The worlds of reality television and social media influencers collide as Netflix takes us inside the infamous TikTok Hype House (no need to break in this time Jenny Popach), with a look at the lives of some of the internet’s most famous stars, including Vinnie Hacker, Chase Hudson (Lil Huddy), Larray Merritt, Nikita Dragun, Kouvr Annon, Alex Warren and Thomas Petrou (released Jan. 7).
What is the Hype House?
Back in the day, The Real World on MTV brought us the story of strangers, “picked to live in a house, work together and have their lives taped, to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real,” and the Hype House series has a similar look and feel.
But instead of generic strangers encouraged to be their truest selves, this house is full of social media stars in their teens and 20s who live together and make content together, basically living and breathing social media at all times.
“My whole goal with this house in the first place was, why can’t people who hit millions of other people be as famous as A-list celebrities?” Thomas, the founder of the Hype House, says at the outset of the series.
The Hype House is a mansion in Moorpark, California. The money the influencers make on brand deals as the Hype House crew is used to pay for the rent and other household expenses.
“Imagine a fraternity filled with people that have millions of followers and dollars at their fingertips, with high school drama, and like, a ring light,” Nikita describes the Hype House in the show, which also helped launch the careers of Charli D’Amelio and her sister Dixie, and Addison Rae.
The tension the show tries to focus on is between Thomas Petrou and Chase Hudson (Lil Huddy).
Social media users will know that Chase no longer lives in the house, he didn’t necessarily leave Hype House on the best terms, with some promises to Thomas not kept in terms of TikTok content.
Thomas suggests that Chase not only left Hype House to pursue his budding music career, but (possibly more significantly) to be closer to then girlfriend Charli D’Amelio.
How “real” the tensions in this show really are, we’ll leave to you to decide, but using a mix of fly on the wall footage and confessionals, a large part of the show is focused on the pressures of having social media fame.
“TikTok decides what’s cool and what’s not cool,” Nikita says in the series. “Your power is associated with likes and your following, and your relationships.”
Hype House also tries to put the spotlight on the insecurities of these influencers, many feeling shunned and othered growing up, some being abandoned by their families at a young age, as a way to sort of qualify this quest for success.
Controversies and cancel culture
We can’t talk about social media stars without bringing up their controversies, some of which are addressed on the show.
“If you get cancelled for something that’s what you’re known for, for the rest of your life,” Chase Hudson says, quite dramatically, in the series.
“Cancel culture’s used as a weapon now, opposed to a means of holding people accountable,” Alex Warren adds.
Nikita Dragun’s controversies are a particular focus, specifically being called out for blackfishing.
“When it comes to cancel culture, you never know what someone might deem offensive,” Nikita says.
In the show, we get to see Larray Merritt bringing up Nikita’s blackfishing to her, saying that she “just can’t post pictures or post anything where you just look obviously darker than you are” and that he “can’t just sit back and let that sh-t slide.”
But Larray isn’t completely safe from criticism himself, with Hype House documenting the aftermath of his 21st birthday party, organized by Nikita, which he went to after apparently testing positive for COVID-19.
Seemingly, the big concern for many at the time seemed to be the loss of content opportunities while all these influencers had to quarantine, in addition to fears that fans would turn on them.
Fans or dangerous radicals?
Of course, the relationships between these influencers and their fans are critically important. Without views, basically, the lives they created can slip through their fingers, and that’s ultimately what makes the possibility of being cancelled so scary for these people.
But Hype House also shows us what happens when the fandom goes too far, particularly related to the popular “thirst trap” posting, Twitch streamer Vinnie Hacker.
In one prank for a video, setup by Alex Warren, the twin sister of the girlfriend of Hype House resident Michael Sanzone kisses Vinnie right as Michael is called into the room, so he thinks Vinnie was kissing his girlfriend.
Well Nati Porizek, who kissed Vinnie, started receiving death threats from what Alex calls “radical fans” who are “genuinely convinced that they’re going to marry Vinnie.”
“Those people that took it to that extent, I wouldn’t even call them my fans actually, because who in their right mind would do that,” Vinnie says. “I don’t want to have to deal with this. It’s terrible.”
“I feel like I can’t have my own personal life. Let’s say I were to try to get a girlfriend or something, if they don’t approve of that person they’d go into that person’s past life, look at everything about them…and to me it’s f—ked up because I can’t find somebody for me and then, if I do find somebody for me, they’re just going to shit on them, and then they’re going to want to leave because they can’t handle it.”
While, admittedly, watching a group of teens and young adults navigate this newfound social media fame can be enraging and upsetting at times, from a cultural perspective, it is fascinating to see this rat race for views, clicks and followers online.
While a Netflix show may be part of Thomas Petrou’s initial plan to be “as famous as A-list celebrities,” ultimately we’ll be waiting to see the longevity of these social media careers, and the Hype House, and if the criticism and scrutiny ultimately becomes too much to handle for some.
But as Alex Warren says in the series (after hurting his foot at a local skate park), “pain is temporary, footage is forever.”