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Wealth is omnipresent on The D'Amelio Show: So why isn't it addressed?

  • The Hulu reality show reveals the burden TikTok fame is on Charli and Dixie D'Amelio. "But these painful, sensitive moments naturally lead to the following question: What’s keeping the teen stars and their parents captive to this career choice? If it’s all this bad, why keep doing it?" asks Tanya Chen. Both sisters, says Chen, are showing "concerning hallmarks of burnout, depression, and the deteriorating effects of being way too online. The answer feels obvious even though The D’Amelio Show carefully dances around it. They’re doing it for the money. We see their lavish lifestyle (an enormous modern home, where most of the show is set, which has its own dance studio for Charli), and the army of assistants and agents they’ve been able to quickly amass. They also did not miss a beat to pour gasoline on Charli’s so-called spontaneous rise to fame, accepting and negotiating plenty of deals on and off TikTok. The D’Amelios were financially comfortable even before TikTok. Patriarch Marc D’Amelio was an executive for a sportswear company and funded his own run for a state senate seat in Connecticut a year before Charli began posting her videos. And yet throughout the show, and in many interviews the family has done before it, the D’Amelios rarely discuss the actual business of what they do. Granted, money is something the industry at large struggles to openly discuss, but we don’t hear exactly how much Charli or Dixie charges in branded social media posts. We don’t know how much their makeup line brought in. We don’t know the family’s combined revenue stream. I don’t think this avoidance is necessarily calculated or deceitful. Last year, Heidi prevented her daughter from participating in the 'WAP' dance trend on TikTok, which is indicative of the family’s general public image as somewhat traditional and socially conservative. And given the rigidity of backlash culture online, divulging how much money Charli and the rest of the family rakes in could likely prompt vitriol. But if the D’Amelios are serious about using their newfound fame for positive impact, they’d consider addressing the $8 million elephant in the room (projected celebrity net worths are never accurate, but trust that Charli has made, and is worth, a lot of money). Being transparent about money could help make their self-induced stress more understandable. There is a lot that people can talk themselves into putting up with if there is a fat enough paycheck at the end of it. It would also make clear to Charli and Dixie’s young fans the kind of tradeoff they make in this line of work: Acquiring more wealth and access to opportunities externally might mean continuously compromising your mental health. Against our better principles, we are all vulnerable to burnout in constant pursuit of more. More exposure, more comfort, more larger-than-life experiences. More money, because who’s going to say no to charging a rumored $100,000 per sponsored post? In American hustle culture, we also imbue in young people the idea that their work gives them intrinsic value. How much we can produce, and keep producing, determines how secure we should feel about ourselves. That can all be fine and manageable if the scales weren’t tipped so astronomically for influencers. There is a set price, a very shiny, high price, that might make giving up the emotional and physical security of being a normal, nobody teen with freedoms worthwhile."


    • The D’Amelio Show is a startingtly dark show on purpose, showing the great American paradox of winning the fame lottery: "The concept is explicitly an exercise in 'social media versus real life,' meant to create contrast between Charli’s sunny, confident image in her online dance videos and how she is in person: fidgety, anxious, and terrified, her voice only rarely rising above a whisper," says Rebecca Jennings. "As snippets of the D’Amelios’ lives play out — Dixie records new music, Charli trains for a dance competition — the screen floods with comments and tweets from the Greek chorus of anonymous internet users, sometimes sending praise but other times death threats. We hear Heidi and Marc’s concerns about what all this attention and pressure might be doing to their already very fragile children; in an especially meta and heartbreaking moment, we watch Dixie sob over hate comments while her parents assure viewers that she wanted the cameras to capture it. The show amounts to a successful attempt at humanizing the recipients of accidental fortune, like an E! documentary about cursed lottery winners or musicians struggling with substance abuse, where the audience is meant to realize, 'Damn, maybe money and fame won’t fix all my problems.' Though it follows a familiar reality show formula pioneered by the Kardashians — pretty people lounging around minimalist California mansions in tie-dyed sweat sets — that’s essentially where the similarities end. Kim and co., for example, had lived their entire lives adjacent to the Hollywood machine and savvily manufactured their status as America’s first family over the course of a decade, whereas The D’Amelio Show captures a teenager desperately trying to remain functional while a well-greased fame apparatus churns around her. According to the series, the only thing that would be worse than if it all went away tomorrow is if it all stayed the same. The D’Amelio Show won’t fix the internet, of course — people have already spammed its IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes pages with 1-star reviews out of a knee-jerk need to hate — but the reception so far has been mostly refreshing."
    • The D’Amelios serve as a cautionary tale about fame’s tangible effect on mental health: "The D’Amelio’s project is in conversation with the ur-text of personality-based reality television, Keeping Up With the Kardashians, a show that established it was possible to get famous off of one’s name alone," says Megan Reynolds. "But the light-hearted fare that comprised the earlier seasons of KUWTK is mostly missing in The D’Amelio Show—the first reality show following TikTok stars (for now)—which is largely the point. Social media is the driving force behind their success, which the show emphasizes by putting comments up on the screen as the D’Amelio sisters slump over their phones: Scores of faceless strangers shouting death threats and the occasional praise are superimposed over their intended targets, who consume the commentary like a drug."

    TOPICS: The D'Amelio Show, Hulu, Charli D'Amelio, Dixie D'Amelio, Reality TV, TikTok