her idea of compliments on her beauty equating declarations of love, she is taken advantage of. She's found herself in a cycle of doing things she doesn't want to do, for a guy who doesn't deserve it, because she just wants someone to stay. That's why she dreams about a life with a baby- even though she knows she's not ready- she also knows that a baby would never leave her.
Every guy she's dated has asked for the same thing, and every adult in her life has failed her or sexualized her in some way. It's shown in her relationship dynamic with McKay. Her heart is open for repeated disappointment, because she hopes the next time would be different.
So for Cassie, why cheat if you're looking for ever-lasting love? Because through it all, Cassie still doesn't know what she wants or who she is. Her love, which is misplaced with other people, should be going to herself in order for her to feel complete.
Cassie is a good girl, who is confident in her skin, and my hope for her next season is that she dumps McKay, finds love in herself, strengthens her relationship with her sister, and focuses on her passions.