It’s Time For Sam Levinson To Put The Pen Down


Trinity Gilreath, Staff Reporter

When the announcement of HBO’s The Idol from Euphoria creator Sam Levinson dropped, I was admittedly intrigued. I’ve never been a fan of Levinson’s writing outside of some episodes of Euphoria, but I still think he has a very creative mind and can sometimes write compelling characters. The star-studded cast of Lily Rose Depp, Jennie Kim (credited as Jennie Ruby Jane), and Rachel Sennott, along with Abel Tesfaye (known professionally as The Weekend) attached as a co-creator, did not help ease my fascination. However, before the show even came out, I was yet again reminded of the fact that Sam Levinson is not a good writer and is in fact a creep.

Season two of Euphoria was riddled with rumors of alleged drama, an overworked cast and crew, and a hectic schedules so with The Idol having very little promotion and no release date for months, I wasn’t shocked to hear about production troubles on the set, but the release of a recent Rolling Stone report proved it was much worse than expected.

Levinson was originally just a co-creator and producer of the show, but after Amy Seimetz abruptly left in April of last year with the majority of the show finished, he took over as the sole director. Seimetz allegedly left due to Abel Tesfaye’s belief that the show was too focused on the perspective of its female character Jocelyn, played by Lily Rose Depp, and wanted to get rid of the feminist lens that Seimetz added to the show. Because just how could a show with a female lead dare to center said female lead’s thoughts and feelings? Despite 80% of the show being done by the time Levinson was given control, he decided to rewrite and reshoot, turning a vision that had originally been “a troubled starlet falling victim to a predatory industry figure and fighting to reclaim her own agency” into a demeaning torture fest filled with even more shock value, violence, and nudity than seen in Levinson’s other project, Euphoria, and allegedly creating many disturbing scenes that portray  sexual abuse as a fantasy .Unlike Euphoria, the characters of The Idol are legal adults, which I guess Levinson took as authorization to take the already graphic and exploitative nature of his work to extreme measures.

Sam Levinson is not good at writing characters, especially female ones. In Euphoria, Rue is the only female character who is well fleshed out and well written, which is most likely only because she’s based on Levinson’s younger self and therefore something he can connect himself to. His other female characters that he had to create from scratch come off as very shallow and superficial. These are also the characters who are usually subjected to violent naked scenes. And while these characters were marketed as being sexually liberated, season two would later show these characters being punished for their sexuality by either having their arcs disregarded or being turned into Kat (Barbie Ferreira), who had a CP storyline that was portrayed as empowering until the very end of the season with a very lazy wrapup, was later completely disregarded in season 2, and now she won’t even be in season 3. Cassie Howard (Sydney Sweeney), who was the character that was possibly sexualized the most in season 1, is giving a storyline in season 2 that involves her entering an abusive relationship with her best friend Maddy’s (Alexa Demie) ex boyfriend Nate, a storyline that subjects her character to a caricature of her season 1 character, constantly humiliating and hypersexualizing her. Maddy’s character doesn’t actually have a storyline in season 2, she’s  just there to further Nate and Cassie’s stories. After Maddy finds out about Cassie’s betrayal, she only has like 2 scenes of the show that aren’t in relation to Cassie; one of those scenes was her literally having a gun put to her head by Nate, which is never acknowledged again after the scene ends. The character of Jules started the show off as one of the most complex and well-written characters, second only to Rue, however. Between the releases of seasons 1 and 2, Jules became an afterthought to Levinson and was a completely different character than she started as. In her episode “F— Anyone Who’s Not A Sea Blob,” which was co-written by her actress Hunter Schafer, she gave us her perspective on everything going on with Rue in season 1, but also gave us more insight on her  appealing to men and the relationship between that and her struggle with trying to “conquer” femininity. She decides she’s no longer interested in men, and despite the fact that season 2 has her cheat on Rue with a man, and after being verbally abused by Rue in episode 5, her character is basically nonexistent for the rest of the season. Euphoria is not a well-written show, and the fact that it was written solely by Levinson is a clear reason why.

Sam Levinson’s first movie, Assassination Nation, which despite wanting to come off as a feminist horror critique of the patriarchal society young girls live in was really just a two-hour compilation of teenage girls being brutalized and tortured with god awful characterization and dialogue, was criticized by the LA Times critic as being allegedly the catalyst and inspiration for Malcolm & Marie, which was clearly a way for Sam to vent his frustrations as a filmmaker  in the industry under the guise of storytelling. Levinson obviously sees himself as a victim of the industry and that any critique of his work is a direct attack on him.

Despite all this, Sam is loved by HBO, which makes sense given that Euphoria is HBO’s biggest show since Game of Thrones, so they will allow him to waste $75 million dollars to redo an almost-done show in order to make it a perverted fantasy for him. I’m sure there are creators at HBO who aren’t white male nepo babies who are more deserving of this treatment, but their shows are canceled because of budget cuts (again, Sam drained $75 million dollars). Levinson may be great at bringing viewers in between his exploitative writing and him overworking and traumatizing his cast and crew, but I don’t think he’s worth the risk.