Welcome to Original Characters, an ongoing series of Industrial Scripts’ articles examining the most original characters to appear in both TV and film. This article will focus on Rue from Euphoria.
Table of Contents
- What is an Original Character?
- Who is Rue From Euphoria?
- What Makes Rue From Euphoria an Original Character?
- Rue From Euphoria: A Multi-Dimensional Character
- Rue Bennett’s Relationships
- Rue From Euphoria: A Reflection of Grief and Trauma
What is an Original Character?
It’s a character that sticks with you even when they’re long gone from your screens. It’s a character that serves as a reference point in casual conversation. Or it’s a character that sums up a behavior or generation.
“not the same as anything or anyone else and therefore special and interesting…”
— from The Cambridge English Dictionary
Most importantly, in screenplay terms, an original character is a character that shines through in spite of any other weaknesses.
For a Screenplay Reader or Development Executive, an original character is an element of a script that stands out. No matter how busy they are or no matter how much work other elements of the script need, the original characters steal the show.
Great characters are at the very heart of great screenwriting and original characters can help elevate great to superlative.
They might be plucked from real life or an amalgamation of real people. Or they may just simply be a genius stroke of creativity. Either way, these are original characters…
The seventeenth in our original characters series will look at Rue from Euphoria.
*The following article contains spoilers for Euphoria*
Who is Rue From Euphoria?
Ruby “Rue” Bennett is a recovering drug addict and high school student from East Highland, California. Undoubtedly the central protagonist of Euphoria, Rue is introverted yet outwardly sarcastic, vulnerable yet resilient. And it’s these contradictory complexities that make Rue a compelling heroine.
Doctors suspected Rue had obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit disorder, anxiety, and bipolar disorder as a child. These developed into endless anxiety attacks, concentration issues, and depression in her early childhood.
- Then, around the age of thirteen, Rue began taking care of her father after he fell ill with cancer.
- Here, she was unsupervised as her mother had to work more hours.
- Furthermore, during this time, Rue had access to her father’s medications. So she decided to try Oxycontin to cope with the anxiety she felt about her father’s deteriorating health.
Her father was later hospitalized, and from then on, she continued taking his medication in secret. This habit only grew after her father’s passing. By the age of fourteen, drugs were Rue’s primary coping mechanism.
Rue is first introduced in the present returning home from rehab after narrowly surviving a drug overdose. She presents herself as agreeable and happy to be drug-free to her mother Leslie and her sister Gia. However, she immediately betrays them by admitting she has no intention of staying clean.
So Rue is a troubled and complicated character right from the off. She has a fascinating backstory and is a host of contradictions. It’s these elements that make her such a gripping and original character to lead the series. Her world feels authentic and her motivations are clearly linked to her backstory and context. Before the show has even truly begun, Rue is a character with endless three dimensions to turn to.
What Makes Rue From Euphoria an Original Character?
Whilst Rue is a fictional character, she is based somewhat on fact. Showrunner Sam Levinson has stated he drew inspiration from his experiences of anxiety, depression and addiction as an adolescent.
Levinson’s raw portrayal of Rue’s character breaks down stereotypes and misconceptions associated with depression, anxiety, and addiction. In the series, we understand the sources of these issues and viscerally experience the effects they have on one character and those around them.
This daring portrayal makes Rue genuinely original, relatable and memorable. Consequently, she becomes a reference point to many for difficult and profound experiences. And whilst her experiences may be extreme, they’re extrapolations of common teenage issues.
Rue’s character also speaks to a generation of teens raised in the time of omnipresent social media and a drug epidemic. In this way, she’s acutely affected by the issues of her time. And this breeds originality. She ends up as a poster girl for the Gen Z teen experience, albeit one at the sharp end of the spectrum.
Though self-destructive and reckless, Rue’s backstory and battle with her mental health and addictions make her likeable and understandable. With her profound context, Rue makes audiences care for her. This care may manifest as worry, excitement, distress, anger, sympathy or sadness. In the end, whatever her state, she is a character we deeply want to succeed against the odds.
Rue From Euphoria: A Multi-Dimensional Character
Multi-dimensional characters can drive the plot forward through their internal conflicts, personality, relationships, strengths, and weaknesses. These characters are layered and take time to break down and figure out.
Euphoria excels specifically at creating these multi-dimensional characters as they battle inner conflicts personal to them and their relationships. These characters’ responses and reactions seem genuine and realistic in the context of the teenage experience in particular.
Looking specifically at Rue, the weight of her inner conflicts builds tension between herself and the people in her life. Rue is immensely complicated. And this is seen clearly through her interactions with characters she feels close to.
In season one, the audience is privy to glimpses of Rue’s seemingly true inner feelings. This manifests through conversations with characters like Fezco, her mother and Ali Muhammad.
- These characters are honest with Rue and allow her to open up. Sometimes they even force her to face who she has become, as well as her choices and their consequences.
- Further complicating Rue’s inner conflict is her relationship with Jules. As Rue and Jules’ relationship becomes more intimate, Rue experiences relief and comfort from the relationship.
- As a result, she refrains from using drugs. But this, in turn, causes her to form an unhealthy and dependent relationship with Jules.
- Jules becomes Rue’s only source of joy and somewhat of a substitute for her addiction. Consequently, this only makes Jules leaving Rue and running away to New York a catalyst for her to find relief through using drugs again.
In season two, Rue’s addiction escalates to many near-death experiences and overdoses. The audience sees the depth of her addiction and the strain it puts on those around her. Her connections fray under the weight of her addiction.
- She has, for example, aggressive arguments with the people in her trusted circle. She alienates her mother, sister, Ali and even Fez.
- As a result, she cannot face up to the people there to keep her in check. For example, while Jules and Rue, on the surface, have made up, Rue still feels betrayed by Jules’ choice to run away.
“There are a couple of versions of what happened that night. It all depends on who you ask, and to be honest, I’m not always the most reliable narrator.”– Rue Bennett – Season 1, Episode 1
The narrative and mise-en-scène are all linked to Rue’s imagination and fantasies. Therefore, the audience views the world through Rue’s skewed lens.
- An example of this is can be seen in Season 1, Episode 5. Rue and Jules get matching lip tattoos that read ‘RULES’ (a combination of their names).
- Later though in Trouble Don’t Last Always, Rue tells Ali that she and Jules never actually got the tattoos.
So peeking into Rue’s imagination in this way, without knowing whether the events occurring are real or not, only adds to Rue’s complexities. Furthermore, it also gives the audience a front-row seat to the side effects of a passionate, teenage crush.
As a whole, Rue’s experience is viscerally rendered by a dynamic portrayal of her inner conflict. The series thrusts the audience into Rue’s world tangibly by frequently using the cinematic techniques at its disposal. Her inner conflict isn’t just something we see from afar. Instead, we live and breathe it as the show unfolds.
Rue Bennett’s Relationships
Although she has an introverted personality, through Rue’s narration and dialogue, she seems to have a great sense of humour. This is filtered primarily through a sarcastic tone.
- Moreover, at social gatherings, her use of drugs and alcohol aid in her interaction with new people.
- However, she still often navigates toward her closest friends.
Rue has many people who care for her and her well-being; family, friends and acquaintances. But unfortunately, her addiction makes her a challenging person to care for consistently.
Jules Vaughn and Rue Bennett
Jules Vaughn is Rue Bennett’s best friend turned first love and later unhealthy addiction. Whilst Rue struggles to navigate her world, Jules is the opposite; free-spirited and confident.
Rue and Jules first meet the night of Chris McKay’s party. Jules cutting her arm in response to Nate Jacobs’ taunts entices Rue to approach her.
- They immediately hit it off, and their friendship snowballs in the days to follow.
- Jules worries over Rue’s excessive drug use. She proclaims that she can’t be best friends with someone who will kill themselves. So Rue agrees to stop using drugs for Jules.
- Rue herself develops feelings for Jules. And she becomes jealous when Jules talks to Nate (who she knows as Tyler) on a dating app.
- Then, she confesses these feelings and they have an on and off-again relationship.
- The two plan to run away together. However, Rue changes her mind, and Jules still leaves. Unfortunately, this then causes Rue to relapse.
- As the school term begins, Rue befriends Elliot, who she secretly does drugs with while she dates Jules. A love triangle ensues.
Both Rue and Jules are in transitional periods of their lives. They both battle through their inner conflicts; Rue’s addiction and Jules’ painful family history. Whilst they find relief in each other’s company, their inner conflicts test the boundaries of their relationship.
Gia Bennett and Rue Bennett
Gia Bennett is Rue’s younger sister.
- Rue is very protective of Gia. Primarily, she tries to prevent her from making the same mistakes she has made. For example, on one occasion, she stops Gia from smoking marijuana.
- Due to Rue’s addiction and mental health issues, their mother (Leslie) often overlooks Gia. This is brought to Leslie’s attention by Ali when he visits the family for dinner.
Ultimately though, it is ironic how protective Rue is over Gia, as she cannot protect Gia from her own deceptions and manipulations. Rue, for example, lies to her sister and mother on multiple occasions. And the near breaking point for the family is Rue’s outburst in the opening scene of Season 2, Episode 5. Here, Gia and Leslie cower in fear behind a locked door as Rue kicks it down.
Lexi Howard and Rue Bennett
Rue’s childhood best friend, Lexi Howard, is determined and level-headed.
- Rue’s addictions and mental health issues have created distance between the two.
- Although they are not super close, Lexi is always there for Rue. For example, she gives Rue her urine to help her pass a home drug test.
- And throughout the series, the two slowly rekindle their friendship.
- Lexi directs a play in season two that showcases her observations of her sister Cassie, her friend group and Rue. Rue is so proud of Lexi for this.
Lexi’s consistency in Rue’s life is a blessing. She’s a flash of stability in an unstable world. In this way, she demonstrates how a character such as Rue needs a character like Lexi to survive. She’s the somewhat unsung hero of support.
Fezco “Fez” and Rue Bennett
Fez is a compassionate drug dealer and high school dropout.
- He sells drugs to Rue. However, he disapproves since she has returned from rehab.
- Fez is like an older brother to Rue. He worries about her and her sobriety the way family would.
- He has seen many people die and does not want that outcome for Rue.
- Ultimately, Fez and Rue are protective of each other. They both threaten Nate Jacobs in defence of each other, for example.
Fez seemingly helps protect Rue from herself. However, he’s a fascinating character because he both aids in Rue’s salvation and downfall, providing her with drugs but doing so disapprovingly. In the end, we can convincingly ask: is Fez a help or a hindrance?
Rue From Euphoria: A Reflection of Grief and Trauma
Ultimately, Rue is coming to terms with unresolved grief over the loss of her father. And this unresolved grief showcases itself via the many highs and near overdoses she faces. These often transport her into a memory or hallucination, for instance, where she encounters her father or feels his spirit.
Throughout the series, Rue Bennett is a character that is healing in a non-linear manner. In this way, her arc reflects the experience of battling addiction and mental health. After two seasons, Rue has taken small steps toward change. However, there’s always a chance of sliding back.
So Rue’s characterisation evocatively illustrates the experience of individuals struggling with addiction, mental health and trauma. Whether Rue stays sober or goes down another dark path, her journey is guaranteed to take audiences on a zigzag of emotions.
Moreover, the choice to deceive viewers through Rue’s unreliable first-person voice-over narration and perspective is effective in demonstrating the palpable effects of addiction on those around the person in question.
Overall, Rue from Euphoria is an original character shining a light on urgent issues faced by a section of young people in contemporary society. She’s a visceral depiction of struggle, grief and teen angst. Ultimately, her experiences might be extreme but they source from a deeply relatable well.
Enjoyed our article on Rue from Euphoria? Check out our other original characters pieces, such as Tony Soprano and Shiv Roy.
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This article was written by Danielle Hassanali and edited by IS staff.
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