‘Euphoria’ Star Hunter Schafer’s Stunning Special Episode on Transgender Identity
A poetic standalone finds Jules exploring her femininity—and wondering whether she really wants to use hormones.
The most ambitious, stunning moment from Euphoria’s second special episode came from one of its most beloved performers. Hunter Schafer, who plays Jules, shared a poem she’d written with creator Sam Levinson—which became the inspiration for the HBO drama’s second standalone episode, the colorfully titled “F— Anyone Who’s Not a Sea Blob.”
In December, Euphoria debuted the first of two special episodes produced during the pandemic—“Part One: Rue,” which finds a relapsed Rue sharing pancakes and a wrenching conversation about life with her sober sponsor, Ali (the great Colman Domingo). The stripped-down episode proved that substance always lurked beneath that glittery exterior—and provides a wonderful showcase for Zendaya’s astounding rawness as a performer. While most of the series seems to unfold from within a hallucinogenic, Instagram-tinged haze, “Rue” grounded us in the sober present as Rue seemed to embark on the journey to really, truly getting clean for the first time.
“F— Anyone Who’s Not a Sea Blob,” on the other hand, is a return to form. Although the special, like the one before it, largely unfolds in a quiet setting—in this case, Jules’s first therapy appointment—Jules’s narration takes us into an impressionistic dream space. As Jules explains her complicated relationship with her mother, online dating, and fantasy, and reality, she brings us inside her mind—a space where reality, dream, and nightmare all commingle.
As the session begins, Jules is reluctant to talk about what prompted her to want to run away—a decision she made in the show’s Season 1 finale. Instead, she tells her therapist that she’s been thinking of going off her hormones.
“Basically, I feel like I’ve framed my entire womanhood around men,” Jules says. “When, like, in reality, I’m no longer interested in men. Like, philosophically, what men want... What men want is so boring and simple and not creative, and I look at myself and I think, How the fuck did I spend my entire life building this, like my body and my personality and my soul, around what I think men desire? Just like, it’s embarrassing. I feel like a fraud.”
“The main thing I heard,” her therapist replies, “is how hard you are on yourself. The amount of self-criticism you’re experiencing, it’s a lot... You’re not crazy, Jules. You’re just a lot harder on yourself than you probably should be.”
Later, Jules clarifies that she’d likely just stop using her pubertal blockers—and what follows is one of the episode’s most evocative streams of consciousness.
“I’ve always thought of puberty as, like, a broadening, or a deepening, or a thickening,” Jules says. “Which I think is why I was always so scared of it, you know, because in my head, women were always small and thin and delicate. So the thought of puberty, like this irreversible forever fucking metamorphosis, was fucking terrifying... But then I think about beautiful things that are also broad, and deep, and thick, and I think of something like the ocean.”
In this moment, we see Jules lying on a beach as water rushes up around her body. “I think, like, I want to be as beautiful as the ocean,” Jules says. “Because the ocean’s strong as fuck and feminine as fuck—like, both are what makes the ocean the ocean... Sometimes I pray to the ocean.”
“At least for me, being trans is spiritual,” Jules says, as she continues to see herself walking through waves, the lighting and resolution shifting from one dream-like filter to another. “You know, it’s not religious; it’s not for some congregation; it’s for me. It’s mine. It belongs to me. And I don’t ever want to stand still. I want to be alive. I mean, that’s what this has always been about—is staying alive.”
Jules’s exploration about her femininity began with a poem Schafer had written when she’d just graduated high school. The actress, who, like her character, is trans, told the Los Angeles Times that she’d shared the poem with Sam Levinson, who in turn used it as inspiration for the episode—which Levinson and Schafer co-wrote.
“It was about this strange spiral I was having about hormone therapy and making an analogy between learning how to find beauty within yourself,” Schafer told the Times of her poem. “Like, rather than wanting to be as beautiful as another cis woman, wanting to be as beautiful as something even grander, like the ocean.”
Jules, Schafer continued, is “evolving as a human and is coming to understand herself in a deeper way.”
“Gender and self-expression are incredibly fluid and incredibly ever-changing,” Schafer told the Times. “And I think it’s very emotional... and psychological in a way that’s outside political gender assignments of, like, male and female. Those are... not a fun way or a fruitful way to think about inhabiting your gender.”
Like “Rue,” which unraveled Rue’s struggle to find something bigger than herself to believe in through a discussion of revolution and injustice, “Sea Blob” takes an indirect approach to the questions Jules faces. This installment, in particular, feels less prescriptive than exploratory.
But Jules will soon have to decide what role Rue can play in her life, and vice versa. As she tells her therapist, it can sometimes feel as though Rue’s sobriety hinges on her presence—an enormous weight for any young woman to carry, and perhaps one that could prove too much in the face of everything else she’s facing.
The episode’s gutting ending—Jules crying in her bed after a tearful Rue appears in her bedroom—hints at the emotional struggles ahead. But as the rain pours down over Jules, it’s hard not to think once more about the ocean she swims in her dreams. Maybe this is just another form of movement, another evolution—perhaps not as pretty as the one we envision for ourselves, but just as necessary.