Controversy Around The Idol

The Controversy Surrounding HBO’s ‘The Idol’

HBO's latest show 'The Idol' has been receiving a lot of backlash online

The Idol movie poster
Nina Gitchibayeva Nina Gitchibayeva

One of the most anticipated (yet controversial) series of 2023 has been HBO’s ‘The Idol’, set to premiere at Cannes Film Festival on June 4th of 2023. It stars many celebrity figures, such as Lily-Rose Depp, Abel Tesfaye (also known as The Weeknd), K-POP star Jennie Kim and many more. The Idol follows a female popstar (Depp) and her complex relationship with a cult leader (Tesfaye). The show is directed by The Weeknd himself and Sam Levinson, the producer of the well-known series Euphoria.

Where It Went Wrong

The original director of the movie was supposed to be Amy Seimetz, but after she left Sam came in and reshot most of the already shot scenes. Crew members anonymously stated that when Amy was directing the show, “it was a show about a woman who was finding herself sexually”, but after Sam took over this changed into “a show about a man who gets to abuse this woman and she loves it”.

Leading up to its release date, the tv-show has been receiving a lot of criticism, following released teasers. Many people are accusing both Sam Levinson and The Weeknd of turning the show into a “rape fantasy”, with unnamed crew workers claiming the show contains many “disturbing sexual and physically violent scenes”. This is not the first time both Levinson and Tesfaye have received criticism surrounding their sexual artistry.

Not Their First Controversy

Although a huge success, Levinson previously received backlash after the release of the series Euphoria, seeing as people were disturbed by his over-use of nudity and sexuality, especially towards its female characters. Many believe he relies too much on shock value to create a hype around his work. He is also accused of having personal bias towards his actors, seeing as one of the main characters in Euphoria, Cat, supposedly had less screen time in further seasons due to a feud between Sam and the actress Barbie Ferreira.

As for Abel Tesfaye, AKA The Weeknd, if you have ever listened to his music, you can expect what is to come. Over his entire carrier, he has been accused of shaming women and promoting toxic masculinity in his songs, as his lyrics are mostly over sexual and refer to using women only for sexual relations.

Their Response

When being asked for a response to the controversy, actress Lily-Rose Depp simply referred to Levinson as “the best director I have ever worked with” and that working with him “is a true collaboration in every way”. She also claimed she had never felt “more supported or respected in a creative space”. As for Levinson and Tesfaye, no direct statement surrounding the controversy were made. Tesfaye even made light of the situation, posting a scene of him and Lily, dissing the magazine Rolling Stone, with the caption “@RollingStone did we upset you?”


Lastly, HBO itself has recently released a statement on the controversial claims, saying

“Throughout the process, the creative team has been committed to creating a safe, collaborative, and mutually respectful working environment, and last year, the team made creative changes they felt were in the best interest of both the production and the cast and crew. We look forward to sharing The Idol with audiences soon.”

Looking forward to it is an understatement, as many people are wondering how accurate the crew’s critics towards the problematic show are.

Nina Gitchibayeva

I am a student of International Communication and Media at Thomas More in Belgium. For my Erasmus exchange, I have decided to study Communication at Abat Oliba in Barcelona.