With production for Season 2 of “Euphoria” delayed due to the pandemic, the show put out two “special bridge episodes” in December and January. The first hourlong episode focused on Zendaya’s Rue and her addiction recovery; the second on Hunter Schafer’s character Jules. While acting categories are limited to full season arcs, as a co-writer of the episode with show creator Sam Levinson, Schafer is eligible for an Emmy nomination for writing.
“Part 2: Jules” or “Fuck Anyone Who’s Not a Sea Blob” is framed around a single counseling session, with Schafer acting opposite HBO favorite Lauren Weedman (“Hacks,” “Looking”) as her therapist. The session, and the episode, sees Jules exploring her complicated romantic feelings towards Rue, her abandonment by her mother, and her shifting ideas around her outward expression of gender. Jules opens the session with a blunt admission, telling her therapist she is thinking about stopping taking her hormone blockers.
“She is still in a constant state of evolution with her gender and her sexuality and with herself,” Schafer said during a recent video interview. “So even the idea of going off hormone blockers alludes to her curiosity of what being trans to her would mean outside of a hormone therapy that can be intended to make you fit into whichever cis side of the gender binary that you are trying to fit into.”
The therapist’s initial response is that Jules is thinking of detransitioning, a controversial subject in the trans community. Jules, and Schafer, quickly pushes back on that assumption.
“It was about her questioning herself and raising valid questions about why she’s moving through her transition the way she is,” Schafer said. “Which is a healthy process, checking in with yourself and asking yourself, ‘Why I’m doing this, and how is this making me feel, and who am I trying to be?’”
For too long, transgender representation in media focused solely on elements of medical transition, wrongly emphasizing the physical body in relation to a person’s gender. For that reason, antennae go up whenever hormones, surgery, or transition are discussed in TV or film, especially in a show as popular as “Euphoria” with such a groundbreaking and beloved trans character as Jules. With Schafer’s name proudly displayed as a writer of the episode, however, viewers can breathe easy knowing these complex conversations were grounded in a trans perspective.
“Particularly with my very close tight-knit trans family, these are things we consistently talk about with each other,” Schafer said. “And I think I can also confidently say that none of us are certain about any of it and that it’s all fluid and spiritual in some way, and intangible in a lot of ways, which makes it difficult to talk about and articulate in some ways.”
With Schafer as a co-writer, Levinson was able to delve deeper into the more complicated — and dramatically ripe — nuances of trans identity, which includes permutation as infinite and varied as the entire spectrum of human gender and sexuality. That’s obviously a win for the show, but also for trans viewers craving storytelling that doesn’t trade complexity for inoffensiveness.
Hunter Schafer and Zendaya in “Euphoria”
Eddy Chen / HBO
Schafer recognizes the many barriers to showing nuanced trans narratives on TV, especially the lack of opportunities for trans talent. That’s a difference she feels every day. While authentic casting has pretty much become the norm, she says trans talent is often “the token trans person” on set, which places an undue burden on them.
“I’m still seeing a lot of cis people doing the directing and the casting and everything,” she said. “I want to see trans people directing, not only because I think they can do a better job representing us…but I think there is a certain level of creativity that is inherent to transness and very special to transness that is unique, and has not received the funding nor the opportunity to be made that I think it deserves.”
While she kept mum on any details about Season 2, including whether or not she will be writing any more episodes, Schafer has her own high hopes for the character she helped create.
“[I hope] this growth and interrogation of Jules…and what she wants and ultimately finding newer and healthier intimacies in her relationships, which I hope will be more queer and more healthy…[I hope] that will continue,” she said. “That’s a really beautiful process and something I want to see more of on TV. Representation-wise, we’re still working on getting trans women who lie on many different ends of the spectrum of conventional beauty and conventional attraction and conventional ways of navigating gender and sexuality. There’s a myriad of ways to do that. And many trans people move through all that in that myriad of ways, including myself.”
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