Why I’m Not Watching The Idol

And why I think you shouldn't, either.

Image via Instagram, @lilyrose_depp

When Sam Levinson released Euphoria, the world went into a frenzy. It was one of the closest to accurate portrayals of young people that we’ve seen since SKINS – a show where teenagers do what we know them to actually do; smoke cigarettes, experiment with drugs, explore their sexualities, and sway drastically from showing incredible kindness to incessant cruelty to one another. Ahh, the magic of adolescence.

However, one flag that was raised about the hit HBO show pointed in particular to the sex scenes. Both in nature and in imagery, the sex in Euphoria is graphic, explicit, and at more times than not, uncomfortable to watch. While we know that honest representations of teenage sex are good for educational purposes, do we really need to see the realities of their interactions played out before us? The art of suggestion can usually illustrate the point well enough – we generally don’t need it hammered home.

This consensus was further cemented in the minds of viewers when a series of reports began to crop up about actors feeling uncomfortable on set. In particular, a number of actresses weren’t sure about director Sam Levinson’s desires for the sex scenes. Minka Kelly, Sydney Sweeney, Chloe Cherry, and Martha Kelly, have all spoken publicly about finding aspects of the script to have contained unnecessary nudity.


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It’s worth noting that each woman asserted that Levinson made no objections to any of these comments, and he was happy to change each scene to ensure everyone’s comfortability. Still, it makes you wonder why he felt the need for that much high school female nudity – especially considering the quantity of it that made the cut. It’s almost as though… a successful white male Hollywood director gets off on making his female cast perform sexually under the guise of edgy television? But, it can’t be!

I digress. As Euphoria takes a nose dive in ratings, Levinson turns his interest toward a newer, more provocative, and infinitely more controversial project than the last. Enter, The Idol.

By now, you’ve most likely caught a cringeworthy clip of the show on TikTok, or seen one of the many memes referencing the characters on Twitter. Maybe you’ve been brave enough to actually sit down and make it through an episode. (In that case, I applaud you for having an exceptional ability to be unbothered by secondhand embarrassment. I have no such thing).

I admit, the octave of the media buzz once the pilot had aired did tempt me. But after reading the plot summary and what other writers had to say, watching a couple of clips that made my skin crawl, and enduring an unpleasant skim through the Wikipedia page, I’ve made my decision. I’m not going to watch The Idol – and I don’t think you should either.


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It’s not just that there’s a lot of gratuitous sex, or that the show handles difficult topics like rape and power dynamics. It’s that shows like The Idol pretend that their purpose is to expose or satirise these issues, when in reality all that they do is perpetuate them. The telltale here isn’t just in the overt visuals, but the narrative and the role of women as well. In The Idol, it appears as though Lily-Rose Depp’s character is reduced to nothing but a sex object through a series of writing and direction choices. She likes men that are ‘rapey’, believes that sexual abuse is the key to unlocking her talent, and is portrayed consistently as submissive, troubled and lost, her life improved only by relinquishing control to a man.

I don’t feel the need to spell out why this is disturbing – the fact that the main character of this show is essentially used as a toy for playing out graphic sexual fantasies should make it clear enough.

In a way that makes me feel uneasy, Lily-Rose Depp has defended her role in the show. The star of The Idol went as far to say that she experienced catharsis in her explicit scenes, as she felt “very drained” afterward, which honestly isn’t screaming ‘healthy expression of female sexuality’ to me. And don’t be fooled into thinking this expression is accidental – it’s entirely intentional. Perhaps what’s most deflating about it all, is that it wasn’t meant to be this way.

Back in April 2021, reports surfaced that director Amy Seimitz was exiting the show, despite having completed roughly 80 percent of the six-episode series. Her unusual and swift departure came amid reports that someone was coming in to shake up the narrative of the HBO production.


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Who is allegedly responsible for the total “overhaul” of the series? Co-creator Abel Tesfaye, better known as The Weeknd. The singer and recent actor, who plays Lily-Rose’s depraved manager, was allegedly bothered by the “feminist lens” the show started off with. Reports say he didn’t like the focus on Lily-Rose’s character, proposing the show centre more on his character’s perspective. His character being the abusive, cultish rapist, by the way. Makes sense, right? Especially considering historically, women’s perspectives have been known to dominate our screens. (If you can’t sense my vitriol, know that this sarcasm is dripping). Sigh.

A number of production members voiced their concern with the shift, with one claiming Levinson was twisting the show into a “rape fantasy”, and another saying that as they read the new script they thought, “What is this? What am I reading here?’ It was like sexual torture porn.” The same source told Rolling Stone, “What I signed up for was a dark satire of fame…it went from satire to the thing it was satirising”.

So there you have it. The Idol presents another disappointing example of the way in which men in Hollywood continue to win out over female voices and perspectives, reducing us to nothing but sexual things to be used for their ‘artistic expression’. Oh, please.

To fill the HBO shaped hole in my heart this Summer, I’ll simply re-watch Girls.