Review: 'Hype House' Reveals the Misery of Being an Influencer

Despite being a mediocre watch, “Hype House” is an important look at the negative impact that the ever-growing social media world has on real people.

by Jessica Sun Li | 1/25/22 2:05am

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In the past decade, social media influencers have grown more and more in popularity. First, it was on YouTube. Then, it was on Instagram. Now, with TikTok, it’s easier than ever to become famous. On the Netflix reality show “Hype House,” these influencers break out of our phone screens and onto our televisions.

“Hype House” is, frankly, mediocrely produced and features several very unlikeable people. Before becoming a reality show, the Hype House was a content creation house, where several social media influencers lived together with the purpose of creating more collaborative videos. Unlike most other content houses, Hype House is entirely self-managed and is not associated with a manager or company. Despite these problems, the show — perhaps unintentionally — provides valuable insight into the landscape of social media influencer culture today. The show is a story about the unrelenting need to stay relevant and how miserable that chase is.

From the start, the value of living life for themselves is constantly relegated to secondary status for the influencers, below the importance of entertaining a broader public to stay relevant. In the first few minutes of the pilot, social media influencer Nikita Dragun says that the Hype House’s “power is associated with likes and followers.” Nothing illustrates this phenomenon better than when Hype House member Alex Warren plans a lavish fake wedding to Kouvr Annon, his girlfriend and a fellow influencer. Warren says he’s losing viewers on his videos, pushing him to make a grand gesture. In fact, a lot of Warren and Annon’s relationship seems to be a tenuous balance between genuine feelings and a desire for attention. Making videos like the fake wedding hurt Annon’s feelings because she said she wants it to be real, but she puts up with it because she also wants Warren to gain more viewers. Dragun commented, “I think it’s a little cruel, to be honest. But at the same time, like, I guess anything for views.”

Truly, not a single person in this house seems to be happy. It’s difficult to figure out whether or not all of the members even like each other. A recurring problem throughout the whole show is the fact that very few members actually seem invested in creating content for Hype House. This grows into such a large issue that the de facto leader of Hype House, Thomas Petrou, plans a splashy, expensive vacation to Joshua Tree so that the members can spend several days focusing on creating collaborative content. However, once they arrive at their destination, everyone instantly divides into smaller cliques. In the end, almost no one creates any content together.

This is a group that is falling apart, yet they’re clinging onto each other under the impression that doing so will maintain their relevance. Chase Hudson, known widely on the internet as Lil Huddy, was the most successful member of Hype House, but he spent the majority of the series trying to leave the group. He already lives in a separate house and doesn’t create content with them anymore. It seems like he only stays in Hype House out of obligation. In fact, from the complete lack of chemistry most of the stars have, it seems like everyone is only in Hype House out of obligation.

From a production standpoint, the storytelling throughout the show is clunky at best. For example, Dragun and fellow Hype House member Larray spend most of the show in an on-and-off fight. Each battle receives an awkwardly large amount of screentime, and some fights are never resolved. In one instance, Dragun is accused of Black-fishing (changing how one looks to falsify African American features). Larray, as a Black man and as her friend, spends an entire episode telling the audience about how complicated this situation is for him. However, after they have a conversation about it, the subject is dropped completely. After so much buildup and tension, nothing results.

In many ways, the production of “Hype House” feels like Netflix trying and failing to connect to a teenage audience. Firstly, the episode titles are strange. One is titled “POV: Fake Wedding,” which would mean “Point of View: Fake Wedding.” The acronym “POV” is from TikTok slang, and is used here because these are TikTok influencers. However, it’s used incorrectly, and results in a nonsensical phrase. Another episode is titled “Low-Key Beefing,” which, while grammatically correct, feels like someone just googled “Gen Z slang words” and mashed together the first ones they found. The transition titles within the episodes are equally absurd. Phrases like “Thirst Trap’d” and “Tok Star” flash across the screen in brightly colored font when switching between storylines. While watching, I didn’t understand what these phrases meant or what their relationship was to the plot. 

In the final episode, Hype House ends up disbanding, in a way. Hudson officially leaves the group, and half of the members move out of the house. In one of the last scenes, featuring a prom-themed party, we see these influencers comfortable and happy for one of the first times all season. It’s easy to forget that most of them are barely over 18. Because of their jobs as influencers, they’re constantly dealing with pressing adult problems like managing their public image and handling brand sponsorships. Here, they’re finally allowed to be kids. But in the closing scene, Petrou is still talking about his future plans for Hype House and the new wave of talent coming in. When the party ends, these influencers are still chasing relevance. 

It seems like “Hype House” was specifically created to urge teenagers to avoid the path of social media stardom. This show was supposed to demonstrate how fun and crazy these millionaire teens’ lives are, and it was supposed to let me, as a Gen Z viewer, live vicariously through them. Instead, these influencers were desperately anxious and miserable for all eight episodes, and I was left feeling sad for them. 

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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