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Chloé Bruère Dawson
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April 20, 2023
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The Idol: Nothing has changed for men in Hollywood

“Post-Me too era”, the after “Me too”, we’ve had many headlines qualifying the so-called shift in mindsets and workplace culture after the Me Too movement. But six years after the Weinstein effect, have things even slightly evolved for women in the film industry?

Although Harvey Weinstein is finally in prison for the next decades, his sentence is more exemplary than the norm and may be the only good news of 2022 and 2023. In the midst of Depp v. Heard, what survivors have been fighting for - a voice, recognition, reparations - has been taken away, the situation for women brought back to years before. The trial’s media treatment opened a new wound over fresh scars, ridiculizing Amber Heard’s physical and sexual assaults all over social media. The result? An overall unsafe environment for abuse survivors, a complete disregard for women’s voices, and a decision that opened the door to threats of defamation trials against those who dared to talk, as seen with Depp’s close friend Marilyn Manson against actress Rachel Wood.
If seeing public figures talk openly about their assault has helped survivors across the world tremendously, seeing the sentence of Depp v. Heard had the opposite impact, making people more scared to talk, and even more afraid to take it to court.

In this climate of regression, the importance of speaking out and producing movies and TV shows on the subject gets even bigger. We’ve had a few over the years: “The Assistant”, “She said”, or “Promising Young Woman”, and if they weren’t perfect, there were in a way cathartic and certainly necessary in conveying those stories adequately. “The Idol”, the new HBO show, could have been an important addition to this list, yet ends up being an embodiment of the patriarchal, abusive, and unchanging nature of the film industry.

The news came out in an article by the Rolling Stones, published earlier this month. The long-awaited TV show “The Idol”, in which Lily-Rose Depp plays a rising pop star being groomed into a cult led by Abel Tesfaye (The Weeknd), has been taken over by Euphoria director Sam Levinson, changing its narrative completely.
Originally directed by Amy Seimetz, the show was supposed to tackle the abusive side of fame from a woman's perspective, through grooming, sexual harassment, and exploitation. But in April 2022, while most episodes had already been shot, Seimetz was replaced by Levinson. Known for his penchant for the hypersexualization of teens and his excessive nude scenes in Euphoria, as recounted by actresses Sidney Sweeny and Minka Kelley, Sam Levinson's treatment of women was already regularly pointed out. As he took over, he scraped all of Seimetz’s previous work, entirely rewriting the show. “The Idol” is now described by crew members as a “rape fantasy” or “sexual torture porn”, with very graphic and disturbing scenes and an overall draining and toxic work environment. The very detailed Rolling Stones article was only met by The Weeknd with a sarcastic tweet and no response to the charges pressed against him and Levinson.
With the hype around the show, notably because of its numerous guest stars, we can be nothing but disappointed and worried about the future impact of “The Idol”, and what it means for the film industry. When networks prefer to give millions for a man to make his own fantasy rather than fund what could have been an important feminist work, hope for change grows weaker.

Images courtesy of HBO - The Idol

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