We all present ourselves to the world in many different ways. You might try to act friendly and cheerful, to disguise the fact that, actually, you hate, like, everything. Perhaps you want to appear laid-back and chill, even though list-making and meticulously organised calendars are the only thing that keep you sane. But Euphoria creator Sam Levinson and Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye? Well, they prefer to lay it all bare, harnessing their inner demons as a sort-of elevator pitch. They have “sick and twisted minds” and don’t care who knows it. In fact, they want the whole world to know it.
This much we gleaned from the first 10 seconds of the trailer for their new HBO x A24 show, The Idol. The very first thing we see (apart from some scratchy light filters) is, indeed, big red text announcing this, ominously introducing clips of wild, sexy debauchery. Starring Lily-Rose Depp, Levinson replaces teenage bedrooms for Hollywood mansions in this one, teaming up with the Starboy singer to tell the tale of an up-and-coming pop star who gets into a “complicated relationship” with a self-help guru and cult-leader.
By the looks of the trailer, said cult man is played by Tesfaye, who’s seen in some pretty steamy scenes with Depp’s titular idol. “Lick it, spank it, drop it, camera, money, uh-uh-uh,” commands the voice of a choreographer, as the trailer flashes from scene to scene, depicting arse-spanking, panty-dropping and money-counting. There’s drugs, there’s sex and… wait, is that Jennie from BLACKPINK? And Troye Sivan?!
We know what you’re thinking: so far, so Levinson. That’s an average Wednesday night for the Euphoria cast! Where’s the sick and twisted part? There’s no Jigsaw turning up with a deadly game, no giant Squid Game assassin doll, no human meat served up as haute cuisine. It’s gritty, sure, raunchy, yes. But it’s not Craven, Kubrick or Cronenberg.
Maybe we have different definitions of “sick” and “twisted”, or maybe they mean “sick” as in super cool or gnarly or whatever. Either way, there’s a disparity in understanding that needs to be investigated. That’s why we’ve close-watched the trailer to get a better feel for how sick and twisted The Idol really is, reading between the lines, cocaine or otherwise.
The Weeknd’s cavalier champagne popping
One of the first clips in the trailer’s montage of chaos shows The Weeknd’s character in a lush pad, making a big ol’ mess as he sprays a bottle of champagne. Now, this is a pretty standard tradition among the rich and famous (including but not limited to F1 drivers), as a triumphant and decadent way to celebrate both your wins and wealth. It might be sick to some in a cool way, but it’s certainly not twisted. It is definitely, however, incredibly wasteful, especially in the wake of Christmas 2021’s Great Champagne Shortage. And just think of the clean-up.
Verdict: The cool version of sick, if you like ostentatious celebrations.
The raunchy, blindfolded studio session
At one point, we see Lily-Rose Depp’s Main Character recording vocals in a studio. Pretty normal, right? Not when you notice the fact that she’s blindfolded while The Weeknd creepily runs his hands over her hips. Oh, and the big red text that says “The sleaziest love story” to be continued in a following clip that reads “in all of Hollywood”. We’ll write the blindfold thing off as some kind of Stranger Things-style sensory deprivation method to tap into The Idol’s virtuoso power. But the hip stroking? Weird vibes, particularly when paired with the word sleazy. Is this cult leader to The Idol what Papa is to Eleven? Let’s hope not.
Verdict: Plain creepy, and potentially twisted with more context.
The Weeknd’s maniacal laugh
While hanging out on a luxurious mansion balcony with Troye Sivan, The Weeknd’s character bares all of his pearly whites for a hearty laugh. Sure, maybe Sivan had just told a really funny story, but something about this chuckle feels a bit evil, like he’s just unveiled his plan for world domination and is relishing in his ungodly genius or something. Plus, Sivan gives him a little smile and eyebrow raise back that screams sinister scheming. There’s no way these two are laughing at a TikTok video. They’re laughing at their own sick and twisted minds.
Verdict: It’s not that sick and twisted to acknowledge your own sick and twistedness, so even though they’re up to no good, this scores nul points.
The Idol’s armed-guarded mansion
Pop stars probably don’t need their mansions guarded by armed security, do they? Smells a bit control‑y to us, particularly since the guards don’t seem to be watching intruders. Instead, they’re all lined-up facing The Idol’s balcony, as she looks out at the eight gun-wielding men before her. This hints that the show could tackle exploitation in the music industry which, as we’ve seen through cases like Britney Spears’ conservatorship and Kesha’s battle with Dr. Luke, can have a devastating impact on young stars. Let’s hope this one’s used with care and not for shock value, eh?
Verdict: Properly twisted (but a bit weird for the men to be calling themselves “twisted” if they’re creating a show about women’s exploitation, no?)
The even raunchier studio session
We’re assuming this session is happening at someone’s private studio, as Depp’s stockings and lace-trimmed robe doesn’t exactly feel like appropriate work attire. But who are we to judge? We don’t see Tesfaye’s face in this shot, but it’s fair to assume he’s the one holding a nightcap and going in for the approach – the pair are all over each other in the trailer. This is a scene that could go both ways: it could simply be an innocent (but sexy) hook-up, or it could point to a more nefarious power dynamic at play. “Do you trust me?” asks The Weeknd’s character two clips later. “Not really,” whispers Depp. Hmm. It is a little bit twisted to not be able to trust your cult leader and lover. Run, Main Character, run!
Verdict: Sexy at face value, but twisted when you remember The Weeknd’s a cult leader.