The super-stylish but strangely lifeless first episode of Sunday’s HBO’s The Idol didn’t quite address the major questions.
Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye portrays a hipster club owner/self-help guru/cult leader in the series, which stars Lily-Rose Depp as a pop star who has recently recovered from a mental health crisis and is seduced by him. The series received harsh criticism after its first two episodes screened at the Cannes Film Festival in France last month.
The Idol’s intended narrative was also questioned in light of a Rolling Stone exposé that claimed the producers of the show increased the show’s explicit sexuality and nudity to disturbing levels, turning it into a toxic, male-oriented fantasy.
Sincerably, there are a few instances in Sunday’s episode that resemble that. In one scene, Jocelyn, a character played by Depp, chokes herself for pleasure; in another, the pop star responds to a friend’s comment that Tedros, a character played by Tesfaye, has a “rapey” vibe by saying, “I kinda like that about him.”
Some women may have negative feelings toward sex, pain, and humiliation. However, it also has a lot of the feeling of the male gaze in action—rather than feeling like an authentic decision, it feels more like how a group of guys might imagine a woman would react.
A narrative that is rarely subdued
Along with Tesfaye and Reza Fahim, Sam Levinson, creator of Euphoria, is a co-creator and executive producer of The Idol. He also directs and writes the episodes. It should therefore come as no surprise that some scenes in The Idol evoke the sultry, sinister mood that Euphoria’s party scenes so effectively created. One such scene involves Tedros seducing Jocelyn while the song Like a Virgin pulse in the background (the pop star’s handlers also compare her to Britney Spears in case of viewers missed the glaring comparisons to real-life, unpredictable blonde divas).
Tedros tells Jocelyn, in one of many lines in The Idol that sound profound but aren’t really, “Pop music is like the ultimate Trojan Horse.”.
How little happens in the first episode of The Idol may surprise viewers the most. With brief flashes of sex and nudity to cover up how little is happening on screen, the action’s constrained scope reveals a story trapped in a cramped bubble.
At least in the first episode, this is a show that avoids being subtle. Hank Azaria and Dan Levy, two of Jocelyn’s managers, are as crude, commercially-minded, and insensitive to their client’s suffering as you might expect. This is true even as they attempt to predict how Jocelyn will react to the news that an explicit photo of her is trending on Twitter.
Read Also: Nvidia races toward $1 trillion
(Her final response is so indifferent that it doesn’t make much sense, especially when she worries later that her new single is so pandering that it makes her look bad. For a pop superstar in particular, isn’t revenge porn worse?
Every scene painstakingly spoon-feeds chunks of history. Jocelyn is attempting a comeback following what is known as a “nervous breakdown,” which may have been triggered by the passing of her mother. The pop star, however, despises the new song that her managers are promoting, feels exhausted and uninspired at work, and is open to being seduced by a dangerous man whom her assistant/best friend mockingly refers to as “rat tail club guy.”. “.
Some people might concentrate on the strangely erotic scene that ends the first episode, in which Tedros covers Jocelyn’s head with her robe, pulls out a knife, and cuts a hole where her mouth should be (as I said, this show is not subtle). However, that scene seems so cartoonishly provocative that criticizing it feels like helping the show’s creators by drawing attention to a scene that is largely undermined by awkward storytelling.
Larger issues go unanswered
It’s difficult to tell from the first episode whether The Idol is an ode to power, wealth, and fame or an exploitive male fantasy masquerading as an empowerment story. Simply put, not enough has occurred to truly know where this story is headed at this time.
What is plain to see: This lacks the creative and original storytelling that made Euphoria so exceptional. And to save the remaining five episodes of this overly predictable story, plenty of that small-screen magic will be needed.
Official Trailer of The Idol Watch Now