28th May 2023 – (Los Angeles) The Weeknd’s “The Idol” is a skintastic, dark-side-of-showbiz fable that perpetuates the myth that pop stars are corporate puppets with no say in their own image-making, while allowing the hit-maker to call the shots. The HBO series premiered the first two of its five episodes at the Cannes Film Festival and demands a lot from star Lily-Rose Depp. She plays Jocelyn, a Britney or Miley type, who seems empowered one moment, impressionable the next.
The edgy, high-gloss series opens with Jocelyn mid-photo shoot, trying to wriggle out of the nudity rider in her contract. She insists it’s her body and she should show more than just “side boob” on her next album cover. Jocelyn is attended by an entourage of yes-people, who are more concerned with telling her what she wants to hear than giving her the honest truth.
The series seems to be offering real insights into how the music industry does damage control, but the photo scandal blows over quickly, and the show focuses on Jocelyn’s relationship with Tedros (The Weeknd), a mysterious music-industry fringe player who’s been waiting for her to venture into his web.
Levinson gives us virtually no indication of why Jocelyn and Tedros’ characters might click before sending them sneaking off into a stairwell to hook up. The script seems calculated to fool audiences into thinking they’re observing how Hollywood operates, when so much of it amounts to tawdry clichés lifted from Sidney Sheldon novels and softcore porn.
While the series depicts female sexuality, it takes things too far in the other direction, getting kinky anytime Jocelyn and Tedros are together. Levinson never convincingly establishes why Jocelyn deserves to be labeled an “idol” or what kind of role model she represents to her fans. Despite being positioned as a fearless performer, the show plays like a sordid male fantasy.
“The Idol” perpetuates the myth that pop stars are corporate puppets with no say in their own image-making, and while it may have some insights into the music industry, it ultimately falls short. The Weeknd’s role as a producer allows him to call the shots, but at the expense of the show’s integrity. The series is not a celebration of Jocelyn’s autonomy or as a woman or an artist, and audiences may be disappointed by the show’s shallow and predictable plot.