This image is from the official trailer for “The D’Amelio Show” distributed by Hulu.

Internet fame still baffles me. How people can actually have a career in social media is something I may never quite understand. But that doesn’t make it any less real, especially not in the case of the internet’s favorite social media celebrity: Charli D’Amelio.

For those unfamiliar with the D’Amelios, Charli is an 18-year-old social media star who skyrocketed into fame in 2019 after her numerous dancing videos went viral on TikTok. Today, she has 147.9 million followers on the app and is the second most followed person on TikTok. Her older sister, Dixie, who is 21 years old, primarily gained a following through association with Charli and currently has 57.5 million TikTok followers. Dixie has since released music in hopes of expanding into an area of entertainment she is passionate about. Their parents, Mark and Heidi, also have roughly 10 million followers each.

Due to their astounding online popularity, they were able to start a reality show called “The D’Amelio Show” last fall. Like “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” (or the newer version, “The Kardashians”), “The D’Amelio Show” follows the lives of a famous family, the D’Amelios, focusing heavily on Charli and Dixie’s relationship. “The D’Amelio Show” released its second season exclusively on Hulu at the end of September, just over a year after the release of season one. Season two includes events in the D’Amelios’ lives from December 2021 through summer 2022, making it a slightly outdated glimpse into some of social media’s most talked about events of the past year. 

The second season is a significant improvement from the first, at least based on the first few episodes out. Season one seemed out of touch with many people’s realities and felt like a desperate grab to shed light on just how hard it is to be rich and famous (boohoo). Conversely, season two showcases much more of the sisters’ everyday lives, and the sympathy the show tries to evoke is much more subtle. Season one wasn’t necessarily wrong for focusing so heavily on the sisters’ mental health (it certainly is important to discuss and normalize talking about mental health and getting treatment), but what made it fall short was the almost nonexistent acknowledgment of how much privilege the D’Amelios possess. Just in terms of mental health, they not only have access to treatment and doctors, which is an immense privilege in itself, but they even have a private family doctor that takes appointments at their home. Especially given their positions as prominent public figures who obtained their fame, power and money directly through a platform given to them by the public, their lack of recognition is off-putting. From social media, the sisters have made nearly 30 million dollars combined, as was recently revealed in Forbes’s Top Creators of 2022 article, so their riches are a secret to no one. It is hard to have sympathy for them since many people deal with similar problems without the status or financial security they have.

Season two focuses much more on specific scenarios in Charli and Dixie’s lives, which makes it easier to understand their perspectives and sympathize with them. In the first episode, Dixie stresses out about performing for the first time in front of 20,000 people at Jingle Ball early last December. In the show, though she mentions her fear of the backlash she would get online, the episode primarily focuses on how nervous she was feeling about being in front of such a large audience, something I think most can relate to. Viewers’ perception of Dixie’s situation was shaped by Twitter posts and comments that popped up on-screen depicting how the public was reacting at the time. Instead of showing just negative comments, many positive ones were displayed also, which made it seem much more realistic. Obviously, the sisters couldn’t be as famous as they are without loving fans, so having positive comments alongside the hate was a much more accurate depiction of what was circulating the internet at the time. This season’s discussion of Dixie’s breakup was handled similarly: Yes, it was mentioned that she was going through a difficult situation in the public eye, making it that much more difficult, but the show mainly focused on the “going through a breakup” part and not the “public eye” part.

However, the show remains far from perfect, and there definitely are times when it is harder to sympathize with the sisters. The D’Amelios are already successful and wealthy enough without other media ventures, like a television show, so it seems that the primary reason for it would be to give the public a more complete view of what their lives are like. The public typically doesn’t have much respect for influencers or social media stars, stemming from the belief that people with those careers don’t have to work as hard and are more easily given abundances of power, money and privilege. It seems that one goal of the show is to challenge that belief, generating sympathy for the D’Amelios, which doesn’t always work well. Charli, who is interested in trying out music, kept it a secret from Dixie and constantly brought up how worried she was about what Dixie would say about it. Clearly, she is in a place where she has virtually unlimited access to whatever she wants to do, so it is annoying to see her constantly worry about it and not recognize what an incredible opportunity she has. I’m not saying her concerns aren’t valid — I would probably react the exact same way​​ — it just would have been nice to see a little more recognition of her privilege.

As for Charli and Dixie in general, I’m not a fan, but I’m also not not a fan. Social media algorithms that promote popular posts, be they hateful or kind, feed into the propagation of unnecessary hate, and Charli and Dixie’s status as young women makes them especially vulnerable to online hate. Of course, they aren’t going to be perfect, and living under a microscope only makes growing up and finding yourself more challenging. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt, though; I hope that as they become more used to their platform, they will use it for the better, like spreading mental health awareness and amplifying the issues and voices that need and would otherwise not receive attention. There is certainly room to grow, and I do hope they acknowledge their privilege more and make some of these changes soon. 

Overall, season two of “The D’Amelio Show” was a step up from season one and evoked more sympathy than the out-of-touch presentation of problems in season one. It doesn’t have quite the same humor or star factor as “The Kardashians,” so if you want a more established show, I suggest looking there. If you’re okay with something that will only slightly annoy you, though, “The D’Amelio Show” is a good-enough distraction.

Daily Arts Writer Jenna Jaehnig can be reached at jjaehnig@umich.edu.