Jacob Elordi’s Emotional Terrorists: On Elvis Presley & Nate Jacobs (2024)

Although Priscilla and Euphoria drastically differ in style and tone, their employment of Jacob Elordi is surprisingly similar. Here, Yasmin Omar delves into his characters’ emotional manipulation, sexual control and fearsome violence.

Jacob Elordi’s Emotional Terrorists: On Elvis Presley & Nate Jacobs (1)

Content warning: this article contains discussion of domestic violence.

We can’t help falling in love with Jacob Elordi. And the characters he plays know it. The mere suggestion of his affection is enough to drive Sydney Sweeney’s Cassie to the brink of mental collapse in Euphoria (2019–) – despite her claims she’s ‘never, ever been happier!’ – and Barry Keoghan’s Oliver to lap up his sem*n-tainted bathwater in Saltburn (2023). In fact, the centripetal force of Elordi’s charisma is how he got the part of the Elvis Presley in Priscilla, since his first meeting with writer-director Sofia Coppola had everyone around them angling towards him like moths to a flame, as they do everywhere he goes. (The opening sentence of his recent GQ profile sums it up best: ‘The girls are hyperventilating.’)

Jacob Elordi’s Emotional Terrorists: On Elvis Presley & Nate Jacobs (2)

Priscilla (2023)

Off screen, Jacob Elordi is the lanky golden boy with the little handbag, telling fans who call him beautiful that they are too. On it, in his breakout TV and film roles, it’s another story. Sam Levinson’s flashy, glitter-encrusted HBO show Euphoria, with its music-video aesthetic, doesn’t have all that much in common with Coppola’s beautifully restrained biopic Priscilla – save for a throwaway Euphoria line about Elvis’ drug problem.

Elordi’s characters are the fulcrum that connects these wildly different projects. His vengeful jock Nate Jacobs in Euphoria, and controlling husband Elvis Presley in Priscilla, are both violent, inconsiderate partners who prioritise their own desires above all else, and bend their girlfriends to their will. The Nate-Maddy (Alexa Demie) and Elvis-Priscilla (Cailee Spaeny) pairings offer a cracked-mirror version of love, splintered by the hulking rage of Elordi’s characters. To cut to the core of these brutish men, we must skip over the halcyon days of the couples’ early courtship – the daily bouquet in the locker (Euphoria), the doting long-distance phone calls (Priscilla) – and consider how they manipulate their partners once their relationships are more firmly established.

Jacob Elordi’s Emotional Terrorists: On Elvis Presley & Nate Jacobs (3)

Priscilla (2023)

A disturbing detail about Elvis’ amorous pursuit of Priscilla (beyond the fact that she was 14 years old when they began seeing each other) is that he treats her as his Pygmalion, moulding her into an image befitting his platonic ideal of Elvis’ Girlfriend. She is young and guileless enough that he can, and does, shape her cultural references, instructing her to watch On the Waterfront (1954) and read the ecclesiastical texts he’s into. She is the vessel into which he pours himself; her personality is secondary. That he baptises her Cilla, and no one else in the film uses this nickname, indicates that he is bestowing a new identity upon her. This is most apparent during Priscilla’s makeover. In cinema, such fashion montages are usually joyful moments of self-expression set to chipper pop songs in the female-only sanctuary of a changing room. Here, however, it is a sublimation of Priscilla, who, at her boyfriend’s behest, must make way for Cilla.

Jacob Elordi’s Emotional Terrorists: On Elvis Presley & Nate Jacobs (4)

Priscilla (2023)

Elordi’s lounging Elvis is completely at ease, leg propped onto the sofa’s armrest, surrounded by his boys, while an uncomfortable Priscilla totters into the room again and again to be appraised by them, to weather their encouraging, if creepy, whistling. The Elvis-approved clothes she tries on, with their plunging necklines and predominantly blue colour palette, starkly contrast with her former wardrobe, which was softer, more high-necked, more girlish. He quickly shuts down Priscilla’s concern that her new look is ‘too sophisticated’ for her – Elvis needs her to leapfrog from adolescence into womanhood to swerve any pushback about his dating a teenager – and dismisses the patterned, chocolate-coloured gown that she likes (‘I hate brown, it reminds me of the army’). The next scene, in which she debuts her (Elvis-adjacent) black bouffant hairstyle, kohl-winged eyes and an aquamarine off-the-shoulder dress, highlights her anxiety because she’s shown pulling the garment up to better cover her chest, clearly self-conscious. Priscilla may be a fresh-faced brunette in a fluffy, baby-pink cardigan, but Cilla is a heavily made-up vamp in satin gowns, minidresses and lingerie – and she’ll just have to get used to it.

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Priscilla (2023)

Nate, much like Elvis, polices what his girlfriend wears in Euphoria, with a crucial difference. Where Elvis wants to sexualise Priscilla, Nate is trying to desexualise Maddy. After a typically angry phone call with her as they try to locate each other at a carnival (S1 E4), Nate finds Maddy, takes one look at her trousers with cut-outs to the hipbone and crop top, and exclaims, ‘Yo, why are you dressed like a hooker?’ It’s a typically misogynistic Nate line – this is someone who opens conversations with comments like ‘Yo, so Cassie’s a whor*’ – that speaks to his insecurity. He doesn’t want his girlfriend to sexually appeal to other men. As Maddy tells it, through the drowsily delivered voiceover from Zendaya’s Rue that anchors the show: ‘That’s the thing with guys like Nate, they don’t actually want a person. They want something they can own and possess.’

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Euphoria (2019–)

Elvis ‘possesses’ Priscilla, in that he stows her away like a porcelain doll in his Graceland toybox, but not in the biblical sense. A tension in their relationship is that she (a hormone-fuelled teenage girl, let’s not forget) wants to sleep with him, and he won’t touch her. He is a global sex symbol who withholds sex, proving as unyielding as a spritz of AquaNet hairspray. Throughout Priscilla’s plentiful bedroom-set scenes, she repeatedly moves to unbutton Elvis’ monogrammed silk pyjamas and, every time, he shrugs her off. He will be the one to decide when they consummate their union, thank you very much.

Furthermore, he’s getting the sexual gratification Priscilla so craves elsewhere, as the gossip magazines she busies herself with while Elvis is on the road breathlessly report on his romances with Nancy Sinatra, Ann-Margret, etc. One day, back in bed after another sexual rebuttal, Priscilla snaps. ‘Cilla, this isn’t gonna work if you don’t share my ideas and philosophies, and a lot of women wanna share that with me,’ he threatens, reminding her of her unstable position in his life. ‘I see a mad woman.’ To which she claps back: ‘No, a woman with needs who needs to be desired.’ Her pleas for sex go unacknowledged. It’s only after seven years, on their wedding night, that Elvis finally relents. For him, her chastity is paramount.

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Notwithstanding the decades that separate him from Elvis Presley, Euphoria’s Nate Jacobs still subscribes to this same, antiquated Madonna-whor* complex. Before going all the way with Maddy (S1 E2), he quizzes her about her sexual history: ‘So, you’re a virgin?’ ‘Like, totally?’ ‘What about, like, have you ever been fingered?’ The production design for Maddy’s bedroom, where their first sexual encounter takes place, plays up her youth and innocence through a pastel-pink colour scheme, twinkling fairy lights and protective bed curtains (the styling is very Sofia Coppola). Demie too, usually a picture of tight-fitting, skin-baring sexiness on the show, is instead costumed in frilly, pristine-white lingerie with a massive bow on her bra, a present to be unwrapped. As if the symbolism of her white underwear wasn’t clear enough, Maddy’s also fiddling with the gold crucifix around her neck – Sam Levinson can (and has) been accused of many things, but never of being a subtle filmmaker.

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Euphoria (2019–)

Three episodes later, Maddy (again via Rue’s narration) reveals to us that she wasn’t a virgin when she hooked up with Nate, and lied because ‘she could tell from Nate’s eyes how much it meant to him, that she was 100% his’. She is performing purity to ensnare him, aware that he wouldn’t want her if she were, to adopt the regrettable, patriarchal phrase, ‘damaged goods’. When Nate and Maddy start regularly having sex, its depiction is pretty troubling. There’s no romance or intimacy or sensuality. In fact, it’s downright aggressive: she’s invariably face down on the bed, he’s pushing her skull into the mattress with one hand, gripping the sheets with the other. Sex and violence are intertwined on Euphoria, especially with regard to Nate Jacobs. Many of his dastardly deeds – chief among them blackmailing Maddy at gunpoint (S2 E6) – take place in bedrooms, at nighttime. A startling shot in S1 E2 shows Nate beating up Lukas Gage’s Tyler for ‘assaulting’ Maddy (he didn’t, it was consensual) in a bedroom, but we only see Nate’s pummelling fists and the mattress, not Tyler. It’s a neat synthesis of the show’s wider commentary on masculinity, sexuality and abuse.

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Euphoria (2019–)

The violence in Priscilla and Euphoria is made all the more pronounced by Jacob Elordi’s towering, 6′5″ frame. He emphasises his threatening aura by looming over his much smaller co-stars (Spaeny stands at 5′1″, Demie 5′6″). There are almost identical moments in Coppola’s film and Levinson’s series where Elordi blocks the actresses against a wall, arm outstretched to pin them in place, and cranes his neck down towards them. It’s spine-tinglingly sinister, a taste of the raging outbursts yet to come from his characters.

Priscilla charts the gradual escalation of Elvis’ abuse, illustrating how each domestic-violence incident becomes more and more explosive. We first see him get physical with his partner during a pillow fight, when she playfully hits him with hers and he wallops her back with such a force that she hides in the bathroom, crying. Then, he grabs her by the arm – Coppola’s camera looking up at Elvis from Priscilla’s diminutive viewpoint – drags her out of the room, and throws her clothes into a suitcase, bellowing all the while. Finally, the most egregious, is his hurling of a desk chair at her head during a meeting, after she agrees that the new music sent by his label isn’t very good. Although his behaviour is increasingly alarming, Elvis deflects, blaming his ‘momma’s temper’. It’s a standard line abusers invoke to free themselves from accountability, which, for Priscilla as her first experience of love, is incredibly damaging (it mirrors Maddy’s dispiriting resignation after being attacked by Nate ‘love is a million things, sometimes it feels good, sometimes it feels bad’).

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Priscilla (2023)

Where Priscilla backloads its male lead’s violence, Euphoria makes it clear from the start. In one of those heady, quick-cutting montages the show has become known for (S1 E2), Levinson maps out Nate’s relationship with Maddy by placing us in his subjectivity. On an otherwise beautiful sunny day, Nate is walking Maddy home and thinking about all the men who want to hurt her, from ‘college guys who wouldn’t think twice about drugging her’ to ‘lonely guys who’d spot her at a mall, who’d rape her, torture her, sell her into sexual slavery’. We’re in his imagination as an anonymous man chloroforms a helpless Maddy, tethers her wrists and ankles, and stuffs her into the boot of his car.

Nate’s inner monologue (through Rue) reveals he doesn’t like to think about such things, a point undermined by the upsetting images we’ve just seen, and him shooting Maddy’s assailant in the head seconds later. This is our introduction to the Nate and Maddy love story: its foundations are built on a bedrock of violence. His subsequent choking of her (S1 E4) – which gets him expelled from school and Maddy’s mother pressing charges against him – is despicable, if not all that surprising. Perhaps most revealing is that this action, of putting his hands around her throat, reflects the position he assumes when they have sex. His conception of love is of control, possession and physical dominance.

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Euphoria (2019–)

‘I’d never do anything to harm you.’ ‘You know I’d never hurt you in any real way.’ ‘I’m not trying to hurt you.’ ‘I’d never do anything to hurt her.’ These inane platitudes, so similar as to be indecipherable from one another (for the record, the first two are by Elvis, the second two by Nate) are ultimately meaningless, for these characters continue to emotionally and physically wound their partners. Priscilla and Euphoria’s male leads, played with silken menace by Jacob Elordi, are emblems of the terrifying power of manipulative men. When their light shines upon you, you’re bathed in the warmth of their glow; when it doesn’t, you’re out in the cold.


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Jacob Elordi’s Emotional Terrorists: On Elvis Presley & Nate Jacobs (2024)


What does Nate Jacobs suffer from? ›

All of Nate's obsession for control of everything and everyone around him — his effort into building his physique, being a quarterback, and having specific taste in only women — stems from his fear of becoming an untraditional man like his father.

Who was the better Elvis Austin Butler or Jacob Elordi? ›

Hearing Butler sing and act felt like listening to the King of Rock and Roll himself, while Elordi's vocals were lackluster and inconsistent. The final comparison between the two actors comes down to their respective films' purposes. “Elvis” is sensational in every way.

Did Jacob Elordi actually sing in Priscilla? ›

Did Jacob Elordi Really Sing In Priscilla? Jacob Elordi sang as Elvis in the movie Priscilla and impressively captured the singer's voice. Sofia Coppola couldn't use Elvis songs in Priscilla due to music rights limitations.

What is Nate Jacobs personality? ›

Personality… ruthless, insecure, and perhaps sociopathic. While Rue and Cassie are at least interested in trying to become good people, Nate doesn't care at all. He's a terrifying guy who does everything to maintain control.

Did Nate's dad abuse him? ›

While physical sexual abuse between Cal and Nate didn't happen, Nate's finding and viewing Cal's videos is an instance of child sexual abuse. With this narrative, Levinson gives Nate a justification for his violence: trauma.

Why was Nate abusive? ›

Both season one and season two of “Euphoria” showcase domestic violence and abuse at the hands of Nate. Nate's toxic masculinity, internalized hom*ophobia and need for control serve as the conditions for his abusive behavior.

Who was the closest to Elvis? ›

Marty Lacker and Elvis' cousin, Billy Smith, were probably the closest true friends of Elvis according to some in the group.

Who is Elvis Presley's favorite actor? ›

Elvis Presley aspired to be a serious actor like his idols Marlon Brando, James Dean, Karl Malden, and Rod Steiger. Elvis felt cheated by his film roles, as they didn't challenge him artistically and didn't showcase his range as an actor.

Is anyone better than Elvis? ›

He was a great singer but there have been better musicians: Jimmy Hendrix , Mark knopfler, Eric clapton…. There were many who were musically a lot better than Elvis Presley. Ricky Nelson and Roy Orbison were far more musically talented than Elvis.

What did Priscilla Presley say about Jacob Elordi? ›

What's more, Sofia told the publication that Jacob's interpretation of Elvis got approval from the key player of the movie. "When we watched the film with Priscilla the first time, what struck her the most was how much his voice sounded like Elvis," she added.

What was the age gap between Elvis and Priscilla? ›

Despite a 10-year age gap, Priscilla believes that Elvis was interested in her at first because she listened to him. She was only 14 years old when she met Elvis at a party in Germany, while he was serving in the military. "My relationship with Elvis, you know, people go, 'Oh my god, how could this happen?'

Why is Nate texting Jules? ›

Nate then finds Jules's tape, which throws him for a loop, since the two know each other. Worried Jules will report his father to the police and ruin his life, Nate starts flirting with Jules through a dating app in order to get nude photos to blackmail her with.

Was Nate in love with Jules? ›

He also confesses to Jules that everything he ever told her in their texts was true, admitting that he did have feelings for her. For Nate, apologizing and opening up about his feelings is quite unusual, meaning his true self might be closer to the person he was "pretending" to be while talking with Jules.

Why is Nate obsessed with Jules? ›

According to show creators, Jules' ability to be her most authentic self makes Nate extremely jealous of her and feeds into his own self hatred. After their first kiss, Nate shoved his fingers into Jules' mouth, just as his father did to her before.

What mental health does Nate have in Euphoria? ›

Nate's Mental Health:

Nate is known for severely attacking a man then making the victim confess to a crime he did not commit, stalking and harassing other characters, and being physically harmful. We learn that this behavior has been developing from a young age because of issues with his father.

What does Nate suffer from in Euphoria? ›

Nate is a popular student and the star quarterback of East Highland High School. However, he has a deeply-ingrained sense of violent behaviour due to his ideologies regarding toxic masculinity, his upbringing, and the struggles he faces with his sexuality as a result.

What does Nate struggle with in Euphoria? ›

Nate is victimized by knowing and having covered for his father from such a young age. Nate's greatest fear is confronting the severe trauma that his father unknowingly afflicted upon him and the idea that he could turn out to be even worse than his dad.

What mental illnesses do Euphoria characters have? ›

Euphoria's Ties to Mental Illness

Euphoria's main character, Rue (played by Zendaya) is alluded to as suffering from bipolar disorder, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Throughout the show, the audience hears Rue's thoughts, putting us closer to the character's lived experience.

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