Staff writer Diya Nadeem reviews the recent release and backlash faced by HBO’s latest drama ‘The Idol’.
HBO’s newest show, The Idol, premiered 4th June, 2023 and witnessed a range of criticism. Created by the minds of Sam Levinson, creator of Euphoria, and Abel Tsfaye (The Weeknd). The show gives viewers an insight into the (not-so) glamorous world of artists and musicians. Following the release of the first episode, The Idol became the lowest rated HBO show, with a rating of 27%, whilst also becoming the most watched TV series online.
The show surrounds the life of a new, up-and-coming pop star ‘Joceyln’, played by Lily-Rose Depp, who suffers mental health issues following the loss of her Mother. This however is quickly ignored by her management team claiming, “mental illness is sexy.” Jocelyn meets a creepy club owner and cult leader ‘Tedros’, played by The Weeknd, and becomes infatuated. What follows is a series of extreme kinks and uncomfortable sex scenes between the two characters.
The cinematography, by Marcell Rév and Arseni Khachaturan, displays an intricate depiction of the world of sex, drugs and fame using ominous dark reds and black tones. However, the captivating cinematography could not save the lack of storyline within the first episode.
The controversy behind this show first began when Abel dismissed the original director, Amy Seimetz, because she had too much of a “female perspective” on the female character. Multiple sources also claim that the show had such disturbing sexual fantasies and kinks, including sexual rape fantasies that “any toxic man would have”. Levinson, Depp and Tsfaye have all defended the show since the allegations and criticisms spiralled across the internet. Levison has defended himself by stating, “It’s funny, I think that sometimes things that might be revolutionary are taken too far.” The show seems to degrade women and their worth for a man’s pleasure, disguised in the facade of being ‘revolutionary’.
Viewers are also finding similarities between Jocelyn’s character and The Weeknd’s Ex-Girlfriend, Selena Gomez. In the first episode, Jocelyn is seen creating cover art for her album completely nude, similar to Selena’s cover art for her album ‘Revival’. Similarly, in the show, Jocelyn’s management talk about her wearing a hospital band whilst filming content for her album, given to her from rehab. Selena is seen wearing a hospital band in her single ‘Bad Liar’, after having received treatment for lupus. The uncanny resemblance between Jocelyn and Selena seems to be an unjust manipulation of Selena’s, and others like her, trauma and experiences for views.
The question left answered: is this show exposing the industry’s mistreatment of women or fetishising women’s struggles?