News came down this week that legal tussles are already breaking out between the callow kids claiming crucial roles in the creation of the highly hyped TikTok Hype House, just a few weeks after its existence first became public knowledge.
About 20 creators now call the house a home, along with goodness knows how many cease-and-desist orders. But more importantly, the increasingly popular concept of a House Full Of Influencers has me thinking about its potential in so many other parts of our lives, all documented by short karaoke videos, IGTV streams, and the occasional still image or Twitter post.
Of course, putting a bunch of perhaps slightly self-absorbed people into close quarters together, ideally with little opportunity to escape each other, and then letting cameras roll is a tradition that goes back a long time in mass media.
One early example was the U.S. space program, where Right Stuff astronauts spent most of their time beyond Earth’s atmosphere under constant video surveillance from millions of viewers. By the mid-1990s, the space program had become rather passé, mostly focused on quick jaunts into near-Earth orbit to deliver supplies to the International Space Station.
For that matter, we didn’t even need to strap astronauts to a million pounds of rocket fuel and send them beyond the ionosphere anymore. We had the Biosphere II, where landbound “bionauts” spent a year in a sealed structure, learning to deal with the pragmatic issues of living semi-permanently with someone you’re not quite sure you can stand.
The Reality TV Roots of Hype
Around the same time, reality TV got hold of the idea, beginning with the pioneering Real World series on MTV. Biosphere II is credited with helping inspire John de Mol‘s substantially creepier Big Brother franchise, which used the nascent Internet to stream live video from multiple cameras inside the house 24 hours a day. That begat Justin.TV, which later pivoted to Twitch, and livestreaming for hours eventually became a widespread thing.
These days, seemingly anyone who can put up with anyone while putting up a social media feed has a house full of always-online roomies, this generation’s version of Friends, minus the unrealistically spacious Manhattan apartments for the chronically underemployed Joey, Monica, Chandler, et al.
Esports/merch design/social-media powerhouses such as FaZe Clan (that new $10 million mansion looks like quite something) and 100 Thieves gather at least some of their talent in big Los Angeles houses. Even pop superstar Rihanna launched her own collab house, filling it with influencers talking about her beauty brand Fenty. That’s the kind of entrepreneurial spirit we’ve come to expect from RiRi, and a much better use of her valuable time and talent than ruining former boyfriend Matt Kemp‘s focus on his once MVP-caliber baseball career.
And there are plenty of other such hype houses across social media. A few years back, The New York Times was astonished to discover a Hollywood apartment building at 1600 Vine Street was chock full o’ influencers, collaborating the bajeesus out of each other.
Heck, even my old North Hollywood apartment complex was a de facto Hype House while I lived there. I wrote about the business, had one influencer living next to me, another on the first floor, and a third secretly housing as many as a dozen other influencers in his two-bedroom apartment directly beneath the building manager. Now, that’s a Hype House, or possibly the setup for an NBC sitcom, if anybody who cares about influencers still watched broadcast TV.
Bringing the Hype House to the Broader Public
Anyway, TikTok influencers have now taken the concept to a new level of intensity, as with so much else that platform touches. But I’m waiting for this approach to expand into the rest of pop culture. I see many opportunities ahead, if we just apply our imaginations and self-promotional instincts to the task:
- Before Super Tuesday arrived the first week of March, we could have put all the Democratic presidential candidates in a hype house together, talking about Medicare reform, who could beat Trump, and whether Bernie had called Elizabeth a liar. Of course, now that Super Tuesday has winnowed the field to two candidates, we can do a Hype House for the VICE presidential candidates. This could be epic.
- How about sticking together top executives from all the NFL teams that want to sign Tom Brady, the long-time New England Patriots quarterback flirting with free agency in the twilight of his storied career? Brady likely will play one or two more years, watch his arm fall off, then trudge to the Hall of Fame for first-ballot admission. But the Machiavellian maneuvering to mine the promotional and production value of those last couple of seasons could be a blast, especially as we head into the NFL Draft in a few weeks.
- How about a hype halfway house for all the #MeToo miscreants after they finish serving their prison terms for rape and assault? Harvey Weinstein could kvetch that he already had suffered enough before being shipped to Riker’s, and Bill Cosby could workshop new material for his return to the stage, opening for Louis C.K.
- And here’s my favorite idea, which brings together two of our most omnipresent discussion topics of late: politics and epidemiology. We already have a handful of self-quarantining members of Congress, including Sen. Ted “Even His Mother Wants to Punch Him” Cruz and Rep. Matt “I Should Have Put On the Gas Mask Sooner” Gaetz. They all attended a conservative conference where a) Our Only President proclaimed his indifference to coronavirus or even basic sanitation practices, and b) someone infected with coronavirus shook the hands of a lot of famous politicians (including Our Only President). The Quarantined Quintet could spend their time practicing social distancing (Cruz is a natural), exploring the benefits of telecommuting, and blaming the Fake Media for forcing them all to stay away from their offices with manufactured disease hysteria intended solely to steal the 2020 election. I’m sniffing (but not infectiously) a winner here.
There are lots of other possibilities, if we just use the kind of imagination that led to the creation of the TikTok Hype House, and especially, all of its resulting legal maneuvering. Isn’t social media grand?