It’s in the third episode of Hype House, the Netflix docuseries released on January 7 about the TikTok content creator mansion of the same name, when it becomes painfully evident that nobody actually really wants to be there. Sure, most of them seem happy to live at the Hype House, currently headquartered in a $5 million home in Moorpark, California, which the collective pays for with sponsorship money from an energy drink brand and a TikTok competitor app. But it’s 2022, and being a member of the Hype House — which two years ago was composed of the Gen Z social media A-list — is now mostly an embarrassment.
To understand what’s going on in this bizarre, entirely-uneventful-but-also-sort-of-fascinating television show, it’s important to know why it exists in the first place. Almost exactly two years ago, a splashy feature in the New York Times introduced the arrival of the Hype House, a collective of mostly white, attractive teenagers who had recently become famous on an app that was only just beginning to be part of the national lexicon. It was part of a wave of Los Angeles social media mansions to pop up in the first half of 2020, all with the same purpose: to use each other’s clout to build more of it. TikTok, at that point, only had a handful of stars to break out beyond the app — the Hype House’s Charli D’Amelio, Addison Rae, and D’Amelio’s boyfriend Chase Hudson among them — but within the app itself, more and more teenagers started growing their audiences to hundreds of thousands, then millions, of followers. And when you get a taste of fame and decide you want more of it, you move to LA.
“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?” says Thomas Petrou, the 22-year-old co-founder of the collective, in his first moment on screen. He’s the self-described “dad” of the group, and also the only one who seems to care about the fate of the Hype House at all. This, ultimately, is the overarching dramatic tension of the series: Petrou versus the handful of other members who are either too complacent or too focused on their own projects to film the content that makes the collective money. In fact, the only ambition they seem to share is having a Netflix show, and ironically, being in the Hype House is the only way to get one.
The problem here is that the Hype House has been hemorrhaging its most famous members since practically the beginning, and at this point (filming took place in early 2021) most of …….