Thursday, January 20

Hype House: Netflix series shows depressing side of TikTok fame | Reality tv


The Hype House, a collective of some of the most famous TikTok stars in the hills northwest of Los Angeles, it appears to be a very lonely place even with about 10 residents between the ages of 17 and 23. Bird’s-eye photos of the house in its eponymous Netflix reality series; to date, possibly the most prominent attempt to translate TikTok’s fame into the formulas of major streaming platforms: Capturing a property of isolation and excess: a grandiose villa with a cluster of palm trees atop a brown hill and arid, an empty driveway except for a brightly painted school bus. Inside, a collection of social media creators and influencers – Instagram, YouTube, and above all TikTok – roam impersonally upmarket rooms followed by a constant cloud of content. Either they are doing something (planning, rehearsing, filming, being filmed), lamenting the pressure to do it, or avoiding the rotation altogether in an anxious and boring malaise.

In the confessionals that open the series and are repeated throughout the five episodes made available for review, the stars of Hype House try to explain their fame, their jobs and the experience of being known by millions of people and that their Followers quantify their worth and income. . Like sisters Charli and Dixie D’Amelio, TikTok stars and former members of the Hype House collective on Hulu’s Kardashian-style The D’Amelio Show, and music superstars Gen Z Billie Eilish and Juice WRLD (who exploded on Soundcloud) in their respective 2021 documentaries, kids find the experience of social media fame basically inarticulate.

“A million people who know who you are, it’s just … weird,” says 20-year-old Mia Hayward (3.7 million followers, the show notes; unclear on which platform). “I don’t even know what my life is like. I don’t even know how many people follow me, they don’t even care about me, ”says Larri“ Larray ”Merritt (24.3 million followers). “It feels like a dream. I just posted a video on an app, now I live in a mansion, ”said Jack Wright (8.1 million followers). “So one day you woke up and became an internet celebrity?” an invisible producer asks Kouvr Annon, 20 (13.5 million followers). “Honestly? A little,” she replies.

Hype House is the latest content adjacent to TikTok, to use the overused and quotable term on the air, attempting to capture the ‘behind the scenes’ dynamics of a life that is constantly in front of the camera anyway. Like The D’Amelio Show, it’s a project whose goal seems unclear beyond the mandate of maintaining fame: is it the point of turning contestants into mainstream stars? To reveal a more “authentic” celebrity experience? To convince people to take the profession seriously? Be a fly on the wall? – whose interpersonal drama is lukewarm at best and whose stakes exist in an off-camera app. Both end up being intriguing, not because of the charisma of their stars, whose career futures remain a constantly stressful question mark, but because they are human beings going through an ineffable and relentless experience of extremes, happening too fast and on too large a scale to. that anyone can see it. process that few people seem to really enjoy.

Hype House is not as deliberate with mental health messages as The D’Amelio Show, which is marked by content warnings and lists of resources and witnesses that both girls have panic attacks. But it is an effectively depressing portrait of life itself as a voracious business. Nobody seems to be having a good time. Children are constantly stressed by the prospect of being canceled (i.e., a scandal that sparks a flood of hate messages and endorsement cancellations) and the lashings of toxic fans (like when the possessive fans of heartthrob Vinnie Hacker, from 18 years, they publish death threats). for a girl he kissed as part of a prank video).

It is perhaps best described as a work-from-home reality show whose drama basically comes down to the threat of income. The main plot of the first few episodes is a rift between Hype House co-founder Thomas Petrou, the 22-year-old leader of the house, and 18-year-old Chase “Lil Huddy” Hudson, a TikTok e-boy archetype perhaps the most famous. to outsiders for dating Charli D’Amelio, and that she moved out before filming. Throughout the season, Petrou laments the lack of interest from Hype House residents to post content, which keeps the business afloat. But lethargy is less like laziness than exhaustion and anxiety; Residents (mostly indistinguishable teens) are reluctant to produce more embarrassing endorsement videos, improve the plot for clicks, or seek more attention. Hudson, who just finished high school, has openly broken up with TikTok and prefers to build on his notoriety in a music career as a Green Day-style alternative rocker.

Hype House takes the time to outline the different lanes of internet fame that each member has capitalized on and now finds themselves trapped. Hudson is the tortured, cunning and withdrawn charismatic soul. Alex Warren, 20 the YouTuber with costly Jackass-lite jokes constantly stressed by finances (“your money depends on the numbers,” he says during a week of less-than-ideal viewers); with Annon, his girlfriend of more than two years, he also produces aspirational “relationship content.” Nikita Nguyen, also known as Nikita Dragun, is a 25-year-old trans beauty YouTuber turned makeup mogul always in glamor mode. Merritt, a YouTuber-turned-TikTok star from Compton, is the only black member of the collective, dealing with allegations from fans of selling himself or going white. Hacker, the star of the house day at the time of filming, is trying to turn his “thirst traps” (being hot and shirtless) into fans to stream video games live on Twitch.

But this fame is mostly hidden outside the frame and in the psyche – there are hardly any fans seen on this show in person; most of the real meat, like a infamous twitter fight between Nikita and the controversial YouTuber Trisha Paytas, or that of Hype House notorious party during the 2020 pandemic lockdowns in Los Angeles, it is alluded to but not explored in depth. The stars may apologize briefly, but much more time is spent on their perception of the panopticon: feeling the need to apologize so consistently and unreliably as to induce numbness; trying to handle the scandal by separating the personal side of the friends and the “reputation side”. Worrying about how to get fans to tune in, how to tune out, how to stay positive.

The Hype House, with its monthly XYZ video requirements, turns out like a Faustian bargain: free life in exchange for control of its public persona. Regardless, status still breeds pride. “I worked hard to get here,” Michael Sanzone tells Hacker when the latter expresses a lack of interest in the required collaborative videos. Hype House effectively defends the seriousness with which everyone takes work. But it also implicitly raises the question: at what cost?


www.theguardian.com

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