Arts & Culture Co-editor
Photo via Rolling Stone magazine.
Any TV series depicting the lives of struggling artists must include the quintessential ingredients: “sex, drugs, and hot girls,” as Sam Levinson elucidates in his most recent failure, The Idol. Levinson, Nepo baby and now a household name, has used this recipe time and time again. Levinson’s claim to fame and one of his few success stories, Euphoria, won nine Emmy Awards and one Golden Globe Award. Many regard Levinson’s use of sex and nudity in Euphoria as intentional and an ode to the hardships of being a teenager, and more specifically, the hardships of being a teenage girl.
Contrarily, this summer’s release, The Idol, will not be winning any Emmys; it was a shit show, pun intended, and has been canceled after five episodes. While Levinson’s depiction of struggling female characters in Euphoria was mostly well received, his inability to diverge from this storyline in all of his creations, including Malcolm and Marie, and, now The Idol, is questionable at best. Why is Levinson, a grown man, so infatuated with struggling female characters, and more specifically, why must his depiction of them as emotionally vulnerable rely so heavily on them being naked in nearly every other scene?
The Idol’s lack of tastefulness and plot has gained much negative publicity; Rolling Stone magazine published an article hinting at some drama behind the scenes. Amy Seimetz, former director, left abruptly due to conflict with Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye. It is rumored that he did not agree with the choices made by Seimetz and felt that the series centered too much on the “female perspective”. This insinuates that a “female perspective” is negative – because, God forbid, they were to create a meaningful series about women’s struggles.
Alas, they scrapped the 80% of the series that had been completed, not to mention wasted $54-75 million, to refilm the series as Tesfaye, an inexperienced actor and creator, saw fit. Levinson and Tesfaye combined their perverted ideas and started from scratch; a show which was initially aimed to demonstrate the perils of fame and the harsh realities for women, turned into a potluck of bad acting and degrading sex scenes, usually reserved for pornography.
In the opening scene of episode one, Pop Tarts & Rat Tales, Jocelyn, played by Lily-Rose Depp, poses for her album cover: a nude photoshoot. Jocelyn’s team, watching her pose, comments on her sex appeal and beauty. When one of the team members questions the direction of the photoshoot and its romanticization of mental illness, as Jocelyn poses in a red robe with a hospital wristband sitting noticeably on her tiny wrist, the chief of the team, a woman named Nikki, responds curtly, “Will you let people enjoy sex, drugs, and hot girls? Stop trying to cockblock America.” This quote might as well have been plucked from Levinson’s brain itself as it evidently conveys his perverted beliefs.
While many people can move past this line and maybe even laugh at it, this scene as a whole harms the progress made in Hollywood and the film industry. Following this line, Jocelyn has a disagreement with her intimacy coordinator about the implications of her nudity rider. She wishes to show her breasts in the photoshoot, contrary to what the clause allows. The intimacy coordinator explains that there is a 48-hour waiting period that must be respected before she can display her breasts in the photoshoot, and that it is this way for a reason: to protect female stars from spur-of-the-moment pressures. Jocelyn practically rolls her eyes at him and accuses him of taking away her agency; the following clip shows him locked in a closet for merely doing his job. This scene in itself ridicules the measures put in place to ensure the safety and comfort of actors and actresses.
Levinson should know better, as he has respected and worked with these clauses in the past. For instance, Sydney Sweeney, who plays Cassie in Euphoria, took advantage of her contract and spoke up when she felt uncomfortable with the amount of nudity included in her scenes. Levinson respected her decisions as he was required to by the fine print. Did he include this scene because he believes in a woman’s right to go against what her clause says and take ownership of her body, or because he was annoyed that his “artistic creativity” has been limited by a piece of paper in the past? Either way, when writing this scene, Levinson must have known it would get a reaction from the public.
Unfortunately, the offensive and questionable lines do not stop there. Notably, Jocelyn voices her attraction to cult leader Tedros, played by Tesfaye, by describing him as “rapey” and proceeds to engage in a masochistic and degrading sexual relationship with him. All this to say, what was intended to be a show about a female star "who finds herself sexually,” said one anonymous crew member, became “a show about a man who gets to abuse a woman and she loves it”; a disappointing outcome.