A sexist, sexualized, violent, and profane journey to stardom.
It’s a dream probably every teenager has had at some point — achieving fame and fortune by forming their own band. A common dream, but one very few actually achieve. The way to stardom is long and hard, requiring talent, dedication, hard work, and perseverence; and if one has a good publicist and friends in the industry, that helps too.
The story of a group of young people working together in pursuit of that dream, and eventually achieving success, is a compelling one; so it is no surprise that over the years TV shows have capitalized on the idea, from the 1960s series The Partridge Family to the 2010 Disney XD program I’m in the Band, to the most current iteration, Star. But because it airs on Fox, home to crass and crude programming like The Mick and Family Guy, it is sadly also no surprise that Fox’s Star (Wednesdays, 9:00 p.m. ET) features content making it worthy of the title Worst TV Show of the Week.
From the outset, Star wasted no time on sentimental dreaming about one day being a singer. The first minutes of the premiere episode established a rather more vivid motive for the eponymous lead character: she stabs her foster father as he is raping her sister Simone, compelling Star, Simone, and Star’s internet friend Alexandra flee to Atlanta in the hope of becoming musical superstars.
But once in the Big Peach, the girls find their lives less peaches and cream than blood and thunder. Falling in immediately with the wrong crowd, Star begins her rise to fame by working as a lap dancer in a strip club. As Simone says, “Look at Kim Kardashian, I love her and she showed every hole in her body and now she’s famous.”
The series also contains many instances of profanity. The first hour-long episode alone contained 30 instances of foul language, including such scintillating dialogue as, “bitch your little ass right on out the door,” as well as what becomes Star’s signature song, “Bad bitch, that’s me. That bitch, that’s me. Game bitch, that’s me. Lame bitch, not me.” Star also find time to hand her younger sister a bag of marijuana and multiple alcoholic drinks.
The premiere built the road which the remainder of the program’s episodes have faithfully followed. In subsequent episodes, we watch as Simone’s foster father comes to Atlanta and everyone in Star’s group arms themselves, resulting in someone (it is as yet unclear who) murders him; the girls’ den-mother Carlotta has sex with her own pastor; the underage Simone is repeatedly shown drinking, smoking pot, and abusing prescription medication; and Star and Alexandra have the following scintillating discussion:
Alexandra: “You were trying to screw my dad. Really?”
Star: “Your mother came in before anything happened.”
Alexandra: “But you slept with my father.”
Star: “I did not sleep with him. I was gonna, but I didn’t. I swear, I did not sleep with him. But I am a whore.”
Suiting her action to her word, in a subsequent episode Star greets sometime boyfriend Hunter with, “I thought I just heard your big balls roll onto the floor. I was looking for ‘em.” Hunter reciprocates by performing oral sex on Star.
The above examples barely scratch the surface of the grimy world in which Star and her companions move. Frequent depictions of sex, drug-running and drug use, and violence combine with literally hundreds of instances of profanity – in a program Fox rates as appropriate for 14 year olds.
Clearly, Fox wanted a drama mirroring last season’s hit Empire; while that program shows the crime and corruption of recording executives, Star shows the bottom–up view, in which aspiring singers must work as drug mules and prostitutes, sleeping with anyone who might provide them with a break – while simultaneously encountering murder, child molestation, and worse.
It is taking the typical teen dream of forming a band and setting it in an utterly bleak and trashy world that makes Star the Worst TV Show of the Week. Not that every TV show about an aspiring girl band has to be Josie and the Pussycats; but from the same network that earlier this season gave viewers (particularly African-American girls, like Star) such an aspirational program as Pitch, it is deeply disappointing to find Fox once again living down to the lowest common denominator in its programming.
Perhaps Simone said it best: “If I want to smoke weed, I’ll smoke weed. If I want to sing a damn song, I’ll sing a damn song. And if I want to kill myself, I will.”
After watching Star, viewers might want to, too.