Let’s spill the pop culture tea: Billie Eilish documentary reveals the teen’s vulnerable side

A young woman with bright green hair leans against a black pole in front of a red background.
Billie Eilish’s documentary called “Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry” came out on Apple TV+ on Feb. 26, 2021. (Courtesy: Wes and Alex)

With green-striped hair, Louis Vuitton rainbow basketball shorts and the voice of an angel, Billie Eilish took the music scene by storm at 14 years old with her single “Ocean Eyes.” Now, 19-year-old Eilish has received seven Grammy Awards, holds nearly 47 million monthly listeners on Spotify and is a worldwide superstar

The documentary “Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry” reveals a vulnerable side of the singer, one she deliberately hides from the general public. It also speaks on the unique family dynamic that differentiates Eilish as a musician and the undeniable creative talents that have made her an overnight sensation. It succeeds in bringing viewers into Eilish’s world. 

Billie Eilish is known for her unique fashion style, namely majorly oversized designer streetwear. I’ve always seen these clothes as armor, protecting her from the press and swarms of screaming fans. As a fan of her music for years, I’ve always wondered what she was like behind the persona. The documentary revealed that Eilish gravitates towards these outfits because of her fear of criticism. As Eilish knows, the media rips apart women: Their bodies are too big or too small; their clothes are too revealing or they aren’t society’s definition of beauty. In her words, “Nobody can criticize me if they don’t know what I look like under all of this.” 

Hearing her fear of online haters saddened me and connected me to her. Most girls grow up and are taught to be ever-aware of how they look — Eilish is no different.

While she may have 79 million Instagram followers, in reality, she’s a scared teenager. She’s terrified of what people will say about her body, of people saying she’s mean and of being perceived as just another stuck-up celebrity. 

A poignant scene brought us into a period of Eilish’s fatigue while on tour. She was getting burned out, and her Tourette syndrome tics were hard to bear. She was being swarmed by different executives asking for her time, and she finally snapped. I could see the tears in her eyes and the feeling of drowning in the crowd. The impact here is that this is her day-to-day experience: She’s not allowed one moment to take a breather and not be the smiley, friendly Eilish her fans know and love. 

The documentary is where this broke down. It felt intimate. Eilish doesn’t have a chaotic camera crew dogging her at all times — instead, she has her brother and collaborator, Finneas, filming it in her bedroom at her parent’s house. 

This spoke to the authenticity of Eilish as a musician. She’s not trying to alienate herself from her old life — she’s always been homeschooled, she doesn’t have a lot of friends and her closest confidants are her family members. In the documentary, she worries about passing her driving test and communication with her then-boyfriend — all everyday, teenage worries. 

It seems like every scene included her family, always on the road with her and supporting her through it all. Eilish isn’t a Hollywood robot separated from her fans’ lives, but instead a very emotional and complex individual trying to make it through the uphill battle that is adolescence; she just happens to be winning Grammys amid it all.

Indeed, it became clear in watching that music and creating it is the thing that keeps Eilish going, and fame was the byproduct of her artistic talent, not the goal. When probed about whether she should shy away from singing about depressing or triggering things and focus on making more accessible “hits,” she responded with outrage. We’re brought in as Eilish opens up about her past with self-harm, the physical toll of her lifestyle, her Tourette syndrome and how she’s constantly trying to hide it and prevent herself from having an outburst during publicity runs. I found her honesty refreshing and her struggles relatable and humanizing. 

For example, her song “Xanny” talks about having someone in your life who is destructive and dealing with substance abuse. As shown in the documentary, her record label cautioned her about releasing it — what if she takes a turn later in her career and experiments with drugs? But Eilish, who is anti-drug, and her mother fought back. Believing music should be authentic, Eilish channeled the anger, frustration and heartbreak of someone close to her suffering into her song. 

In Eilish’s eyes, the point of music is to express your darkest or deepest emotions in hopes someone can empathize with or connect to it. 

Her authenticity is what makes her likable and her music so enamoring. Instead of releasing songs with a generic relatability, she creates music bleeding with pure feeling and honesty; she makes music for the sake of artistic vision and emotion, not a cash grab.

And she isn’t afraid to alienate her audience by taking artistic risks; she made a music video with jet-black blood pouring out of her eyes and another where she wore giant wings as she performed next to a hellish fiery pit. I respect her originality, affinity for controversial and darker themes and her disregard to succumb to pressure from the corporate side of the music industry. 

Many see Billie Eilish as a music industry enigma: She doesn’t do drugs or drink, doesn’t have a flashy entourage, makes strange music videos and her best friend is her brother. But on the inside, she’s navigating adulthood with all eyes on her and is making music that is touching the mind and hearts of many. “Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry” brought fans into the mind of Eilish and connected us to her personality and lifestyle in a way that fans were yearning for. 

Anna Tolkien CM ’24 is one of TSL’s pop culture columnists. She’s a media studies and literature dual major and loves her pugs, iced coffee and Timothée Chalamet movies.

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