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euphoria, hbo
Screenshot from HBO

Euphoria's Rue, played by Zendaya.

"Euphoria" is without question a heavy show. The teenagers at Euphoria High deal with abusive relationships, drug addiction, mental illness and the dark side of sexuality. There’s not one episode that feels comfortable. When I think of “easy viewing,” this is certainly not it.

The show has received a lot of backlash for its content, with critics claiming that it glorifies and glamorizes toxic behavior. Following "Euphoria"’s second season, D.A.R.E. issued a statement to TMZ saying "It is unfortunate that HBO, social media, television program reviewers, and paid advertising have chosen to refer to the show as 'groundbreaking,' rather than recognizing the potential negative consequences on school age children who today face unparalleled risks and mental health challenges.”

Though I understand the concern, I do not agree. I think "Euphoria," and shows like it, can be vital viewing. They’re painful, intense and hard to watch. And that’s exactly why we need them, if we ever aspire to strengthen our compassion for those dealing with issues that often lurk under the surface.


As the central character Rue (played by Zendaya) struggles to gain control of her life, we feel her loneliness, her yearning, her despair … all of it. This is in part thanks to emotional empathy, a term coined by psychologists Daniel Goleman and Paul Ekman, meaning to “feel physically along with the other person, as though their emotions were contagious.” When we engage in emotional empathy, we activate mirror neurons, the cells of the brain that fire up both when we perform an act and when we observe an act.

zendaya dareGiphy

Think about the excitement you feel when your favorite team scores a winning goal, or seeing a stranger stub their toe and suppressing the urge to yell “ouch!” Though you are not experiencing a situation on the outside, you are definitely experiencing it on the inside. Compare this to cognitive empathy, which refers to “simply knowing how the other person feels,” which keeps things intellectual, abstract, distant.

Television impacts our culture with emotional empathy. Watching TV can be a visceral experience: We get invested in the outcomes of characters’ decisions, relate to them, seeing the world differently as a result. Quite often we feel what a character feels, without ever having lived a similar experience. "Euphoria" harnesses the power of story beautifully in this way. It’s incredibly painful to watch, but so is addiction. And I think we owe it to those going through it to witness their inner battles. We’ve already seen the importance of representation, after all.

Zendaya has been very candid that the intention of the show was never to make drug use and violence aspirational. "Our show is in no way a moral tale to teach people how to live their life or what they should be doing,” she said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. “If anything, the feeling behind Euphoria, or whatever we have always been trying to do with it, is to hopefully help people feel a little bit less alone in their experience and their pain. And maybe feel like they're not the only one going through or dealing with what they're dealing with."

And to that end, the show has been successful. "I've had a lot of people reach out and find so many parallels from all ages, all walks of life,” Zendaya told EW. “So many parallels with Rue and her story and Rue means a lot to them in a way that I can understand, but also maybe in a way that I could never understand, and that means the most to all of us."

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Previously, the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” received similar criticism for glorifying teenage suicide. Though the show’s creators initially defended their decision to keep a scene that graphically depicted a young character taking their life, eventually the scene did get removed. According to Vanity Fair, this was at the urging of both advocates and health experts, after there was an increase of calls to suicide hotlines from teenage viewers.

I am not a mental health expert, but I cannot help but wonder: Rather than making suicide appear more attractive, could the show have inspired teenagers to express what was already going on inside? Could instead this be the first time these issues were out in the open, and therefore safe to talk about?

Even Netflix released a statement saying “We’ve heard from many young people that 13 Reasons Why encouraged them to start conversations about difficult issues like depression and suicide and get help—often for the first time.”

This reminds me of the third type of empathy that Goleman and Ekman identify. Compassionate empathy is when we ”not only understand and feel a person’s predicament, but we are moved to help as well.” Though by definition this is regarding being moved to act for somebody else, I think the principle still applies to both "13 Reasons" and "Euphoria." People were moved to talk to someone about their mental health. That to me is a huge victory.

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Empathy is one of the most valuable skills we can learn. It can defeat misunderstandings, derision and dogma while cultivating the best parts in all of us. That’s why we need stories, even the uncomfortable ones, to help us understand a different world as our own, so that we can remember we are all connected, and even, when possible, take compassionate action.

Shows such as "Euphoria" help those struggling with similar issues find unconditional love for themselves and their journey. It helps family members of addicts better understand what’s happening underneath the surface (this coming from a daughter of addicts, by the way). I think that anything created with this kind of heartfelt intention is a force for good. No matter how painful.

Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

Yesiltas’ meticulousness paid off, because the results are uncanny.

Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.
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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

True

Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

The mesmerizing lost art of darning knit fabric.

For most of human history, people had to make their own clothing by hand, and sewing skills were subsequently passed down from generation to generation. Because clothing was so time-consuming and labor-intensive to make, people also had to know how to repair clothing items that got torn or damaged in some way.

The invention of sewing and knitting machines changed the way we acquire clothing, and the skills people used to possess have largely gone by the wayside. If we get a hole in a sock nowadays, we toss it and replace it. Most of us have no idea how to darn a sock or fix a hole in any knit fabric. It's far easier for us to replace than to repair.

But there are still some among us who do have the skills to repair clothing in a way that makes it look like the rip, tear or hole never happened, and to watch them do it is mesmerizing.

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Joy

Nurse turns inappropriate things men say in the delivery room into ‘inspirational’ art

"Can you move to the birthing ball so I can sleep in the bed?"

Holly the delivery nurse.

After working six years as a labor and delivery nurse Holly, 30, has heard a lot of inappropriate remarks made by men while their partners are in labor. “Sometimes the moms think it’s funny—and if they think it’s funny, then I’ll laugh with them,” Holly told TODAY Parents. “But if they get upset, I’ll try to be the buffer. I’ll change the subject.”

Some of the comments are so wrong that she did something creative with them by turning them into “inspirational” quotes and setting them to “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton on TikTok.

“Some partners are hard to live up to!” she jokingly captioned the video.

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