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Here's Why 'The Idol' is All Over the Internet


July 04, 2023

Spoilers ahead! Trigger warning: mention of abuse

The Idol released its first episode on HBO on June 4, 2023, and there's a reason it's going viral across social media platforms. Created by Sam Levinson, the creator of Euphoria, Abel "The Weeknd" Tesfaye, and Reza Fahim, the show follows the journey of a growing pop star, Jocelyn, played by Lily-Rose Depp, and her relationship with Tedros, played by Abel Tesfaye. The series is quite short, with 5 episodes.

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Having had a traumatic past due to abuse from her mother, who was eventually diagnosed with cancer and passed away, Jocelyn went through a breakdown, resulting in her tour getting canceled. The first episode opens with Jocelyn having a nearly nude photoshoot for her new album cover, during which an inappropriate photo of her goes viral online. As she still works through her issues while recording new music and filming music videos, she meets Tedros at a club that she goes to with her best friend and assistant, Leia, Dyanne, and Xander, her creative director.

She ends up spending more and more time with Tedros and develops a complicated relationship with him. Leia, who is skeptical of him, constantly expresses concern and fear regarding his actions, which everyone else dismisses.

Characters and Acting

Lily-Rose Depp is one of the lead characters of the show as she plays Jocelyn, the struggling pop star. Having watched the first three episodes, I can say that she has done a phenomenal job when it comes to accurately portraying Jocelyn's character. You can see the fire in wanting to continue her career, yet the sadness and her declining mental health which leads her to have breakdowns, be a perfectionist, make reckless decisions, and abuse substances.

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Leia, her best friend, is played by Rachel Sennot, and is the opposite of Jocelyn in many ways. Her brown hair and softer features are a stark contrast against Jocelyn's blonde hair and sharp, petite figure. Other than visual elements, their personalities are also completely opposite.

Leia is more responsible and is constantly worried about Jocelyn, and Jocelyn is more carefree and reckless. While Jocelyn hangs out with Tedros, Leia warns her about him and experiences anxiety when he's around.

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Tedros, played by Abel Tesfaye, is portrayed as a suspicious character right from his first appearance. Tedros and Jocelyn first meet at a club, after which they start meeting more or less regularly. While Abel portrayed the character well, I personally felt like how controlling and aggressive his character was felt unnatural.

However, this trait in his character and the way he manipulates Jocelyn helps us understand what a gullible position she was in. At the same time, the second half of the series shows that he may not be the only manipulative and toxic one in their relationship.

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Dyanne, played by Jennie of Blackpink, is the reason why many claim they watch the show. She seems to be a good friend of Jocelyn's in the beginning, but cracks begin to appear in their relationship when Jocelyn finds out Dyanne liked Tedros, following which Jocelyn's song, World Class Sinner, was given to Dyanne by the record label. I like her but the way her character didn't get a big ending because of Jocelyn ruined the story. It's the one thing I was looking forward to.

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The last character I'll be exploring is Xander, played by Troye Sivan. Xander and Jocelyn seem to have quite a history. He moved into her house when he was 14 and witnessed the abuse she endured from her mother.

Episode 4 reveals that there's more to his story and he thought Jocelyn was a controlling and manipulative woman. I found his role in the story to also be quite unclear, other than hinting that Jocelyn is not just an innocent, emotionally broken woman.

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Overall, acting-wise, the actors fulfilled their roles really well, but I felt like the storyline didn't do their talent justice. There was no structure to it and it was hard to understand the roles of different characters, and why certain things were even happening.

What's the Hype About?

The show isn't going viral for all good reasons. One thing that has had people excited is Jennie, and many have even said that they're waiting for her character to shine and only continue to watch the show because of her.

I feel similarly; the five episodes had no storyline that led to a good conclusion that an audience expects out of shows for any of the characters. It felt like the show was made for the sake of making a show, but the execution of the idea was poorly done. It was sexually explicit for no reason, and all it relies on is Jocelyn's behavior because of her trauma to make the series "interesting".

The only real twist that was good in any capacity and had so much potential was the reveal that Jocelyn was the one manipulating and controlling Tedros, not vice-versa. She lied about all her trauma and made herself look like she was in a vulnerable position. Yet, it was disappointing that she got back with him anyway, and her motive for getting involved with him in any way is unclear. There are too many unanswered questions and I personally feel like another season that may even attempt to answer these questions cannot compensate.

Many have also spoken in support of the show, saying that it does a good job of exposing a darker side of idol culture. People found it interesting how the dynamic between the characters progressed and changed, and the soundtrack made it more appealing.

Final Thoughts

I think the show and story had potential. The cast, acting, soundtrack, outfits, and everything else were on point, but the progression of the storyline, the end that each of the characters got, and the role certain characters played were all unclear.

The story could have explored so much more than Jocelyn and Tedros, like her dynamic with Dyanne after Dyanne was asked to perform Jocelyn's song, Leia's relationship with Jocelyn after she was constantly mistreated by Tedros and what happened to Xander after he confesses that he found Jocelyn to be crazy and manipulative. Nothing concrete appears to come out of any of these situations that could have enhanced not only the story but character development.

Sapna Kappal
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Sapna is a graduate of Psychology with a Literature minor from India. She enjoys discussing and writing about pop culture, music, mental health, travel, language, and diversity and is going to do research in the field of language and intercultural communication in the UK.