Euphoria’s very graphic hazing scene and its aftermath highlight the toxicity in McKay always ‘bottling it up’
This article contains spoilers for episode 6: ‘The Next Episode.’
The most recent episode of ‘Euphoria’ showed yet another graphic instance that teens relate to the most. The HBO show has been a glaring epicenter for controversies ever since its release, because of its multitude of teen-related themes ranging from drugs, sex, and alcohol to mental issues, violence, and identity crises. And this time, following the suit of its previous episodes, the character that episode 6 focused on was Christopher McKay (Algee Smith) and his tragic hazing inside his college dorm which happened in the middle of him making out with his girlfriend, Cassie Howard (Sydney Sweeney.)
The sixth episode, titled ‘The Next Episode’ focused on Halloween, and pretty much all of its events unfolded surrounding parties for the festival. We see Cassie attending McKay’s college Halloween party, for which she dressed up in the signature skimpy blue lingerie with a mini skirt outfit that Patricia Arquette’s Alabama Worley wore in ‘True Romance’. McKay makes her change and earlier in the episode while exploring his backstory, we find out that he is actually quite insecure about Cassie’s sultry blonde image and her revealing outfits because of the way other boys look at her and are jealous of him. So McKay makes her change into a football jersey, and later, the two can be seen making out in his dorm room.
But as the two of them get undressed, heading towards sex, some six to eight semi-nude frat guys barge into the room and drag McKay off the bed. They then pin him down on the ground with his back up and grind and hump against his body while a couple of them record the incident. A mortified Cassie manages to cover herself up with the sheets and screams at them to stop, and while the scene was edited in a manner where you can’t really tell if McKay was raped, the fact that they keep chanting ‘McGay!’ while assaulting him is enough to lay down just how traumatized the teen would have been. At the end of the scene, after the frat boys leave, we see McKay on the floor, tears flowing down his eyes, before he gets up and walks into the bathroom without a single word to Cassie.
While Cassie texts her sister, Lexi (Maude Apatow) about the incident, McKay has a pretty drawn out breakdown inside the bathroom. When he comes out, however, he’s a different person. He asks Cassie why she has put clothes on, and whether she doesn’t want to have sex anymore. Cassie answers in the positive but also mentions what they did to him and he just blows it off, before turning her around and initiating what seems like extremely aggressive sex. It is clear that Cassie did not enjoy that but goes along with it because she had given her consent and probably out of some pity for what the boy went through just minutes ago.
The entire situation with the two of them has proven to be quite the buzzing topic, first with the lack of clarity on what exactly the boys did with McKay, and secondly because of the kind of sex McKay had with Cassie. But highlighting the very problematic college practice of hazing amongst male students is not all that this episode does; certain fans believe this was all another reflection of the mantra McKay’s super ambitious, tough as nails father had instilled in him as a child. As we explored McKay’s backstory, we found out that his father put him through insane, inhuman rigorous training to play pro-football in college. But when he went to college and realized he wouldn’t make the cut, McKay voiced his views to his father, only to be met with cold invalidation.
It was then that McKay’s dad told him to bottle up his feelings and just follow his goal – the same advice he had given when a younger McKay went home crying after being called the n-word by his teammates. His dad had advised him to use football as a ‘release’ for all the anger and emotions he was asked to bottle up, and McKay followed the advice in this scenario too, using Cassie as a release. This went on to further establish just how toxic this forced tough as nails act can be when imposed on growing young adults.
Like one Reddit fan points out, “The entire point of that scene was going back to what his dad told him when he was younger about letting out his rage on the football field at the snap.” They also back their opinions on what McKay did to Cassie as not rape, saying: “There was no game and no snap coming so that’s how he released his anger after the hazing incident. It wasn’t exactly rape, more floating along the lines of abuse if anything.”
‘Euphoria’ airs on Sundays at 10 pm, only on HBO.