The Culture Is Lit and I Had a Ball: On HBO’s “The Idol”

The Culture Is Lit and I Had a Ball: On HBO’s “The Idol”

ON THE BALCONY, in a wide-angle shot, smoking a cigarette. She has the phone to her head. She's wearing a rugby shirt. In the background, the chirping of crickets, Los Angeles at sunset. The camera zooms in; you can hear the sound of her cigarette burning. She smiles. This is one of the only moments on Sam Levinson's new show The Idol that is actually good. It is good because it's quiet. It is good because all we have to do in that moment is look at Lily-Rose Depp's character, Jocelyn, in a moment of stillness. It is a rare instance of naturalism in a show that is obsessed, addicted, to the idea of celebrity as it relates to artifice. That is what The Idol is: all bright lights, big titties, fast cars, baggies of blow. Girls in thongs dancing on tables. Moses Sumney in a shock collar. Senseless violence, made sensual. All of it is boring, but at this point, you probably know that. Because The Idol, at this point, is as much the reaction as it is the actual show. It is not interesting to continue to talk about how this show fails as both art and entertainment. The is stilted, ridiculous. The conceit is even weirder and worse, something about a sex cult—but it's also about becoming a pop star? And Depp is supposed to be, like, Zoomer Britney? She cries on the set of her music video because she can't get the dance down quite right, and it is brutal but obvious. Tedros (Abel Tesfaye, a.k.a. The Weeknd) is so cruel that it becomes mind-numbing. What is most notable about The Idol, the thing that it is getting the most attention for, is the sex. There is a lot of it. Gratuitous, pornographic, excessive. You would not call it sexy . It is, however, where things get interesting in a show that is otherwise almost exquisitely boring. What is original about The Idol is the way it handles sex. This is mostly because it is made by a man. Or, to be more […]

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