Friday, August 12, 2022

Netflix’s “Hype House:” Another stunt or an authentic look into influencers’ lives?

January 14, 2022

I once again succumbed to the allure of cheesy reality TV as I tuned in to binge-watch Netflix’s new “Hype House” show. 

The show consists of eight episodes that focus on the Hype House—a group of young adults who rose to TikTok stardom and moved into an L.A. mansion together. The series portrays the members’ relationships with each other and their families, along with their struggles as they navigate their newfound fame. And, of course, there’s lots of drama. 

I went into this show with low expectations, but it was better than I had anticipated. Seeing the inner workings of a content house was interesting, as it revealed that each member viewed their role in the house differently. Some members prioritized relationships while others prioritized business, which led to conflict. 

And as these conflicts arose, the most interesting part of the show revealed itself: How can you balance the business of being an influencer, which depends on clickbait and media stunts, with your real life? 

The member who seemed to struggle with this the most was "Hype House" member Alex Warren, who was constantly trying to find fresh content for his vlogs. In episode four, entitled “POV: Fake Wedding,” he had a fake wedding with his long-term girlfriend, Kouvr Annon. And while he saw the stunt as a possibility for views, she was hurt that they were only pretending to get married. 

Prior to the wedding, Warren even admitted that he hadn’t asked his girlfriend how she felt about the stunt, but other people in the house, like beauty influencer Nikita Dragun, noticed Annon’s sadness.

“I think it’s a little cruel to be honest, but at the same time, like, I guess anything for views,” Dragun said in the episode.

This sentiment persisted throughout the show as members argued about when to film content and what moments should be filmed. And as I watched this, I began to question if, just like Warren’s wedding stunt and the group’s fake Tik Toks, maybe the whole show was a stunt too? 

Then, the aspect of the show that I was most impressed with—the cast’s vulnerability and openness about their difficult home lives and struggles—began to crumble. Had any of these vulnerable moments been authentic? Of course, there was no question that the "Hype House" members had all faced struggles in their lives before fame, but was it strategically placed in the show? Even in moments where the cast talked about being fake on social media, were those conversations also strategically done?

So when the show ended, I wasn’t sure if I really did know any of the people I had just spent four hours watching. Even in their vulnerable, crying moments, there was a camera following them around. I decided as long as that camera was there, I would never really know the truth. 

But what I do know is that their lifestyle wasn’t sustainable. Although they were living the dream, they were never fulfilled. They were stuck constantly trying to outdo their last vlogs. And as some members like Chase Hudson moved on from Tik Tok to create a music career as Lil Huddy, the rest were left struggling. 

Although this struggle seems like a problem the average person could only dream of having—becoming rich and famous practically overnight—it portrays the reality of influencer culture. 

Every person on this show probably has enough money to be set for the rest of their lives if they live like the average American. But they don’t live like the average American. Instead, they buy expensive cars, mansions, trips, clothes and more so that they can keep getting clicks.  

But what they haven’t learned is there is no amount of “stuff” that will capture an audience forever, especially not an audience as quickly-moving and constantly bored as Gen-Z on TikTok. So, they are left with inauthentic memories and empty relationships.

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