The Problem with ‘The Idol’: How HBO’s Next ‘Euphoria’ Looks Cool but Really Isn’t

The jury is out at Style Cartel and the Problem with ‘The Idol’: How HBO’s Next ‘Euphoria’ Looks Cool but Really Isn’t. As a 90’s baby making it home, watching music videos: to catch the latest new tunes, fit checks on the artists, and dance moves. This is the only part of Sam Levinson’s new show “The Idol that is artistic. 

The Problem with ‘The Idol’

The Problem with ‘The Idol’: How HBO’s Next ‘Euphoria’ Looks Cool but Isn’t because it exploits and sexualizes women and galvanizes rape culture. Glamourised that we women love abuse and need to be controlled. 

Whatever your kick, the show is certified Torture Porn’ |which makes The Idol — Sam Levinson’s new show with The Weeknd and Lily-Rose Depp — seriously, overly sexual harbouring on soft porn. How ‘The Idol’ Creator Sam Levinson Oversexualizes and Victimizes His Female Characters. From ‘Euphoria’ to ‘The Idol’, Levinson has never avoided violent depictions of women’s suffering.  

Our question is, why has this been normalized?

The Problem with 'The Idol': How HBO's Next 'Euphoria' Looks Cool but Really Isn't

After portraying one of these women, how many more actresses will be acclaimed for similar feature roles? And why are they also produced by men?

The son of Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson, Sam Levinson, has been accused of using a gratuitous amount of nudity in his work (remember that Euphoria episode with 30 penises?), enabling toxic work environments and sidelining certain cast members … to name a few controversies attached to his name.

Who is Sam Levinson? 


The Problem with 'The Idol': How HBO's Next 'Euphoria' Looks Cool but Really Isn't

Levinson, who was moved to tears at the gala premiere of his TV show, is a controversial figure in the industry. The son of Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson, Sam has crafted a very successful career in both TV and film. 

Euphoria, the raucous, critically acclaimed HBO show starring Zendaya, is Sam Levinson’s best (if still flawed) creation, but his feature film efforts have yet to be received.  

Recently, Rolling Stone published a scandalous investigation into The Idol’s production, describing the series as “torture porn” and having gone “off the rails”. They interviewed several people from the production, and their anecdotes from the set were harrowing. Filmmaker Amy Seimetz was supposed to direct The Idol but unexpectedly left the production, although most of the six episodes were already filmed. She was then replaced by Levinson himself. Rolling Stone alluded that Seimetz exited the project due to Tesfaye’s growing concerns that the show was adopting too much of a “female perspective”. Ah, those pesky females are at it again, I see. 

Tesfaye, who recently decided to abandon his stage name, The Weeknd, posted a clip from The Idol in response to the Rolling Stone exposes, ridiculing the outlet for the article. Although The Idol’s cast has said Rolling Stone’s investigation didn’t reflect the truth, it would seem that the end product is a deeply problematic piece of art. Then again, what did we expect from Sam Levinson, of all people? 

Euphoria and The Idol

Levinson has always centred the stories he tells around women. Zendaya’s Rue is our complex, often unpleasant protagonist in Euphoria. Often portraying the terrifying ordeal of being a woman today. Because it leans toward a strange fantasy of empowerment and the ugliness of violence, it gets away with most of the things it portrays. 


Performative feminism

The Idol, like Euphoria, Levinson’s Emmy-darling, has garnered plenty of objection for how it portrays sex in the show. Euphoria has been hailed as groundbreaking in how it represents teenagers’ lives, but the graphic sex involving minors made us think about much sex teenagers are having and with who?

In the first two episodes of The Idol screened at Cannes, Depp’s character is seen masturbating, and a selfie of her with semen on her face is leaked. Levinson has always portrayed sex graphically, but it gets icky when we start dissecting whose eyes it’s all seen through. He also has significant little secrets. 

When Levinson was asked about the controversy and the Rolling Stone investigation at the press conference at Cannes, his answer was not the one we were prepared for. “When my wife read me the article,” he recalled, “I looked at her, and I said, ‘I think we’re about to have the biggest show of the summer.'”

A completely normal response to serious allegations of a toxic workplace and problematic production. This is where the cracks in Levinson’s performative feminism start to show. Tainted Love should be the next film’s title; as I watch “The Idol story unravel. The modern-day Ike & Tina story. 

“We live in a very sexualized world. Especially in the States, the influence of pornography is strong in the psyche of young people. We see this in pop music,” Levinson said at the Cannes press conference. Many critics noted that Depp’s character shares many similarities with Britney Spears. 

What are the critics saying about The Idol

The Hollywood Reporter called the show “regressive”. Variety noted, “the shameful way he treats Depp’s character”. Evening Standard thought the series was “troubling”. GQ provided what is probably the most damning opinion on it, calling it “a vapid chasm that’s not nearly as daring as it proclaims itself to be.”

Not everyone hated The Idol. Douglas Greenwood gave it a positive review in Vogue, and The Times praised Depp’s performance. Vanity Fair also found it entertaining enough. 

Style Cartel weighs in after four episodes; it’s like narcissistic sexual fiction. The Idol may become a masterpiece in its remaining four episodes, but we are still determining that based on Levinson’s previous works, which are designed and framed for a male audience. His camera gazes at the women in skimpy outfits, rarely adopting an objective lens. He only attempts to empower them; however, sexualises them, in the end, with his fake “slut shamefulness.

Levinson seems to be exceptionally skilled at masquerading deeply-rooted misogyny as feminism. 

What is the release date for The Idol? 

Sam Levinson’s perhaps most controversial project, The Idol, brings to light criticisms about his treatment of his female characters. Still, co-creators Levinson and Abel Tesfaye responded with glee at the free promotion. It’s hard not to notice a pattern in Levinson’s exploitative portrayals of young women under the guise of critiquing society while at the same time snubbing his nose at those who critique him.

Euphoria is the most popular teen drama and became the second-most watched HBO series of all time behind Game of Thrones. It’s the Gen Z version of Skins with artsy makeup and visually stimulating cinematography. Levinson was a small name at the time of Euphoria’s release, so a good percentage of its initial viewership likely tuned in to see Zendaya prove herself as a serious actress.

 Zendaya became the youngest winner of the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 2020, winning the same award again in 2022. Levinson drew inspiration from his own experience with addiction in creating Zendaya’s character Rue, so it’s not surprising that hers would be the character written with the most care and depth. But aside from Rue, almost all the young women in the show’s leading ensemble are over-sexualized or dehumanised somehow.

The Idol tries to justify its existence in the first 20 minutes of the pilot episode. It opens with Jocelyn (Lily-Rose Depp) amid a photo shoot for her upcoming album donning just a silky red robe, and as the shoot progresses, she lets it slip to expose her bare chest.

Self-proclaimed as “the sleaziest love story in all of Hollywood”, The Idol follows a pop singer who starts a romance with an enigmatic club owner who is the leader of a secret cult. Depp and Tesfaye play the singer and club owner, respectively.

HBO’s The Idol was first announced in June 2021 and staring Lily-Rose Depp as Jocelyn, a rising pop star who starts a romance with an enigmatic Los Angeles club owner and underground cult leader, Tedros, played by Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye.

A report alleges that The Idol changed dramatically when Levinson became the guiding hand. “It was a show about a woman who was finding herself sexually,” said one anonymous crew member, “turned into a show about a man who gets to abuse this woman, and she loves it.”

Levinson’s involvement in the project increased after HBO announced in April 2022 that The Idol, initially slated for a six-episode run, would receive a total overhaul. The release timeline was pushed back, several crew members left, and Levinson stepped into the director role.

At the time, production sources told the outlet that they, too, were in the dark on various show details — including the timeline and the final version of The Idol. One source described it as a “sh– show” in the wake of the various delays, reshoots and rewrites.

Several of the drama’s cast members — including Depp and The Weeknd — also responded to the criticism of The Idol ahead of its debut at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2023.

Why did director Amy Seimetz exit The Idol?

One day after Deadline reported that substantial changes were being made on The Idol, the outlet said that its director, Amy Seimetz — who was slated to helm all episodes of the music-focused series — exited the project.

At the time, no explanation was given as to why she left The Idol — which according to Variety, had reportedly already filmed footage for multiple episodes that had to be “redone.” Per Deadline, The Weeknd — who co-created the series — was “unhappy with the show’s creative direction.”

Sources told the outlet that the crux of the issue appeared to stem from The Weeknd, who “felt the show was leaning too much into a ‘female perspective‘” with costar Depp’s character “rather than his own.”

“It was like any rape fantasy that any toxic man would have in the show — and then the woman comes back for more because it makes her music better,” another production member told Rolling Stone of Levinson’s version. 

Has The Weekend responded to The Idol controversy?


Neither Levinson nor The Weeknd responded to Rolling Stone’s requests for comment before publishing the exposé; however, The Weeknd called out the outlet immediately after it was posted. He uploaded a clip from The Idol on Twitter, writing, “Rolling Stone did we upset you?”

The “Blinded By the Lights” singer further shared his thoughts on the exposé when speaking with Vanity Fair for a cover story published in May. “I thought the article was ridiculous. I wanted to give a ridiculous response to it,” he said.

In the cover story, he acknowledged Seimetz’s exit and clarified that he “really loved working” with her. “I’m sure she’s reading all this being like, ‘Why am I being thrown into this?'” he questioned.

The Weeknd recognized The Idol’s controversy and dark topics explored when speaking with the New York Times ahead of the show’s release and said that viewers “just need to see the whole show” to understand it. He also compared it to his work as a musician.

“When I first started making music, it was the same thing,” The Weeknd told the outlet. “It was provocative, and I knew it would be tough for people. And a lot of people didn’t like it. I don’t want to compare it, but I feel this is like that again. This is not going to be for everybody, and that’s fine. We’re not politicians.”

 The Weeknd Reveals He Wants to Make an Album with Madonna After Dropping New Collab’ Popular’

Has Lily-Rose Depp responded to The Idol controversy?

Meanwhile, she told EW she had to “steer clear” of The Weeknd while filming. Lily-Rose Depp Talks Sexuality on Screen as ‘The Idol’ Is Deemed ‘Luxury Sleaze’ by Cannes Critics

“I don’t think anybody went full method — nobody lost their minds,” Depp told the outlet. “Well, sometimes when Abel would get — I don’t want to reveal too much about where Abel’s character goes, but when he would be in full Tedros mode sometimes, I would steer clear of him. I’d be like, ‘He’s in his zone right now.'”

Depp told the NYT, “We always knew that we were going to make something that would be provocative and perhaps not for everyone.”

The Idol, the first hour-long episode, was described as “kinky yet empty, like a visit to a red-light district during the pandemic.” The HBO drama sees much nudity, like Depp’s Jocelyn — who “bares her breasts during a photo shoot” and “arouses herself with asphyxiation.”

The review also points out that one of the “most disturbing moments” of the show comes when Jocelyn permits The Weeknd’s Tedros, a then-stranger to the pop star, to nearly smother her.

Depp — who told the NYT that she’s “comfortable performing in that way” — explained that her explicit behaviours “informed the character.” “I believe people will underestimate Jocelyn as a character because of how exposed she is,” Levinson added.

 This is what summer teenage movies are about. Did the film” Kids” start it all. Taking advantage of young women hit an entirely new realm. 

Will her old boyfriend be our hero in the end? 

Do you believe it? We don’t, and why isn’t anyone else talking about it. Well, now the show will only be 6 episodes. 

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