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lily-rose depp as jocelyn in the idol
lily-rose depp as jocelyn in the idol
Photograph by Eddy Chen/HBO
Culture > Entertainment

‘The Idol’ Is Fictional, But Jocelyn Was Inspired By 2 Real Pop Stars

The Idol’s protagonist is more than just your bubblegum-sweet pop princess: Jocelyn is literally the idol. She’s the quintessential cool girl that keeps celebrity culture alive. Jocelyn is iconic enough to join the ranks of mononymous it girls like Zendaya and Cher. Of course, it helps that we’re on a full-name basis with the actress bringing Jocelyn to life: Lily-Rose Depp has been gracing Tumblr pages and French runways since 2015. Jocelyn is too cool to be real (and she isn’t, obviously), but her overall image and struggles with the spotlight may seem eerily familiar because the celebrities who inspired her character are household names.

The Idol isn’t based on a true story, but it does pull elements from 1990s and 2000s pop culture to make its on-screen music industry more authentic. Although her character was influenced by femme fatales from the 1940s, an interview with the cast and crew posted to HBO’s YouTube channel revealed that Jocelyn is mainly based on the pop princesses who ruled at the turn of the century: Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. 

The three singers share physical similarities: perfectly tousled blonde hair that simultaneously suggests long nights and rushed mornings, slender builds they’re committed to showing off in an impressive array of baby tees and low-rise pants, and signature makeup routines that have doubtlessly been copied by millions of admiring fans wishing they looked like them. Jocelyn’s style is undeniably rooted in the Y2K aesthetic, which helps The Idol’s viewers draw parallels between her character and the singers who originated the trends. It’s easier to imagine just how big of a star Jocelyn is when you can immediately compare her to established icons like Spears and Aguilera.

The comparison isn’t just physical, though. Some parts of Jocelyn’s backstory mirror aspects of Spears and Aguilera’s careers. For example, Jocelyn was discovered at a young age; Spears and Aguilera both got their start on The Mickey Mouse Club. Jocelyn also suffered an as-of-yet unexplained mental breakdown similar to Spears’s infamous public breakdown in 2007. 

The most indirect yet important comparison between all three singers is their level of independence and say in their own careers. At the beginning of the series, Jocelyn feels creatively stifled by her management. Her record label immediately shoots down her experimental attempts at a new sound. Likewise, Britney Spears has outspokenly denounced her traumatic lack of control over her career and personal life post-breakdown. 

The Idol is not a bioseries, but given the show’s penchant for violent shock value, the lyric “Hit me, baby, one more time” may be taken as a direct suggestion rather than mere inspiration. Although Jocelyn may be based on early 2000s pop stars, she exists for a 2023 audience. Her story has the potential to rewrite the narrative of what it means to be a woman in the music industry today — or shed more light on an unchanged truth.

Fabiana Beuses is a senior at Florida State University double majoring in Media/Communication Studies and English (Editing, Writing, and Media). She is the Editor-in-Chief of Her Campus at FSU. She previously served as Her Campus' Summer 2023 Entertainment & Culture Intern and is currently a National Writer, where she profiles celebrities and professionally fangirls over pop culture phenomena. When she's not polishing her latest article, you can find her browsing bookstore aisles, taste testing vanilla lattes around town, or rewatching the Harry Potter series for the millionth time.