Lily-Rose Depp in The Idol Trailer

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‘These reviews’: The first reactions to ‘The Idol’ are not great

Tweeting about the negative 'Idol' reviews is a meme now.


Audra Schroeder

Internet Culture

Posted on May 23, 2023

The Idol, Sam Levinson’s upcoming Max series starring Lily-Rose Depp and Abel Tesfaye (The Weeknd) debuted Monday at Cannes, and the initial reactions haven’t been great.

Warning: This article includes graphic descriptions of the series.

In the series, Tesfaye plays a club owner named Tedros, who ensnares vulnerable pop star Jocelyn (Depp) and attempts to create a comeback for her—while engaging in graphic sexual scenarios and manipulative behavior.

In March, a Rolling Stone report detailed allegations of on-set drama (including director Amy Seimetz leaving last year after shooting 80 percent of the show) and claimed Levinson’s new script included violent sexual scenes and “torture porn.” One crew member said the show “went from satire to the thing it was satirizing.” At the time, Tesfaye responded with a smug tweet.

In a press conference for the show on Monday, Levinson said the response to the Rolling Stone report made him believe “we’re about to have the biggest show of the summer.” Depp also addressed the report, saying, “It’s always a little sad and disheartening to see mean, false things said about someone you care about.”

No advance screeners are being given for The Idol, which is not a great sign that HBO has faith in this show, though perhaps it’s banking on all the reports about the toxic set being a draw. It certainly seems like that’s the plan with Levinson’s other show, Euphoria. (Related: Alexa Demie reportedly shows up in a club scene.)

So were those reports about the violent, pornographic content true? According to Vulture‘s Rachel Handler, in the first two episodes screened at Cannes, Jocelyn masturbates while choking herself, Tedros suffocates her with a robe, and her breasts are exposed “possibly 50 percent of the first two episodes.” There’s also some pretty graphic dialogue.

In reference to a report that Depp’s character is shown photographed with semen on her face, Handler confirms there is a scene that explains that plot point and “we do indeed get to see the selfie.”

The New York Times‘ Kyle Buchanan called The Idol “A Pornhub-homepage odyssey starring Lily Rose Depp’s areolas and The Weeknd’s greasy rat tail.” The only real positive reaction from Cannes seemed to be for Blackpink’s Jennie, who has a supporting role.

A lot of people already disliked Levinson due to reports that he created a toxic environment on the set of Euphoria, a show about high schoolers that often indulges unnecessary nudity, which was called out by the show’s cast members. Tweeting about The Idol reviews became a meme.

Of course, some fans say the negative reaction is just making them want to watch it more. The Idol debuts June 4.

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*First Published: May 23, 2023, 11:51 am CDT