“If someone were crying, how would the tears fall?” asks Jan Musgrove in her book, Make-up, Hair and Costume for Film and Television (2003, p. 153). At many times in Euphoria (2019-present), the characters weep. Their tears stream down their face and in that process, the tears mix with their glitter to form “glitter tears” (Abelman, 2019; Ahlgrim, 2019; Allen, 2020; Gonzalez, 2021; Handler, 2019; Jahns, 2019; Loane, 2022; Peters, 2021; Santoro, 2022). Characters wear glitter for various reasons. It allows them to hide behind a façade– “belie abuse” (Guthrie, 2019, n.p.). The cosmetics can also communicate self-love and empowerment (Twersky, 2022). In dominating the glam look, the players can own the gaze that is embedded in narrative media (Mulvey, 1975).
In Euphoria, the characters’ tears display their vulnerability. The tears clean off the veneer of assurance–a barrier that the teens put up to assert that they are confident in a world where everyone is looking at them, online and offline.
According to the show’s makeup artist, Doniella Davy, “Rue’s looks are not about perfection. They are pure moody expression” (Gonzalez, 2021, n.p.). Euphoria’s season 1 teaser poster showcases Rue’s famous glitter tear (see slide 1). From the start, Euphoria advertises the amalgamation of sadness and artificiality. This is emblematic of the social media age–the era in which Euphoria exists. Rue is the narrator of the show. The other characters' insecurities are revealed through Rue’s perspective. Ironically, the makeup helps unmask this. The tears stream. And in that process, they leave a trail of truth.
Jan Musgrave states “For make-up staff there is a difference between TV and film. For much TV work the make-up and hair requirements are simple and straightforward” (2003, p. 10). Since The Sopranos (1999-2007), HBO has been invested in producing premium television–TV that mirrors cinema (Nochimson, 2019, p. 63; see Polan, 2009). In this way, the makeup in choice TV has not been simple, but intricate. And it has become even more so as quality TV mirrors American teens' social media and their personas–their ersatz identities that they create to adapt to their new reality.
In the episode, “The Theater and Its Double” (2.7), Marta (a character who represents Maddy in Lexi’s school play, Our Life) applies makeup to Lexi’s face. Marta is showing Lexi how to mask herself.
D’ya like it?
I feel stupid.
Everyone feels stupid.
You feel stupid?
Yeah, I did. And then, I just chose
not to feel stupid.
I don’t know if... I can...
really get to that point.
90% of life is confidence.
And the thing about confidence is no one knows if it’s real or not.
As Marta/Maddy applies Lexi’s makeup, she explains to Lexi that this ritual is a part of creating confidence. “If someone were crying, how would the tears fall?” When the tears stream, they expose the confidence as fake, which according to Marta/Maddy is “90% of life.” At many times in Euphoria, Maddy, the character who best understands the idea of confidence in the text, cries. Her glitter tears appear (see slide 2).
Euphoria kickstarted a “beauty revolution” (Malivindi, 2022, n.p.). Part of this revolution is unconventional as there are many cosmetic tutorials that show how to emulate “glitter tears,” a new look. Unlike the process of the tears tearing off the makeup, the beauty influencers show how to paint them. This imitation of crying begins without the eye producing the tear. Perhaps these makeup tutorials on how to produce glitter tears shows that teens understand the sadness of social media and the dangers of creating a false persona to meet the web’s new standards. Data concerning teenagers' reactions to Euphoria suggests that this is the case (Kaufman et al., 2021, p. 3). “If someone were crying, how would the tears fall?” For the teens who understand Euphoria, maybe their tears don’t need to fall. They are painted on. The tears were there to begin with.
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