2 February 2024

Jocelyn (Lily-Rose Depp) and Tedros (Abel Tesfaye) in the series


A very young woman, outrageously made up and half-naked, fixes the lens and deploys the palette of emotions that the photographer asks of her: “I would like a laugh”, “play the innocent”, “give me your doe eyes”, “Now I want some ass”. There will be a lot of talk about “ass” in the episode that follows, Warner’s communication having locked access to The Idol before its broadcast, it is the only one we have seen at the time of writing these lines.

There will also be a lot of question of gaze, and it is precisely this gaze, considered sexist and misogynistic, which earned Sam Levinson’s series to take a volley of green wood during its screening at the Cannes Film Festival. The Idol arrived there shrouded in the aura of cursed projects, the production having been shaken by the departure of director Amy Seimetz (The Girlfriend Experience), while the series, largely reworked thereafter, was almost finished.

The Idol bears the stigma of this double parenthood, in that the series seems torn between two projects. On the one hand, an erotic thriller from the male point of view about the unhealthy relationship between Jocelyn (Lily-Rose Depp), a losing pop star, and Tedros (Abel Tesfaye, better known by his stage name, The Weeknd), a nightclub boss with shady designs. On the other, and this was the project of Amy Seimetz, an outrageous but relatively far-sighted denunciation of the vulgarity of a milieu and an era.

Palpable ambivalence

This ambivalence is palpable within the narrative itself. In the first few minutes, an intimacy coordinator gets kicked off the set where Jocelyn is being photographed. Shortly after, the online broadcast of an intimate selfie of the singer panics the many staff around her: how to react? Is a woman with cum on her face a bitch or a feminist heroine? What power does nudity give? Between fascination and repulsion, the question skillfully punctuates the first sequences of the episode. Carried by Lily-Rose Depp and a few impeccably written and cast supporting roles, they are the best.

As soon as Tedros and his tail-of-rat enter the scene, something softens, the “ass” becomes simple “ass scene” and the series switches to sub-Verhoeven. The Batavian director, briefly quoted with an extract from Basic Instinct (1992), would undoubtedly have drawn something more subversive from it, but, even if it is a little early to say, this pilot suggests something other than a production that would only exist for the reactions outrage it arouses.

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