The art of satire is difficult to achieve, though that doesn’t stop directors like Sam Levinson to brand his recent addition to television drama, “The Idol,” as such. Attempting to convince viewers that the intentions of the show were satirical is laughable at best, and a bit sad at worst, especially considering the rise to popularity Levinson has experienced since giving viewers “Euphoria.” It feels pretty clear that “The Idol” is a cheap attempt at siphoning some of the viewership and controversy that “Euphoria” had, which brings to question the expectations of a show riding on another’s coattails to “provoke” audiences for anything other than criticism against it. Yet, despite all else, the show does compel people to talk about it.
Interestingly, Sam Levinson wasn’t the original choice for directing “The Idol,” since it was already filmed and set to be released with Amy Seimetz as the director, though much of her footage for the show was scrapped when she dropped the project. With a female director in the lead, it feels possible to imagine that the “female perspective” that was uninteresting to Levinson would have made for better delivery of the show’s themes surrounding the life of a creatively lost, grieving pop star and her vulnerability, while those around her salivate for a piece of her. From a feminist and empathetic perspective, the familiar stories of real pop stars, like Britney Spears, are evoked, which dissect the toxicity of Hollywood, media and the misogyny faced by young women who seem to have it all but struggle under the shine of their own light. “The Idol” had the chance to deliver an interesting exploration of what it means to be idolized, and perhaps even the dangers of idolatry in a society as atomized as ours. Unfortunately, with only one more episode to be released, the show leaves much to be desired and imagined had a more in-tune director be involved.
Like its unofficial predecessor, “The Idol” is similar to “Euphoria” in that it features more than enough scenes and plotlines detailing sexualized young women at the hands of threatening men. While Lily-Rose Depp’s acting might be the show’s only saving grace, the vibe of The Weeknd as her off-putting love-interest clashes hard against it — which is even more perplexing considering that The Weeknd is responsible for much of the show’s storytelling. Much of his dialogue teeters between awkward and, frankly, gross, especially in episode three’s cringy sex scene. Unfortunately, Levinson refuses to respond to the criticism or shed any light on the creative choices for the show, maintaining the assertion that the show will “speak for itself.”
None of this is to say that the show is inherently backward in its approach to sexuality and stardom because the portrayal of desire and pain is fruitful. In many ways, the show unravels the threads between desire and love, revealing that they are separate entities at odds with each other in the realm of romantic attachment. Sometimes, our desires are our deepest threat, as “The Idol” fixates on the threatening nature of desire, perhaps even more so than “Euphoria” does. Though I doubt Levinson had philosophical intentions nor wrote an ode to Lauren Berlant’s “Desire/Love” with the show’s release.
While not necessarily as deep as Levinson or The Weeknd may have thought they were, “The Idol” does have the potential to be analyzed as a deconstruction of the predatory pop-star machine industry. Unfortunately, it would take a significant amount of brain power, as the show undoubtedly fails to speak for itself and was rather created as something to be spoken about — until the next controversial headline, that is.