Directed by R.J. Cutler, the documentary Billie Eilish: The World's a Little Blurry, follows her during the creation and release of her album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, and the subsequent tour. As a big fan of Billie’s, what I love about her is that she always does things completely authentically to herself. After watching this, I am so happy they honoured that because she really DID that.
First of all, this whole documentary is completely stripped back. I was worried it may be one of those promotional pieces that are basically just huge commercials, but this definitely wasn’t that. It was a real look into her world. Even though the documentary started with a performance from one of her shows with lights and screaming fans, it also included her cutting the music to check up on a fan who had gotten hurt in the audience. The whole concert got quiet while she made sure she was okay. This moment sent CHILLS down my spine because it really set the tone for what this was going to be: showing us who Billie is without the lights and action.
Since I’m obsessed with her voice, the music had me hooked from the top. The documentary is a deep dive into the creation of the album, and I was in love with how unconventional their process is. Billie sits with her brother Finneas in his room where they write and put the tracks together. No studio, no producers, no nothing. It’s literally just her and her brother (with some occasional notes from the label). It was super cool to also see what some lyrics could’ve been, and how they decide what sounds best. When she was recording the James’ Bond theme song, “No Time To Die”, she got frustrated because she thought she sucked and was “gonna get made fun of by the internet” for belting. First of all, as a member of the internet, I’d like to say that I think Billie absolutely KILLED that song. Second, unfortunately, she probably did get some hate. There are so many people online who think their words don’t have an effect on celebrities because they don’t think they’d even see it. Well, wrong. If anything, everything they do is based on what the internet thinks, because that is what decides what’s good. Billie even spoke about how she hated songwriting for a little bit because of the pressure to write the next hit. If society has the power to strip someone’s passion away from them, we should acknowledge our own influence on any given situation and be responsible with that power. Lots of people think celebrities are the ones above us, but can it be the other way around?
As the film continues, Billie gets more and more raw. Between bickering back and forth with her mom, talking about her possibly unhealthy obsession with Justin Bieber, getting her driver’s license, and talking about how she was annoyed with her friends for not missing her during the tour, I started to feel I could relate with her on a deep, deep level. That she’s really just one of us Gen Z kids, but the scary part is that she has to make her mistakes in front of the world. I know this is nothing new, something we’ve seen in lots of child stars. The difference here is that Billie has been able to show the ups and downs through this project, which creates more of a bond between her and her supporters who may be going through the same things as her.
One of those things is Tourette syndrome. Although it’s something she’s spoken about in the past, I never knew the extent of it in her life. There was a particular scene where she was getting ready to film the music video for “When The Party’s Over”. While getting the tubes taped to the corner of her eyes that allowed her to cry out black ink, she struggled with Tourettes because in between her eyes is where her tics live. It was really hard to watch, because although she didn’t make it a big deal in the moment, I could feel the frustration, especially since the scene before this was her excitedly planning her vision for the video. As a fan of hers, watching this made me think of all the times I was so hard on myself for things I have no control over but just having to deal with it until you get a moment to yourself.
Billie’s relationship with her ex-boyfriend, rapper Brandon Adams, was also covered in the film. Since she’s been so secretive about her love life beforehand, this felt especially intimate, even foreign. Nevertheless, it was super cute to see her blush over him, and also another reason why this documentary felt so genuine. It wasn’t so cute when he started to break my queen’s heart, though. At this point in the documentary, I felt as though Billie was my baby and I had to protect her at all costs. The reason for their split was because they didn’t want the same things, but also because he has personal issues he needs to figure out. When she said, “I can’t fix him, I’ve tried,” I KNOW that resonated with so many kids of our generation, because it hit me hard. Something about us Gen Z kiddies is that we want to help so bad, and sometimes we’ll stick around even if it hurts us. It’s nice to see her realize that it was starting to affect her own mental health, and had to move on. It’s also nice to see her dedication to being honest with her dark thoughts through music. When putting together her song, “Listen Before I Go”, her mother asked her if it’s something she really wants to put out there since the subject matter is so dark. Billie didn’t stand down because she refuses to not be her authentic self.
Billie has mastered the ability to connect with her fans on a personal level, which is obviously an essential part of rising to fame, especially now. Her willingness to share so much about her life, personality, mental health, and successes is what I believe helped her blow up so quickly. I mean, she won five awards at her first Grammys AND got a call from JB to congratulate her (did I mention how much she loves him?). She goes through young love, the fear of rejection, days where she doesn’t want to see anyone, and an array of other things every young adult goes through. My worry comes with how she’s able to cope with everything, and if it’s going to result in an absolute crash. How the hell is someone I see as so similar to me able to deal with the world on her shoulders? I know I couldn’t do it. Stars who grew up in the limelight like Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus, and even one of Billie’s personal favourites, Justin Bieber, have all been examples of how pop culture can chew them up and spit them out. And then of course there’s Britney Spears. As Lainey pointed out in her piece, what the Framing Britney Spears documentary did so well is put the mirror up to ourselves. We are the reason why celebrities have the fame they do, and unfortunately, it seems as though it took a #FreeBritney movement for our culture to realize the words we say and the actions we take make us directly responsible. The scary thing here is that people may be under the impression that since Billie isn’t publicly humiliated at the level Britney was, she’s all good. Not true. The pressure on someone like Billie, who is still trying to figure herself out, and is expected to be a role model, support, and light for millions of people seems a little much for anyone. On top of that, Billie still does get hate, lots of it. We saw it in October when she was body shamed after photos of her in tighter clothing circulated. Turns out one of the main reasons she started wearing baggy clothing to begin with is because she was trying to avoid being judged for her body. I always hear the argument that they chose this life, so they have to live it, but why have we ever normalized a life like this in the first place?
Hearing about how much she struggles mentally, emotionally, and even physically made me so grateful she has such a great support group. Her whole family goes everywhere together and makes sure she can have the most normal life possible. And still, despite having such a great team, the power of the internet still gets through. It’s a reminder of the influence we can have on stars, especially the young ones, and how important it is for the public, the fans, and everyone who participates in culture to be more responsible about how we ourselves contribute to the celebrity ecosystem.
Billie Eilish: The World's a Little Blurry is available now on Apple TV+.