Euphoria’s Nate Jacobs, played by actor Jacob Elordi, is one of the most toxic characters on the hit HBO show. Throughout the two seasons that have aired so far, Nate has exhibited highly destructive behavior that has severely impacted those around him.
To understand why Nate is the way he is, it’s important to look at his background and upbringing. He grew up with a highly abusive father, Cal Jacobs, who constantly berated and belittled him. Cal also harbored many secrets, including being closeted, frequenting sex workers, and filming his sexual encounters without consent.
As a child, Nate discovered these tapes his father had recorded, which contributed to his warped view of sex, women, and masculinity. Growing up in this toxic environment shaped Nate into the volatile young man viewers see in Euphoria.
Nate’s Toxic Masculinity
A major root of Nate’s toxicity is his adherence to a strict code of harmful masculinity. He was taught from a young age that showing emotion was weak, and that the only acceptable feelings were anger and aggression. This has led Nate to be emotionally repressed except for fits of rage that bubble up when he feels threatened or loses control of a situation.
Nate also treats the women in his life as objects and possessions rather than as complete human beings deserving of respect. He uses sex as a way to exert dominance and constantly feels the need to prove his manhood through violence and intimidation tactics.
Controlling Behavior with Maddy and Cassie
Nate’s relationships with Maddy Perez and Cassie Howard showcase how he wields his male power and privilege to control the women in his life. He maintained an on-again, off-again relationship with Maddy for years that involved gaslighting and physical abuse.
With Cassie, Nate recognized her vulnerability and need for validation after she became ostracized by her peers. He used this to manipulate Cassie into doing whatever he wanted, including isolating herself from friends and family.
Nate’s short temper and blowups further exhibit his brand of toxic masculinity. Small inconveniences send him into frightening fits of rage where he breaks things and screams at people. Any slight against Nate causes him to snap in an attempt to reassert his dominance.
Internalized homophobia is another significant contributor to Nate’s toxicity. With his father keeping his sexuality a secret, Nate was taught to look down on and punish any behavior perceived as gay.
This has fueled Nate’s fixation on complete heteronormativity. He feels the need to constantly prove his straightness through misogynistic actions and gay bullying. Nate’s severe daddy issues also translate into confusion about his own sexuality, further feeding his homophobic behavior.
One of Nate’s most reprehensible acts is blackmailing high school student Jules Vaughn with the threat of leaking her nude photos. After catfishing her by posing as another boy online, Nate gained photos he is still using to control Jules in season 2.
He also reported her to the police for possessing child pornography in an attempt to terrorize her out of testifying about seeing his father in a compromising video. This combination of homophobia and vengeance against anyone who crosses him drive Nate’s despicable actions against Jules.
Nate’s Obsessive Nature
Obsession is a driving force behind Nate’s toxicity and refusal to let go of grudges. He fixates on people to the point where he can think of nothing else, leading him to go to extreme lengths to possess them. This ties back to his controlling behavior and fear of losing dominance.
Obsession with Maddy
Nate remained obsessed with Maddy long after their relationship ended, unable to get over her moving on. In season 2, he still monitors Maddy’s every move, going as far as sending his new girlfriend Cassie to spy on her for him.
Obsession with Jules
Though he torments Jules, Nate is also strangely infatuated with her in his own twisted way. He cannot stop seeking her out, both online while catfishing her and in person to try asserting authority. Jules consumes his thoughts even as he moves onto other relationships.
Obsession with Cassie
Now Nate has fixated his obsessive nature onto Cassie, who he sees as an object to possess and control. Rather than showing real care for Cassie, Nate simply wants her completely and will do anything in service of that obsession.
Nate is extremely vengeful towards those who he feels have crossed him. He harbors grudges long after conflicts occur and looks for ways to enact retribution through manipulation and threats.
Seeking Revenge on Tyler
One example is Nate’s ongoing vengeance against Tyler Clarkson. After Tyler was sexually involved with Nate’s girlfriend Maddy, Nate had Tyler falsely charged with assault and blackmailed him into taking the fall.
In season 2, Nate continues punishing Tyler by spreading rumors about him at school and trying to get him kicked off the football team.
Seeking Revenge on Fez
Local drug dealer Fez is another constant target of Nate’s grudge-holding. Nate resents Fez’s friendship with Jules and blames him for her lack of interest in him. His vendetta leads to Nate calling the cops on Fez’s drug operations in hopes of getting Fez arrested.
Nate also personally threatens Fez and initiates a violent confrontation with him at a gas station. His vindictiveness fuels these attempts to harm those who get between him and his obsessions.
Hypocrisy is also rampant in Nate’s characterization. He admonishes behaviors in others that he himself regularly engages in. Nate sets harsh rules for people that he refuses to follow.
Homophobia While Questioning Sexuality
The most obvious hypocrisy from Nate stems from his rampant homophobia while simultaneously struggling with his own sexuality. He is purposely hyper-masculine and gay-bullying to compensate for the questions and insecurities he feels about his sexuality after being affected by his father’s secrets.
Anger About Father’s Behavior
Nate also bitterly resents his father’s treatment of women and family secrets, not acknowledging that he repeats the same patterns. He is furious at Cal for cheating and abusing his power over girls, while Nate manipulates women like Maddy and Cassie.
The hypocrisy comes from Nate judging his father’s sexual behavior as immoral while failing to recognize the harm of his own actions.
How Nate’s Toxicity Damages Those Around Him
Nate leaves immense emotional destruction in his wake due to his unchecked toxicity and refusal to get help. His volatility and scheming take an enormous toll on loved ones, peers, and anyone who interacts with him.
Maddy suffers from trauma bonding with Nate due to the manipulation and abuse in their relationship. He gaslights her constantly, destroying her self-esteem and sense of reality. She feels unable to fully break free from his grip, turning to alcohol and impulsive behavior to cope.
Cassie has completely lost herself by getting involved with Nate. She has isolated herself from friends out of allegiance to him and seems devoid of self-worth or autonomy. Nate’s mind games have utterly overwhelmed Cassie as she becomes more erratic and unstable.
Rue & Jules
As Rue’s addiction and depression spiral, Jules confides that Nate’s blackmailing has made her life hellish. The constant threat from him forces Jules to make risky decisions, such as skipping town. This added turmoil endangers Rue’s sobriety and pushes Jules away when Rue needs her most.
Tyler developed severe PTSD after Nate manipulated the legal system to have Tyler charged with assault. Tyler’s bright future has been derailed, as he now suffers from anxiety, depression, and intrusive flashbacks that disrupt his school and work.
Could Nate Become Less Toxic?
Due to the deep roots and complexity of Nate’s issues, it is unlikely he can become significantly less toxic without intensive therapy and a strong desire to change. However, there are some ways he could begin making steps in a better direction.
Stand Up to His Father
Nate needs to stop enabling Cal’s abusive behavior. Setting boundaries and removing Cal’s outsized influence could help Nate break negative patterns. This also requires moving out of Cal’s house so he is no longer dependent on his father’s financial support.
Attempting to make amends with those he has hurt, like Maddy, Jules, and Tyler, can allow Nate to take accountability for his actions. Though it may not repair the damage, making effort to acknowledge his mistakes could help Nate develop empathy and perspective.
Get Professional Help
Most importantly, Nate needs extensive counseling to treat his anger, narcissism, vengefulness, and homophobia. Without digging into the roots of his learned toxic behaviors and unchecked mental illness, he cannot move forward in healthy ways.
Euphoria’s Nate Jacobs embodies lifelong learned toxicity passed down from his father Cal. His hyper-masculinity, obsessiveness, hypocrisy, and vindictiveness stem from being raised in an environment that normalized abuse, objectification, and emotional repression.
Nate uses manipulation, gay-bullying, legal threats, and violence to maintain feelings of control and dominance. However, underneath he struggles with self-loathing, confusion about his sexuality, and extreme daddy issues.
Those close to Nate suffer severe consequences, like trauma, isolation, and derailed futures. Without intensive self-work and therapy, it seems unlikely Nate can overcome his complex web of toxicity. Euphoria’s portrayal of him stands as a cautionary tale about the cyclical damage caused by abusive parenting and untreated mental health issues.