HBO's The Idol is getting hammered by critics and called, among other things, a "rape fantasy."
Lily-Rose Depp and the Weeknd’s new HBO show The Idol from Euphoria creator Sam Levinson is already getting slammed by critics for its wild story swings, with a Rolling Stone expose labeling it a “rape fantasy.” Unnamed sources told Rolling Stone that the show changed radically from its original story after director Amy Seimetz suddenly left the production with little explanation. However, The Hollywood Reporter recently reported that Tesfaye (The Weeknd), Depp, and Levinson are defending the show in the wake of the negative feedback.
In an interview with The New York Times, Lily-Rose Depp said “We always knew that we were going to make something that was going to be provocative and perhaps not for everyone,” which Tesfaye and Levinson agreed with. As for the gratuitous sexual content and the racial stereotypes (castin Tesfaye as the villain), Levinson said “Playing into those stereotypes in the first couple of episodes is important for the journey and the arc and the emotional experience.” Tesfaye summed it up by saying “They just need to see the whole show.”
Despite Lily-Rose Depp, Tesfaye, and Levinson’s comments, it does seem like there is a lot of behind-the-scenes dissatisfaction with the way the show went after Seimetz’s departure. In the Rolling Stone expose, thirteen members of the cast and crew came forward to allege that the show’s delay was due to Levinson taking over as director and deciding to rewrite and reshoot the whole show. This is despite the fact that an estimated $54-75 million had been sunk into the project and Seimetz had already shot roughly 80 percent of the series up to that point.
After Levinson’s takeover, the cast and crew allege that the sexual content and gratuity of the show were ratcheted up to new levels, with four of the sources saying that Levinson changed the message of the show. Under Seimetz’s direction, The Idol was more about Lily-Rose Depp’s character fighting for her agency after falling prey to predatory industry and more to an offensive and “degrading” love story. In other words, it doesn’t seem like these cast and crew members felt like the story went in a toxic direction and that Seimetz wasn’t given the support or creative control needed, saying she was “set up to fail from the start.”
In that sense, The Idol cast and crew members allege that Seimetz wasn’t given enough time or money and that scripts were half-finished when she arrived on set. Still, the anonymous sources said that the initial scripts were actually good, so it seems like there is a different version of The Idol somewhere. While Lily-Rose Depp’s performance is probably very solid, it seems like the issues with the show might lie elsewhere.
Of course, everyone can now make their own decisions regarding how they feel about the show since the pilot episode is now available to watch on Max. The Idol follows Lily-Rose Depp as pop idol Jocelyn, who meets a nightclub manager and self-help guru (Abel Tesfaye) who helps her start a comeback after she has a nervous breakdown. New episodes of the series air on HBO every Sunday if you want to check it out for yourself.