All the Controversy Behind HBO's 'The Idol,' Explained
Toxic set, degradation, and Sam Levinson: A breakdown of all the controversy behind HBO's 'The Idol.'
The Idol is not off to a good start.
Not only did the show cause quite a stir at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival in May, but it also dealt with previous reports about the set being a toxic environment.
The new drama, created by Sam Levinson and starring Lily-Rose Depp and Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye, debuts on HBO on June 4. The audience at Cannes already got a preview of the first two episodes and the reviews have been almost uniformly negative, citing a lack of substance and a full-frontal assault of gratuitous nudity and depraved, demeaning sex.
"[It feels] nasty, brutish, much longer than it is, and way, way worse than you’d have anticipated," a Rolling Stone review said. "So much of it amounts to tawdry clichés lifted from Sidney Sheldon novels and softcore porn,” says Variety. One of the more withering assessments came from Time, whose review said that the show "only pretends to expose exploitation, while actually reveling in it."
It begs the question: Did the creator intend for this result in full awareness of his hypocrisy? Or is this artistic malpractice—as if someone set out to film a subversive critique of the porn industry, and accidentally made porn?
Regardless, the controversy almost assures that The Idol will draw in eyeballs and ratings for the same reason that some people can’t look away from a car wreck. How did it come to this? And what implications does this have for HBO and for the creators, actors, and personalities involved in its creation?
Here is everything you need to know about the controversy behind HBO's The Idol, ahead of its debut.
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