By: Nicole Chedraoui
Trigger Warning: This article may contain topics such as verbal abusive, grooming, self harm, and talks of suicide. If you or someone you know is struggling, please seek the help of a professional, the Herald loves you.
When you think of Billie Eillish, what do you think? Perhaps you think of her electric green hair or her baggy basketball shorts and oversized tees. Do you think rich, young, or perhaps successful? Well whatever you think, for right now, I want you to completely clear any preconceptions you may have of her, because after the release of her documentary The World’s A Little Blurry, one thing was made abundantly clear to me: you never truly know what is going on inside somebody’s mind. While many say this documentary is meant to showcase how far and fast Billie was brought into the spotlight, I view this piece entirely differently. This documentary is a journey of Billie’s self-acceptance, a journey of her becoming more comfortable in her own skin. In order to fully understand the timeline of this cinematic masterpiece, we must start at the beginning–the VERY beginning.
Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell’s upbringing was one of simplicity. Eillish was homeschooled her whole life in a small one story house occupied by her mother, father, dog, and older brother Finneas. As soon as Billie could talk, she could sing, and this meant numerous talent shows every weekend at the O’Connell household. Her mother taught her to sing, and her dad taught her piano and ukulele and the rest was history. She spent her time lounging on her brother’s bed writing music and recording melodies to escape the dark parts of her mind with no intention of her music ever being taken seriously. When Billie Eillish was 13 years old, she uploaded her first ever hit single “Ocean Eyes” to YouTube. After that, her world began to get a little blurry. Her rise to fame was one of the fastest there has ever been. She was 14 when she had her first ever radio interview, and she then toured the world at just the ripe age of 15. While many may view a sudden rise to fame as something incredible, we later come to learn that this very well was the start of some of the worst years mentally Billie would ever experience, and throughout the next years, we begin to see the red flags pop up left and right.
It was during these three years that Billie and Finneas began working on her second album, When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go, an album that she claimed she believed she never thought she would finish. The documentary shows raw scenes of Finneas and Billie reach their highs and most certainly her lows. We got a glance into the inner-workings of Billie’s mind when R.J Cutler decided to film some of the pages inside Billie’s journal. In one word, the inside of her journal could be described as a nightmare. Carefully sketched out monsters and demons paint the pages in faded lead, with ominous song lyrics, and truly heartbreaking lines that we actually end up seeing in some of her hit songs. Ideas that she herself is the bad guy, lines saying how she wants to end her life, and the idea of disappearing. We see this unhappiness and self depreciation throughout the next year, the re-recording of songs tens of times because no matter what, she feels that she sounds awful. It even came to a point where she herself said that nobody would ever want to listen to her, that she is untalented, her music is too weird, and that everybody will hate it. However through these lows, Finneas was constantly there, serving as her rock, and overall the backbone of this duo at the time. This portion of the documentary is genuinely hard to watch. To see Billie quite literally go through the motions of interviews, to try to finish this album, to tour the world, it is so raw and real to see someone you view as invincible be so human. The dread in her face when she realizes she has to play a character on stage and appear happy at shows to keep her fans interested is so heartbreaking–heartbreaking to see behind the mask she wore so thick.
It’s when she is recording the song Goodbye, we realize how deep Billie’s depression has overcome her. In this song, she reveals her attempts of jumping off a building and plunging to her death. It was during this section, her mom comes in and asks her if she feels ok showcasing that part of her life none of us knew about before to which Eillish responded, “I feel it is something that needs to be said. That having this way of saying it instead of doing it is better.” Inside the lyrics you can clearly hear a siren in the background, and her saying “tell my friends I’ll miss them, but I’m not sorry.” While many creative people can just create random ideas in their head to showcase as a story, Billie Eillish wrote all of her songs from absolute heart, and absolute experience.
As if being thrown into fame at a young age isn’t traumatizing enough, fans who have watched the documentary have heavily suspected a lot of her mental illness skyrocketed when a certain love interest came into play. Going by the name “Q,” this documentary shows bits and sections of the so-called romance Eillish shared with him. Now I italicized romance because, well, I wouldn’t even call him that. Billie Eillish was a young teenager in love with no self esteem and a heart bigger than jupiter. When she met older boy Q on tour, she was absolutely taken with him. He had style, creativity, and a pretty smile, but that boy treated her like gum underneath his shoe. In every single scene, we see Q pop up in this documentary, and the love is scarily one-sided. Eilish ends every phone call with an “I love you,” and desperately looks at her phone for a response–for anything. This documentary made very clear the emotional abuse she was put through by Q, being told she isn’t good enough, being ignored, never being prioritized, literally ever. He even ditched her on her birthday and left her there crying all day. After an emotionally taxing Coachella performance, she was in shambles, and all she wanted was a hug from her boyfriend, and Q refused to even show up to comfort her.
During this time on tour we see the pure loneliness Eillish feels, telling the crowd “you guys need to be ok, because you are the reason I am ok.” The tour has not only mentally drained her, she was also physically falling apart. Previous injuries along with new, Eillish was struggling to actually put on any show at all and had to deal with the self-loathing that came along with “not putting on the best show she could’ve.” Her body was in pain, her tourettes was skyrocketing, her mental health had been nearly shattered, and that is when we started to see the light at the end of the tunnel for Billie.
She released her album which received mass amounts of love from huge Hollywood celebrities and fans around the world alike. She even got to do her collab with the love of her life, Justin Bieber, who not only served as the figure of her childhood, but also an inspiration to her now. Bieber was the one to hold her while she cried at Coachella, not Q, and maybe it was around this time Billie knew she had to get rid of Q, who, as of right now, is suspected to have groomed Billie. It was an emotional few weeks of touring her new album, with lots of crying on stage and hugs from Finneas. It was around this time her mom came into her room and told her she was nominated for six grammys, and Billie in this state of mind could only lay in bed in awe and shock, and maybe that was a wake up call for her, maybe that was when she realized she has talent and worth because from there on there is such a switch in her attitude. Driving alone in her car and on the verge of tears, she simply states, “my life is good.” It seems she may have been able to come out onto the other side of herself, and begin to work on her self worth, and her mental health. It is during this time, recorded in 2020, Billie truly opens up about how bad she had been.
In one of interviews, Billie opens up and states; “To be honest with you, I didn’t think I would make it to this age.” RJ then makes the artistic decision to have Billie go through her journal from 3 years ago today. In this, you can see the pain and confusion flash through her face as she looks through these dark monsters that she pictures to be herself. She states that there was one page she can remember writing to this day, and looking back she can not believe how far gone she was. Her childhood walls read things like:
“I’ll try not to waste your time.”
“It hurts even when it doesn’t.”
“I’m ashamed of who I thought I loved.”
“I am a void. The epitome of nothing.”
“No matter what happens, I will always be broken.”
However, when Eillish looks back at these things today, beside it she’ll write things like: “I matter.” “I am needed.” “I deserve love.”
And that, everybody, is what I call progress. So while the documentary may end with her winning six Grammys, I don’t think that’s the real victory of her career; no, Billie Eillish’s real victory was discovering her self-worth.