These Scenes In "The Idol" Are So Disgusting The Show Got A 9% Score On Rotten Tomatoes

"The Idol" is facing backlash for its explicit and disturbing scenes, with one depicting Lily-Rose Depp's character Jocelyn photographed with semen on her face. Today, we’re giving you the other reasons why this show, devoid of genuine creativity or meaningful storytelling, isn’t worth anyone’s time.

By Nicole Dominique5 min read
the idol hbo
HBO/The Idol

A phenomenon has emerged in the realm of American television, where shows marketed as explorations of growth and adolescence devolve into a hyper-fixation on sex, nudity, and drugs. And, as most are aware, this is the case with Sam Levinson’s Euphoria, his other previous work, and more recently, The Idol

*This article is intended for readers 18 and older.*

Here’s some context: At the beginning of production, Levinson and Abel Tesfaye's The Idol leaned too much into a "female perspective" (as if that's a bad thing), causing it to undergo a "creative" overhaul that reportedly led to director Amy Seimetz's exit. Thus, the series seems to cater to misogynists and pervs, and we can't say we're surprised – it is the work of Sam Levinson after all, plus it's HBO.

The online reactions after the Cannes Film Festival prove just how much The Idol made attendees uncomfortable with its crude imagery and shocking plot.

The show stars Lily-Rose Depp as a global pop star whose relationship with a "guru" (played by Tesfaye, whose stage name is The Weeknd) leads her down a dark path – a tale inspired by Tesfaye's own experiences that came with the cost of his fame. As reported by Deadline, the singer was unhappy that it pushed more of his co-star's (Depp) character than his own. Still, Tesfaye isn't the only one who should be credited for the show's horrendous takes.

According to several production sources, Levinson began to withdraw from the series' "original messaging," leading to a "distorted and jarring story that lost its overall impact." What was originally a chronicle of a woman finding herself was turned into a show about a "man who gets to abuse this woman and she loves it." 

Meanwhile, Tesfaye marketed The Idol as "something special, something fun, to make people laugh, piss some people off." In my opinion, the series was created to gratify the perverted fantasies of both of its creators. As a result, the series did nothing but deliver disturbing content full of sex and violence that serves no purpose other than to shock the audience. There's a difference between highlighting the behind-the-scenes abuse that happens in the entertainment industry and romanticizing it, and it's unfortunate The Idol resorted to the latter. There may be a silver lining to all of this, though: Depp's performance. Maybe. The star's pained expressions evoked a standing ovation, which, according to attendees, is never truly sincere at the Cannes Film Festival.

Nevertheless, let's go over what horrible imagery and torture porn Cannes attendees were subjected to.

Jocelyn Is Branded "The Human Cumsock" on Social Media

One scene features viral revenge porn of Jocelyn with ejaculate on her face, prompting anxiety and a strange discussion of the term "bukkake," which I won't define here. The pop star's representative at LiveNation hears that Jocelyn has been branded as "the human cumsock" on social media. Note that the show is full of unfunny zingers, so he apparently says, "How are 14-year-old girls going to buy tickets for this when she’s frosted like a Pop Tart?" Blegh.

Lily-Rose Depp Goes Nude and Is Choked

In the first episode, Jocelyn gets naked for her album cover, but the process is interrupted by an intimacy coordinator who didn't give his approval. Her managers lock him in a bathroom to continue shooting Jocelyn naked. According to a Twitter user, Jocelyn gets choked by Tesfaye's character at the end, and she moans "in order to give her 'inspiration' for her single that she's unhappy with." 

The Idol Has a 10-Minute Masturbation Scene

"Ep 2 is straight up pornographic," wrote @cocainecross. "there’s an entire 10-minute scene of The Weeknd talking dirty to Lily while she fingers herself for him, then he tells her to suck his c-ck, and she gives him head. The worst part is that Sam Levinson originally wanted that scene to be longer too." 

I'm sorry, what? Longer than 10 minutes? Zero screen time for this type of scene would have sufficed. To make matters worse, Jocelyn masturbates at least once in each episode. And when she's not getting choked, crying, or giving aggressive blowjobs, she's dressed in skimpy clothing and moves erotically in close-up shots. Hank Azaria, who plays Jocelyn’s manager, even “joked” that he became protective of Depp on set. “I was trying to throw blankets on her,” he said.

The Other Scenes That Didn't Get Shot (Thankfully)

Rolling Stones disclosed this year that several proposed scenes were never shot, according to sources on set. One allegedly had Tesfaye bash in Depp's face as she smiled and begs for more, giving him an erection. 

Another idea was for Depp to insert an egg in her vagina, and that if she cracked or dropped it, Tesfaye would then refuse to "rape her," prompting Depp to beg him to "rape her." The reason why this was never shot is because it's not physically possible for Depp to place an egg inside herself – meaning, the scene would've been "unrealistic." What could possibly be the reason for these scenes, other than to present a female character as a mere object of violence and degradation? “It was like, ‘What is this? What am I reading here?’" one Rolling Stones' source recalls. "It was like sexual torture porn."

"It was like sexual torture porn."

Sam Levinson and Lily-Rose Depp Defend the Show

Following the show’s infamous debut, The Idol cast broke their silence to defend the new series. As for Levinson, he believes his approach is an accurate representation of American culture and the influence of porn on the “psyche of young people.” “It’s funny, sometimes things that might be revolutionary are taken too far. We live in a very sexualized world. I can’t speak to other countries, but especially in the States, the influence of pornography is really strong in terms of the psyche of young people.” Interesting take, Levinson. But, hey, wouldn't you say your work further pushes porn (and abuse) on young, impressionable individuals too?

He continued, “And we see this in pop music, and how it sort of reflects the kind of underbelly of the internet. Lily and I had a lot of discussions about who Jocelyn is as a person, what she’s feeling, what she’s angling, who she’s playing to, and from that point, the sexuality comes out of that character.”

Meanwhile, Depp thinks the “occasional bareness” mirrors the emotional “bareness” of her character. “Jocelyn is a born and bred performer – and I think that extends to every aspect of her life, not just her professional life,” the 23-year-old model said. “The way that she dresses, for example, is her trying to tell you something all the time… or express herself in some kind of way. I also think that the occasional bareness of the character physically mirrors the bareness that we get to see emotionally in her. I was given the privilege of being really involved in the creation of this character and the ins and outs of how she expresses herself.”

Jane Adams – another actress who plays a part in The Idol – hit back at all the critics and said, "I would say... with Lily-Rose, like why would nudity be a bad thing? What are people talking about? I don't understand. I don't even believe that mindset is real. That whole mindset seems fake to me, this outrage and pearl-clutching that's going on about a nude actress who's beautiful. When did that become outrageous?" Except, the problem here isn’t just the overuse of nudity, it’s the sensationalizing of sexual abuse, exploitation, and objectification of young women. 

Levinson’s Disturbing History 

Levinson’s tendency to request actresses to go naked isn’t unheard of, but he does it too much, to the point where we should ask why. Sydney Sweeney went topless on the first episode of Euphoria, but there were other times Levinson seemed keen to have her do it again. "There are moments where Cassie was supposed to be shirtless, and I would tell Sam, ‘I don’t really think that’s necessary here.’ He was like, ‘OK, we don’t need it,’" Sweeney told The Independent. 

Shortly after Sweeney's admission, actress Chloe Cherry told The Daily Beast about how Levinson wanted her naked on her first day on the set of Euphoria. “It probably would’ve been more comfortable had we had a little more time to know each other,” Cherry said. “Sam wanted to do the scene with me completely naked, and Tyler was like, ‘That’s a lot,’ so they decided not to.”

In February 2022, Martha Kelly, who plays a middle-aged drug dealer named Laurie in Euphoria, spoke to Variety about the scenes she shot with her character and Rue. She referred to the scene where Rue gets into a tub, and Laurie injects her with morphine – but she claims the script was even creepier. Kelly described that, on paper, it had “pedophilia vibes.” “In the script, it is even creepier, because Laurie is helping her undress and get in the tub, and it is approaching this gross pedophilia vibe,” she recalled. “Initially, I was like, 'I can't do this.' It's difficult to want to play a character that hurts kids.”

But let’s go back to Levinson’s comment on pornography being in the psyche of young people – in my opinion, it seems to have permeated his on a deep level, hence why it shows through his work. Like Euphoria, his 2018 film Assassination Nation was centered around a group of teenage girls, with one of them giving a detailed and inappropriate monologue to her high school principal, who is later labeled a pedophile in the film. When a writer consistently produces content like this, showcasing women being abused and sexualized, it raises questions about their motivations, like whether or not they have an affinity for witnessing women in distress.

The Idol’s Poor Ratings Proves How Bad It Is

The negative reception of the show, as evidenced by its 15% on Rotten Tomatoes (up from its debut score of 9%), clearly demonstrates the widespread disgust of this virtually plotless show. To put in perspective just how terrible this is, the movie Cats – known for its uncanny CGI and cringey “humor” – has literally surpassed The Idol with a score of 19%. 

The truth is, this quick backlash has given me hope. Giving the series a one-star review may seem minuscule, but it’s a step in the right direction. The more we withhold support from creators who produce misogynistic and abusive content, the more we send a clear message that we reject the normalization of violence and exploitation. Supporting these creators only fuels their desire to create pornified content of distressed women. 

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