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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at VCU chapter.

Sam Levinson is commonly praised for his hit television show, Euphoria, which centers on the lives of high schoolers navigating the complexities of adolescence, love, addiction, and abuse. Since Euphoria turned out to be a huge hit with the public, it was only expected that The Idol would follow suit. The official teaser released on June 2022 promised the “sleaziest love story” between pop star Jocelyn, played by Lily-Rose Depp, and cult producer Tedros, played by The Weeknd. The show seemed to be portrayed as a dark, psychological drama exploring the dark side of stardom for many female pop stars.

Except, it didn’t. What the show produced instead was something completely male-driven with the amount of nudity and disturbing sexual content present throughout the entire show. The show seemed like an outlet for some men’s sick, twisted fantasies towards women. 

Originally, the show’s premise was heading in a different direction. The original director, Amy Seimetz, had suddenly left the show with 80 percent of the series being finished. Her sudden exit caused the entire show to be rewritten with The Weeknd famously claiming that the show was heading towards too much of a “female perspective”. Seimtz’s original direction of making it a show about a troubled pop star reclaiming her agency in a vicious industry turned into a toxic love story under Levinson’s direction. 

One production member claims that what was originally supposed to be a “dark satire of fame and the fame model in the 21st century” quickly turned into the “thing it was satirizing”. 

I fail to see the point in a lot of the scenes included in The Idol. For example, why do we need to see a two-minute scene of Lily-Rose Depp’s character being choked and asked to awkwardly sing? And that’s not even the worst of it.

Sam Levinson is not the only male writer to utilize women’s pain and trauma as a driving plot point. For example, Irreversible has received numerous criticisms for the fact that it includes a ten-minute rape scene in the movie. The I Spit On Your Grave movie series garners controversy for its brutal and graphic rape scene in the original released in 1978 which lasted for thirty minutes. In the past years, Game of Thrones has been slammed for its use of nudity scenes that usually involved female characters more than male characters. Unsurprisingly, what these works have in common is that they were written and directed by men.

The most common argument you’ll hear in response to depicting such brutal scenes is that they’re supposed to be there to make the viewers uncomfortable. However, it is quite easy to depict these scenes in a way that is not acted out and still manages to get the message across. Movies such as Barbarian and Promising Young Woman involve scenes of violence and sexual assault against women, however, the actual act is never shown on screen and yet it still manages to get the message across. You know what is happening without even seeing it. So the question is, why can’t some male writers do the same? The bottom line is we need to stop giving writers like Sam Levinson a platform to bring to life their weird male fantasies. Works like The Idol whose plots center on women’s trauma or oversexualize their trauma are just, in the simplest terms, weird.

Tasnia Zakir (she/her) is a psychology major at VCU and part of the editorial team at VCU's HerCampus. Her interests include pop culture, film, mental health, and literature.