Thursday, December 1, 2022

Billie Eilish and the Future of Pop Star Documentary

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Here is the thing on pop fame: the world is unable to look away. Like a vortex, it sucks in the eyes. It is a disco ball, reflecting humanity on itself. For women in particular, it is a minefield. When you are famous people feel allowed to look at you and then criticize what they see. Performers in revealing outfits are ashamed of sluts, and others are greeted with headlines like “Every Time Billie Eilish Ditched Her Baggy Outfits For Tight Clothes.” (I won’t link to this piece.) It’s so widespread that Eilish itself once done a short film to remedy. “Some people hate what I wear; some people praise it, ”she said in the voiceover. “Some people use it to shame others; some people use it to shame me. But I feel like you are watching – still – and nothing I do goes unnoticed.

It’s a reprieve, then, that Eilishis new Apple TV + documentary, The world is a little blurry, spends almost none of her 2 hours and 20 minutes talking about Eilish’s body or the people who want to comment on it. Instead, RJ Cutler’s doc limits the discussion of his body shape to talking about shin splints, sprained ankles, and other ailments brought on by his extremely engaged live performances. Instead, the film takes an open and almost radically vulnerable look at the future of stardom, one hereafter that Eilish is making right before our eyes.

Eilish, like most stars, talks about how much she appreciates her followers, who she says are not fans, but rather “a part of me.” But she also speaks candidly about depression, about defending herself in relationships, and about her history of self-harm, which stemmed from her belief in her teenage years that she “deserved it.” She shares the anxiety associated with wondering if the internet won’t like her job, which her brother and producer Finneas says makes her terrified of writing catchy songs, because “her equation is that the more popular something, the more hateful it will become. . “

When in the documentary she experiences a series of Tourette syndrome tics while reviewing marketing material for her Grammy Award-Winning Album When we all fall asleep, where do we go?, her mother notes that they could be the result of additional fatigue and stress. “I did some shit because of my Tourette,” Eilish adds. “Damn, I broke a glass once – in my mouth – because I have this one [tic] where I’m going to bite on something. If I have something, I’m just gonna go [chomps down], because my brain is like [snaps fingers] “Do it!” For a condition so often misunderstood and distorted in popular media, it’s like a gift to see someone talk about it so candidly.

It’s hard not to see how much Eilish’s life, and what she’s willing to share about it, is informed by what the celebrity has done to so many people before her. In a revealing scene, a member of her team asks if Eilish is comfortable sharing a video in which she says, “Drugs and cigarettes are killing you.” The potential nightmare of RA, presumably, is that she may one day consume a substance and be labeled a hypocrite. Her mother protests that there’s no reason she shouldn’t be genuine and that Eilish could remain a teetotaler for life. Eilish agrees that the woman is “right.” But, Mom retorts, “you have a whole army of people trying to help you not decide to destroy your life like the people in your place have done before.” Eilish, out of mommy’s eye line, reacts with a Office“Welp!” smile-frown. Not long after, at Coachella, Katy Perry and Justin Bieber show up to tell Eilish that the next decade of her life is going to be incomprehensible, “wild.” When Bieber says it, it sounds like encouragement. When Perry does, it sounds like a warning.


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