The Idol has America angry and thirsty for more
June 28th, 2023, Clifton Mark

The Idol has America angry and thirsty for more

The Idol’s bad press started early. Two months before the show business drama’s official release, Rolling Stone likened the program to “torture porn”, citing chaos in the production process and moral decrepitude in the content. What was supposed to be a satire of showbiz sleaze wound up glorifying what it should have condemned. 

Despite the deluge of moral and aesthetic criticism, the show’s a hit. According to YouGov Signal, America is more interested in The Idol right now than any other show. Since it’s release three weeks ago, the HBO drama has the highest Appetite Score of any title in TV or film at 99.13. During the same period, an average of 199k people looked it up on Wikipedia every day, making it the most discovered title by far. For comparison, the next most in-demand TV show, Ted Lasso, garnered only 16.8k daily Wiki lookups. People want to know about The Idol

Why are Americans flocking to this so-called “shitshow”? Fans have praised the subject matter and performances to a moderate degree. But the star power of real-life musicians, such as Jennie Kim, cast in a supporting role, is one of the biggest drivers of interest in the show. Not only is the Blackpink singer a global superstar, she’s supported by a militant online fandom. Jennie stans made her name the number one keyword in online conversation surrounding the show. 

While Americans are clearly fascinated by The Idol, they don’t necessarily like it. On a daily basis, 29% of the sentiment expressed by people talking about The Idol has been negative. “Disgusting” is the third keyword most often associated with these negative sentiments. And anger/disgust is the second-most expressed emotion in online commentary. 

Yet this outrage and controversy itself may be another driver of interest. Analysis of the conversation surrounding the program suggests a lot of hate-watching. As one commenter puts it: “This show is a mess but I can’t stop watching.” Even self-professed fans of real-life popstar The Weeknd, who plays the show’s villain, criticize his character and performance. 

But even if Americans find The Idol disgusting, that doesn’t mean they’ve had enough. Negative sentiment about the show reached an all-time high of 51% on June 26, the day after the fifth episode aired. One source of ire is a scene in which musician Troye Sivan’s character Xander is tortured using a shock collar. However, audiences aren’t just upset that the content is sleazy; they’re upset because they want more. Although the Signal data’s not in to confirm it yet, the other big theme in the online conversation seems to be that audiences are in disbelief that the series only has one episode left.

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