Watching Keeping Up with The Kardashians, viewers are left with little doubt that the sisters (at least most of them) set out to achieve fame. Kim Kardashian, arguably the star of the show, came from simple Hollywood beginnings as Paris Hilton’s closet organizer, but then a sex tape, a long-running reality series, and millions of social media followers made Kim and her family into some of the biggest celebrities on the planet. It was all strategic. Kim Kardashian didn’t become Kim Kardashian by accident.
On The D’Amelio Show, which premiered on Hulu last week, it feels like the opposite is true. It sets out to make viewers feel sorry for two megafamous rich young people—and it ultimately succeeds.
The D’Amelio Show follows Charli, 17, and Dixie D’Amelio, 20, two sisters from Connecticut who also happen to be two of the most followed TikTokers on the app. Charli, a competitive dancer who rose to fame for her viral dance videos, has more than 123 million followers on the app, and Dixie, who has launched a semi-successful music career, trails slightly behind Charli with more than 50 million followers.
The D’Amelio Show’s scenes revolve around the girls’ working schedules—there’s TikTok and a clothing line and sponsorships—and are laced with confessional footage of the sisters and their parents speaking candidly about how hard it’s been to navigate Los Angeles and a public career. Throughout the episodes, positive and negative social media comments the sisters receive pop up on the screen, sort of similar to VH1’s Pop-Up Video. It’s designed to give viewers an inside look at what the girls are dealing with on a daily basis because when your job is social media, a mean comment can break you.
That’s what happens during the first episode, when Dixie has a breakdown and sobs uncontrollably to her parents about the hurtful comments left on a video she did with Vogue. On social media, people made fun of Dixie’s voice, rambling sentences, and laid-back attitude about her newfound fame.
“It hurts so much,” Dixie says through the tears.
In the reality TV world, these scenes often feel highly produced with stars wiping away fake tears, but this breakdown looks and feels sincere. Marc, the patriarch of the family, says during a confessional that cameras weren’t originally in the room but that Dixie asked the crew to record the moment so viewers could see the real side of social media fame.
But if you’ve been paying attention at all during the last ten or so years and know anything about social media, then you probably didn’t need this show to help you sympathize with Charli and Dixie. Charli is an average teenager who began posting on TikTok because it was fun and entertaining. When millions of people started following her, opportunity followed as well. Anyone who achieved that sort of notoriety—whether they wanted to or not—would likely leverage their fame and pursue money, fame, and some sort of entertainment career. Now Charli is one of the most influential people in the world, but it feels like she’s unsure of what to do with her fame or whether she even deserves it.
The third episode is largely centered around the Nickelodeon’s Kids Choice Awards, where Dixie performs live for the first time and Charli is up for an award. Charli is so nervous about the event, she has a panic attack and confesses to the cameras that at her worst, she’s had up to 15 panic attacks per day. The award show goes smoothly, and afterward Charli tells the camera that even though it caused her a lot of stress, it was somehow worth it.
“I think I’m definitely sacrificing having a normal teenage life, but I’m getting to do things that many other people do not do,” Charli says during a confessional. “Like, I truly love it. I don’t want to stop and then have to, like, start all over. What am I going to do? Go back to a normal high school? Move back to Connecticut?”
Charli is an accidental superstar. When her peers have worked their entire lives to achieve the same kind of success as Charli has, it makes sense that they would brave the bad stuff. But when you reckon with the fact that Charli didn’t actually want any of this, it feels almost wrong to root for her.
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