The following article contains NUMEROUS SPOILERS about the first installment of The Idol.
After received many criticisms, The Idol has finally landed on the HBO planet, which is ready to amaze again, and this time it seems willing to do so by feeding on those criticisms to dispel not only the same, but also everything behind the production machine of a superstar. The cast, which still enjoys respectable names, is mainly supported by two components: Jocelyn, played by Lily-Rose Depp, and Abel Tesfaye, better known as The Weeknd, both at a really important test bed it’s dangerous. However, thinking about it, all the components seem to proceed in the same direction: two decidedly inexperienced actors, a complex plot capable of attracting numerous criticisms and many, many current issues that are more difficult to deal with than to understand. HBO, this time, seems more than ever ready to deal with criticism, as well as with its recent historygiven that among the producers there is Sam Levinson, already among the authors of Euphoria. The stakes are certainly high, the margin of error equally, but The Idol he doesn’t hear reasons and really wants to try.
A star is born
The first episode opens with a sequence that would be able to summarize in all respects what has been said above The Idol during this waiting period. And contextually immediately shows the intent of the seriesor at least, what it should be to succeed in one’s intention: to provoke, yes, but flaunting the provocation, exaggerating it to the point of demystifying and making the will to criticize the whole system is objective That The Idol itself aims to embody and represent. Let’s come to the sequence: an extraordinary Lily-Rose Depp (because yes, after just one episode her talent and potential are definitely noticeable), interpreter of the protagonist Jocelyn, gives herself to the cameras in the shooting for her new album. She is asked to be natural, sexy, vulnerable and hurt, all in a row, as if it was normal to perform emotionally on command.
It is already here that, if you like, the gear breaks down: Jocelyn, as the pop star of the moment, is objectified in all that is her relationship with the media and the “outside world”, starting from a trivial photo for a shoot. It is she herself, then, who claims to be able to show her breasts, but not to row in the direction of the machine, on the contrary, the more to go against all the impositionscarving out a personal space in which she herself decides what to do with her body and her image.
Jocelyn is cold but it doesn’t feel empty at all, just emptied. Emptied because in addition to the frenetic pace of her work, in her recent past she had to face an enormous trauma, given that she witnessed the death of her mother on the front lines, who passed away due to cancer, breathing her last breath as the daughter held her hand. Jocelyn is young, is a girl, even before a cover woman and long before a pop star, which is why beyond the shots and everything that ends up on the net, she appears completely emptied, almost giving the idea of being unable to handle all the media weight to which she is subjected. And instead it is she who decides and has the last word.
The first part of the pilot of The Idol it doesn’t do justice to the strength of her character because she prefers to show the negative side of an artist, namely, in this case, her crew. Why everyone lies to her, from the manager to the personal assistant who professes to be her best friend, but they don’t do it “for his good”, on the contrary. While Jocelyn rehearses for the video clip of the new single, the news arrives that someone, and only she can know who it is, has published a private photo of her on the net. It’s a case of revenge porn, therefore, but it is absolutely not shown for what it can actually cause to a person. And this is perhaps the first mistake of The Idol. None of her collaborators cares about how Jocelyn might feel about this episode, the only problem lies in containing any “hysterical” reaction (to quote verbatim) that the girl might have, thus causing a slowdown in the processing of the next commitments of her. But this is where the contrast lies.
The Idol it is not what much US criticism seems to have seen so far. There is no attempt to once again imply how wrong this is: not because it’s not necessary, not because it’s very topical to show the pain that certain gestures cause, but precisely because, at least from the perspective of the series, it would sometimes be right not to give importance to these events.
From this first episode of The Idolthe impression is that the goal is to provide a hypothetical way out, which in the case of Jocelyn is possible: don’t give a damn, go your own way. And this is made clear by the interview that the protagonist does with the journalist on duty, who keeps stopping the microphone because she wants to convince the pop star to take a position on the matter. It is at this juncture that Jocelyn’s personality emerges: she is a victim of the system, without a doubt, but she is also a conscious person, strong in her fragility, capable of understanding and getting an idea, unlike what the media often reveal about stars. Jocelyn doesn’t want to dwell even for a second on what happened, she doesn’t want to “take revenge”, because unlike what the journalist suggests, personal emancipation is given precisely by the image she gives herself of her reaction. Where there is no interest, pain does not appear either, while a counterattack would only generate a violent response to the violence suffered.
It is certainly a strong concept, and it will be necessary to understand whether the narrative line is actually based on this direction. Because, otherwise, it would be really easy to make the mistake of having given more importance to the container than to the content, thus emptying provocations of meaning.
The Idol: The Weeknd postponed to September
It’s not a sour note in all respects, but it wasn’t a completely convincing departure. Abel Tesfaye, aka The Weeknd, already among the producers of The Idolin collaboration with HBO, makes his acting debut in a TV series as Tedros, shady owner of an important club in the city of angels. It’s hard to get an idea of him afterwards with so little, and it’s especially so because of the hurried way he’s presented: there is no psychological preparation for the viewer, and it is since his debut that Tedros is presented to us as a violent and impetuous character. He seems to have already planned everything: he sees Jocelyn and asks her to dance on the microphone, effectively preventing her from declining the invitation, and from then on he begins to devour her. She knows nothing about him, like no one else, but the spark is triggered anyway, forcibly. However, the scenario presented to us is appreciable and effective: the red lights of the room recall the themes of horror in which Tedros is the predator and Jocelyn the unsuspecting prey. Here, the fact that the bond between the two is created in this way, between haste and a decidedly particular context, does not bode well. It is also true that between the two it is not just a question of sex, also because of the character of The Weeknd we know he is the leader of a cultcome The Idol it doesn’t just want to show the sexualization of a star, there is much more, and it will be interesting to find out.
The first appointment continues on the same track of forcing, but even here one can appreciate the immediate reference to John Travolta who awaits Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction, getting ready to end the evening at his house. Here, however, there is no room for Tarantino’s dark irreverence, as much as for a further suggestion than what The Idol wants push towards something far more macabre than sex. Tedros suffocates Jocelyn with a red veil, recalling the autoeroticism previously shown by the girl, as if he already knew this side of her and wanted to use it against her, insinuating himself into her mind with decidedly negative purposes. It is early to get an idea of Tedros, but what is certain is that we are dealing with a product, The Idolwhich makes HBO take a big risk, but with which the same network wants and can go further into unusual terrain, at least for what its history is.