Content warning: This article contains mentions of profanity, underage sex and child pornography.
Kat Hernandez on “Euphoria” was my favorite character on the show — up until this second season. Kat, portrayed by actress Barbie Ferreira, is the show’s only representation of fat women. And as a woman who also resides in a larger body, I looked forward to Kat’s storyline the most.
In season one, the first scene introducing Kat shows her with her friends, Maddy and BB. They initially talk about Maddy’s relationship. But eventually, BB asks Kat how many guys she’s had sex with — although it is heavily implied BB already knows the answer is zero. Kat looks away and ignores the question out of embarrassment. Later in the episode, there’s a flashback of Kat telling another character she’s a virgin — who responds by telling her to get with the times and have sex already.
After watching that, I definitely cringed a bit. Being seen as undesirable and desexualized is a common trope for plus-size characters.
But when Kat loses her virginity, it marks the beginning of her sexual awakening. She changes her style completely, becomes more interested in guys and carries herself with more confidence.
Many viewers interpret Kat’s storyline in season one to fall into another common trope for plus-size women — hyper-sexualization. Especially because by episode three, she becomes an online sex worker. And it should be noted Kat is a minor in the show. And therefore, her work as a cam girl is child pornography. So a common argument is that “Euphoria” hyper-sexualizes Kat to give her character value.
I don’t deny there’s a lot of truth there. The representation in the show is far from perfect. I have gripes with "Euphoria" as well. Although Kat’s character is one representation of the plus-size community, she still fits into the entertainment industry’s “ideal” body shape — small waist, hourglass figure. And there’s a fine line between glorifying the characters’ behaviors and showing painful yet relatable experiences.
But in my opinion, season one of “Euphoria” does the latter. Because for me, I felt most connected to Kat because her character’s emotions made me feel less alone in my pain and experience. It’s something I rarely ever see in mainstream media.
One of the most powerful scenes I saw of Kat in season one was when she walks through the mall with her new look. And in a voiceover, she says, “I spent my whole life afraid that people were going to find out I was fat. But honestly, who gives a s---? There’s nothing more powerful than a fat girl who doesn’t give a f---.”
When I watched this scene, it was like something clicked for me. I realized that I do the same thing. I find myself anxious that people are going to find out I’m fat — when in reality that isn’t something that I can truly hide.
Kat would later gets into a relationship with her classmate, Ethan. And this made me so happy. Fat characters aren’t usually the ones who get to fall in love. Oftentimes they are on the sidelines as the conventionally pretty girl gets the guy. When I watched Kat's relationship with Ethan, it felt so refreshing to see her feel loved. And it didn’t have to do with the sexualization of her body.
So after season one, I was looking forward to seeing how Kat’s character would develop further.
She begins to feel unhappy in her relationship with Ethan. And in a scene in her bedroom, she starts to finally recognize how unhappy she is with herself. But this realization doesn't come easy. There's a montage of influencer-type women surrounding Kat yelling at her to “Smash all beauty standards!” and “Love yourself!” In a whirlwind, Kat yells back, “But that’s what I’m trying to tell you: I f---ing hate myself!”
Almost immediately, I felt an emotional reaction when watching this scene. On social media, I often see influencers preaching words of positivity. But in reality, it gives off the opposite effect. This scene perfectly wraps up the sentiment of the toxic positivity that exists on social media platforms from many influencers.
This scene made me hopeful for Kat’s storyline in season two. But unfortunately, that’s the only thing we got for her character in this second season. She continues to pull away from Ethan. And she ends up being downright cruel and insensitive to him, which eventually leads to the relationship’s end.
And then that’s it. The show seemingly forgot Kat was an underage sex worker in season one. And her character arc fails to go any further this season. So for me and many others who felt a real deep connection to Kat’s character, “Euphoria” really let us down.