These days, it’s harder than ever to keep up with what the kids are into, with new TikTok trends and content houses cropping up faster than you can say “Dixie D’Amelio.” Your teenage years are sadly behind you, and for the rest of your days, you’ll be stuck on the hamster wheel of trying to understand youth culture. Thankfully, some of those pretty people whose names you can never remember will now be in a place that feels familiar to you: Netflix! This week, the streaming service ordered a new reality series about the Hype House, so finally you can learn about the likes of LilHuddy and Nikita Dragun without braving the treacherous waters of TikTok—hashtag blessed, and that’s on period!
Lol just kidding, I f*cking hate this. But I don’t just hate it because I’m an adult who finds TikTok culture mystifying—but rather because some of the people headlining the new show are already known for being problematic. Take Larri Merritt, also known as Larray. Last July, as COVID cases hit new records in California, Larray celebrated his 22nd birthday with an indoor party attended by more than 65 guests, none of whom were wearing masks. Despite government regulations at the time prohibiting “professional, social and community gatherings,” social media posts showed a chaotic scene both at the party and outside the venue, where hundreds of fans and wannabe influencers congregated in close, largely unmasked proximity.
As you could probably guess, some of the other stars of Netflix’s Hype House show were also in attendance at Larray’s party, including Hype House founder Thomas Petrou, and Nikita Dragun. In the last year, Nikita in particular has been called out numerous times for her behavior during the pandemic, including throwing another party just one week after Larray’s much-maligned event. She again came under fire in February for throwing herself a huge birthday party, where all of the aforementioned TikTok stars were again in attendance. As if the blatant disregard for COVID safety wasn’t enough, Nikita also faced backlash last year, when she was accused of “blackfishing” in a photo posted to Instagram. The criticism intensified when Nikita joked about the situation on Twitter, asking “what race is nikita gonna be today?”
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You could spend all day unpacking the various questionable choices the members of The Hype House have made, but Netflix clearly is in the business of chasing clout, so this is who they’re giving a platform. But Netflix isn’t the only service cashing in on this new generation of social media celebs. The Hype House show is the latest in a string of mainstream entertainment projects heaped upon Gen Z influencers, many of whom have already their own brushes with online controversy.
Last month, the Sway House (one of Hype House’s top competitors) launched their own show on Facebook Watch, backed by production company Bunim/Murray, a company known for creating reality staples such as The Real World and Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Sway Life features the hot white boy trio of Noah Beck, Blake Gray, and Bryce Hall, who each have millions of followers. They’ve all enjoyed a party here and there during the pandemic, but none more than Bryce Hall, who famously had his electricity shut off by the mayor of Los Angeles because he wouldn’t stop hosting ragers last summer. I won’t pretend Noah Beck isn’t hot, but would it kill us to give a reality show to some people who wear masks?
The fun doesn’t stop there. Last year, former Hype House member Charli D’Amelio and her family struck a deal with Hulu for a reality show, imaginatively titled The D’Amelio Family (at least the Kardashians went for an alliteration). The show, which is expected to premiere sometime this year, will follow Charli, Dixie, and their parents Heidi and Marc (a former Republican Senate candidate) as they navigate their newfound fame. I can’t wait for eight riveting episodes of Charli shooting promos for her eponymous Dunkin’ drink while the rest of the family fights for the leftover camera time.
With the D’Amelio family, we even already have proof of concept of how these kinds of video projects can go wrong. Last year, they launched a series on their family YouTube channel called “Dinner With The D’Amelios.” The first episode featured James Charles (a big yikes right off the bat), and it received backlash for multiple reasons. First, Charli and Dixie were revolted when they learned that their family chef had prepared a dish with snails in it, and Dixie even ran outside to vomit. On top of that, Charli was criticized for complaining in the video about how long it was taking her to hit 100 million followers on TikTok—a milestone that she later became the first to reach. Surely, Hulu’s editors will be a little more cautious than whoever put together that YouTube video, but is this really a family that needs a whole show? Oh, and obviously Charli and Dixie were both at Larray’s pandemic birthday party, because of course they were.
Meanwhile, Charli’s biggest competition in the TikTok brunette category, Addison Rae, is having the biggest come-up of all. She has the Kardashian hookup, she’s starring in the upcoming Netflix movie He’s All That, and she was recently on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon to promote her new song. But of course, her Fallon appearance drew its own controversy, based on a segment in which she showed off her mastery of several viral TikTok dances. People on social media were quick to point out that none of the original creators of these dances—many of whom are Black dancers with much smaller followings than Rae—received any kind of credit for their work. In response, Fallon featured several of the creators on his show in a Zoom interview segment, which Rae shared on social media. It’s nice to see the attempt to correct this misstep, but at the end of the day, Addison is still getting major opportunities largely thanks to the work of Black creators. Rae, both D’Amelio sisters, as well as early Hype House member Daisy Keech will not be participating in the Netflix show.
All of these next-generation personalities have amassed huge followings on various social media platforms, so it’s not hard to understand why entertainment brands are enticed, even if many of the talent are already problematic in one way or another. Of course, a lot of them are basically (or literally) children, and people—especially young people—make mistakes. That said, by putting a bigger spotlight on these influencers who are no stranger to controversy, I think Netflix’s PR team will have their work cut out for them.
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