We watch shows to escape our boring realities, at times to find solace and mostly for a dose of entertainment. We all have a preferred genre, from romance and slice-of-life to a lot of us oddly enjoy crime documentaries and thrillers. But let’s face it, the content we consume online does impact us. Now imagine coming from work and binge-watching HBO’s The Idol, directed by Euphoria creator Sam Levinson, the show with layers of misogyny and an uncomfortable depiction of the ‘male gaze’. Well, I may have a different opinion (though, I hope not), but if you missed watching this show, believe me, you’re doing fine.
— Kristen Baldwin (@KristenGBaldwin) June 6, 2023
The Idol was released with a comprehensive storyline to shed light on the toxic work environment in the music industry. While one may expect it to move forward to show how pop stars are actually ‘created’ and promoted by sought-after music labels for their benefit, the show turns into a compilation of sleazy videos, all this in the first 15 minutes. The hype around the show is mostly contributed by the fact that it stars The Weeknd, a Canadian singer who goes by the name Abel Tesfaye, whose fans were thrilled to see him act in his first-ever show. However, it didn’t work well for the singer-turned-actor as fans took to the internet and called the show ‘cringe’ and criticised its unimpressive and poorly written plot.
The Plot And Its Plight
The protagonist, the ‘Idol’, is Jocelyn, played by Lily-Rose Depp, a teenage pop star who is about to make a comeback after a public mental meltdown. However, after a personal image of Jocelyn gets leaked online, the sales of her show’s tickets get impacted, and this happens before the release of her new single. While experiencing a hard time personally and professionally, Jocelyn seeks out Tedros, played by The Weeknd, a DJ and club owner who wins her heart (eye rolls).
While Tedros as a character is problematic, which comes through loose dialogue-writing, Jocelyn, in a typical plot, falls for the wrong guy. What seems like abuse to the audience was portrayed as love for Jocelyn. At one point, I thought Sam Levinson had taken the plot from ChatGTP!
Sexy or Sexist
If reports are to be believed, the shooting for the show began with director Amy Seimetz who was later replaced by Sam Levinson. Seimetz abruptly left the six-episode series after completing almost 80% of it, according to a shocking undercover revelation by a publication that claims that The Idol’s co-creator, The Weeknd, disapproved of the feminist eye of Seimetz.
Apart from the storyline and dialogues, the costumes given to Jocelyn further add to the sexist portrayal of the character. Mostly dressed strings and scraps of fabric, it was pushed beyond the actual necessity of the plot. We all know sex sells, but The Idol’s sex scenes are painful, sleazy, gross, and borderline abusive to watch.
A few fans also called the show ’50 Shades of Tesfaye’ because of the extreme objectification of women especially in the sex scenes of the second episode. If that grossed you out, you’d not even want to watch the fourth episode where the torture scene of Troye Sivan’s character Xander with a dog collar is haunting, to say the least. When Depp was quizzed about these scenes in particular during the promotions, she shut the discussion calling it an ‘artistic vision’.
The Acting Ache
When the cast was first announced, the internet found it was a dreamy one. But as the episodes were released, the fans and audience were proved wrong. Naturally, in a show where outrageous visuals took centre stage, performance was the least of concern for the actors. However, the audience was quick to judge, and rightly so. Depp, who comes with some acting experience, failed to impress with her acting skills, let alone The Weekend who was doing it for the first time. Let us not get started on hideous erotic dance moves and expressions.
The Idol also marks K-Pop royalty, BLACKPINK’s member Jennie’s acting debut, which we pray never should have happened. Jennie’s barely-there dialogue delivery is awkward, with no facial expression. Even her fandom couldn’t save her from this catastrophe where the makers just roped her to cash in on her popularity.
How it feels listening to the weeknd after watching the idol pic.twitter.com/pFXbE8xVj3
— SHARIFA (@shxrifx_) June 24, 2023
The case in point here is that it’s not the sex scenes that may make you uncomfortable, it’s the treatment. The characters are not just misogynistic and sleazy, they will make you rethink the definition of artistic vision and value. Whether or not the scenes and dialogues support the character’s journey and progression or the story or vice-versa is food for thought. For now, the show ending an episode early with no traces of renewal is the only consolation we are happy with.