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Parents, beware: HBO's 'The Idol' promotes depraved sexuality


Warning:  Please be advised, the following article contains graphic sexual content. 

Young children should not have to carry the burden of — not merely adult sexuality — but the kind of twisted, perverted, and frankly, toxic version of adult sexuality being thrown at them by billion-dollar corporations like HBO.

HBO’s “Euphoria” — one of the most harmful shows for teens ever streamed into homes and mobile devices — is now trying to be outdone by “The Idol.” Both programs are created by Sam Levinson, who was tasked by HBO to make “The Idol” into “Euphoria” on steroids.

HBO arrogantly boasts — yes, boasts — that “The Idol” was created by “sick and twisted minds” to tell the “sleaziest love story in all of Hollywood.” TV critics have slammed “The Idol,” citing it as “pornographic,” a “sordid male fantasy,” a “darker, crazier, and more risqué version” of HBO’s Euphoria. But predictably, “The Idol” offers a horribly corrupted view of “love,” putting its lead character, pop princess Jocelyn, in abusive sexual situations and attempting to paint these as normal.

Variety described one such scene from the second episode:

“Meanwhile, Jocelyn and Tedros are in the bedroom, where he is directing her to perform sexual acts on herself while he’s sitting in a chair, narrating his fantasy experience. (“I want to grab you by the *ss while I suffocate you with my c*ck. I want you to choke on it.”).

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“The scene is filled with explicit nudity, sexual dialogue and some X-rated foley work when Jocelyn audibly gags while performing o*** s** on Tedros. Meanwhile, there’s also an element of voyeurism when one of the cult followers, the mostly-nude pianist Chloe (Suzanna Son), gets stuck in the closet and watches Jocelyn and Tedros’ activities.”

In the third episode, when Jocelyn reveals that her mother used to abuse her by beating her with a hairbrush, Tedros (her boyfriend/music producer/cult leader) suggests that she turn that trauma into inspiration and proceeds to beat her with a hairbrush.

Torture porn. Trauma porn. Whatever you want to call it, this is the dark and depraved material that’s being promoted to children and teens, who are already suffering mental health issues at an exponential rate.

GQ aptly summed up what might be the entire point of the series so far: “In ‘The Idol,’ the point is the pain.”

HBO is predictably marketing “The Idol” to youth on social media. Videos tagged with #theidol on TikTok — one of the most popular social media sites with tweens and teens — have racked-up more than 1.2 billion views. There are more than 120 variations on that hashtag, adding up to millions more views.

Even if children aren’t on social media, they can easily access “The Idol” on the MAX streaming platform, which has wide gaps in its parental “controls” that enable youth to watch “The Idol” and other explicit TV-MA content like Euphoria.

As a society, we have to protect our most vulnerable — our children — which is why families need to be aware of “The Idol,” but also why the ultimate responsibility falls on the entertainment companies like HBO to ensure children aren’t exposed to this kind of content. And HBO is failing in this responsibility.

It’s tragic that we are denying children the chance to have a childhood that’s unencumbered by all this unnecessary weight.

Melissa Henson is the vice president of the Parents Television and Media Council, a nonpartisan education organization advocating responsible entertainment. Twitter: @ThePTC.

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