Opinion: “The Idol’s” idyllic potential falls flat

Anyone who knows me knows better than to bring up The Weeknd unless they want me to go off into a long-winded presentation about why he’s one of my favorite musicians ever. Besides the fact “After Hours” changed my life, (highly recommend you check that story out) he’s constantly reinventing himself and his wide-spread discography changed R&B, rap and pop music.

With taking new risks comes his step into cinematography. Over the summer, he teamed up with ‘Euphoria’ director Sam Levinson to create “The Idol.” The show follows Jocelyn, played by Lily Rose-Depp, who is a pop-star coming out of a dark place but things change when she falls for Tedros, played by The Weeknd, a mysterious club owner/cult leader.

The trailers leading up to the show’s release and the description alone sound dark. Intriguing. Captivating. By the end of the first episode, I thought “there has to be more than what I just watched.” 

My god was I wrong. 

I’m fine with the first two episodes being used for backstory as long as the following episodes propel it forward. Each minute crept by and I wondered when the plot was going to pick up, but sure enough, I wasted an hour a week and I was left questioning if the writers knew what they were doing. There was nothing compelling me to want more, yet I’m a fan and wanted to watch the whole show. 

Besides a script that lacked depth and captivation, the acting was flat out terrible. Within the first few minutes, Rose-Depp shows her (limited) skills as she goes through multiple emotions shouted out by a photographer as they take shots for an album cover. However, that’s about as impressed as I was. The Weeknd has done voiceovers for shows like “The Simpsons” and “American Dad” but there’s more technique when a camera is placed on you. As a fan, I appreciate the efforts he went, but the character of Tedros had no effect on me. It was more thoughts of “why is he still talking” or “Ew” instead of “what is going to happen next?”

Besides the flat acting and poorly written script, there was a fair amount of controversy surrounding the show. Levinson scrapped the nearly finished project created by Amy Seimetz which not only put the production studio out millions, but had questionable changes. Scenes of violence and sexual situations were cut out of the script for their graphic portrayal along with nude scenes that Levinson is known for writing in excess. 

The show was marketed as a dramatic, satirical portrayal of how Hollywood treats women, oversexualizing them, showing them as mentally incapable of making decisions and trying their hardest to make others like them by doing whatever it takes to stay at the top of their game. Instead of it being a feminist approach, it comes off as sleazy with elements made to shock you with no significant meaning. In a way, it becomes what it was supposed to make fun of. Jocelyn chain smokes all day because she can. Haven’t we all seen that before? Some of her every day clothes make swimsuit models seem like prudes. The sex scenes don’t contribute much to the plot than it being a shock factor (and coming off creepy). It seems production was spent more here than crafting a worthwhile story. 

The only positive of the show is the soundtrack which absolutely shines. The main theme called “The Lure” is a beautiful intoxication of ethereal unease. It defines captivating mystery you can’t get enough of, immersing the listener into a world of intrigue, fear, and sensuality. The Weeknd teams up with Madonna and Playboi Carti for “Popular” which sounds like early 2000s pop. He also collaborates with Future on “Double Fantasy” and Lil Baby on “False Idols,” bringing his signature touch, reminiscent of his 2015 album “Beauty Behind the Madness.” Newcomer Suzanne Son, one of Tedros followers, shows off her impressive skills as well with songs “Family” and “Crocodile Tears.” Even Jocelyn’s “World Class Sinner,” designated to be a parody of dirtier pop, is catchy. Is it because we’ve trained our brains to associate songs like this as chart toppers or is it so bad it’s good?

As big a fan I am of The Weeknd’s, I was thoroughly disappointed in the show. The trailer promised me an edge-of-my-seat drama, but I was checking to see how much time was left in each episode. I’d almost prefer watching a trashy reality show than rewatch this series. If you’re looking for a mindless way to pass five hours, then I’d recommend checking it out. Going forth, The Weeknd should stick to what he’s good at: producing music worthy of multiple streams (where is his newest album? I’ve already memorized The Idol’s soundtrack).

Write to Emma Johnson emma.johnson@mnsu.edu

Header Photo: The Idol is co-created by Sam Levinson, Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye and Reza Fahim, and stars Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye and Lily-Rose Depp. The series focuses on female pop idol Jocelyn and her complex relationship with Tedros, a sleazy nightclub owner, self-help guru, and cult leader. (Eddy Chen/The Rolling Stone)

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