What Our Obsession With Celebrity Home Tours Says About Us

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As our living conditions deteriorate, our appetite to scrutinize the homes of the mega-rich only get stronger

I’m obsessed with Emma Chamberlain’s house. The living room is genuinely inviting, all soft fabrics and curved edges and warm colors; there is a tasteful landscape painting by his father on the wall; light streams in from all angles; there are plants everywhere; there is a swimming pool; there is a basketball court. This is exactly the kind of place I would want to live if I was worth 12 million dollars too.

We’ve been voyeuristically scrutinizing the homes of the rich and famous for decades now. Our first glimpse of the genre came in the form of MTV cribs, which premiered in September 2000 — long before Khloe Kardashian invited us into her pantry via Instagram Stories. “We were told no one would ever consider letting us into their home,” said show creator Nina L Diaz. EO in 2020. But audiences loved peeking behind the curtain at the unabashed maximalism of it all: the living room hot tubs, infinity pools, dressing rooms overflowing with thousands of pairs of shoes. By 2005, Cribs had featured tours of the homes of over 150 celebrities.

Then came the reality TV boom of the mid-2000s – The hills, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, The Real Housewives – followed by the advent of iPhones and social media, which in turn gave us truly unparalleled access to the privacy of the rich and famous. But despite this erosion of mystique that came with fame, our appetite for peering into the homes of the mega-rich shows no signs of abating.

If anything, he’s getting more and more fervent: short videos like vogueit is 73 Questions and Architectural Digesit’s Open Door regularly accumulates millions of views, sell sunyou remains one of Netflix’s most popular shows, and Cradles even made a comeback last year. But what’s behind this fascination with celebrity homes, especially at a time when more and more people can afford to own their own homes?

“I usually watch celebrity house tours for fun, inspiration and to admire the creativity of the teams that make them possible,” says Aditya, 21, a fan of this type of content. She cites Chamberlain and Dakota Johnson as two of her favorite celebrity homes, adding that they left her wishing [she] had a house like theirs. Ella, 23, is another fan. “I loved MTV cribs,she says. “The shit they had was just ridiculous – like movie theaters and stuff.”

Dr Jessica Martin, a sociologist at the University of Leeds, explains that our parasocial relationships with high-profile figures often fuel this hunger for personal, domestic celebrity content. “We have always been invested in the illusion of intimacy with famous personalities and under neoliberal entrepreneurial regimes the domestic space has become central to the identity of many celebrity brands,” he explains. she.

She explains that seeing celebrity homes can often lead to conflicting emotions, which keeps us coming back for more. “We certainly see a certain schadenfreude in the responses to luxury homes being perceived as decorated in bad taste — some of the talk around Gigi Hadid’s New York apartment, for example,” she says. “But also, for stars who already paradoxically position themselves as ‘ordinary’ celebrities – like Emma Chamberlain, who rose to fame through social media – fans can often feel invested and even responsible for their success and want to share the joy of celebrities. .new found luxury lifestyle.

But why are we particularly stung by this type of content at this precise moment? Part of the reason, Dr. Martin says, is that the COVID-19 lockdowns have heightened our interest in elite domestic spaces. “Homes became the spaces many people worked from, and for public figures this often meant giving interviews from their homes that were intensely scrutinized and appreciated,” she says. It rings true with Ella: “I loved watching tours of locked-out homes,” she says. “I was just depressed back home in Manchester, trying to cope with the closures and the isolation times, so I was watching them for entertainment and inspiration.”

Our interest in the lives of the wealthy has also increased alongside the skyrocketing cost of living. Anyone born after 1990 entered the workforce after the crash of 2008, when a traditional, comfortable adult life began to seem like a distant dream; meanwhile, for those born near the millennium, the economic aftermath of the pandemic continues to push back even further the possibility of housing and financial security. Since the pandemic, no-fault evictions have exploded by 41%and recent research from Zoopla found that rents were rising at the fastest rate in 13 years, making housing insecurity the norm for many young people.

The ‘celebrity lifestyle’ genre is largely a product of the times: as the gap between rich and poor widens ever wider, we become more and more interested in seeing how the other half lives. “As the housing crisis intensifies, home ownership is becoming increasingly unlikely for more and more young people, so the escape of seeing someone with an unlimited budget for renovation and interior design can be alluring,” says Dr. Martin.

After all, I’m not obsessed with Emma Chamberlain’s house. just because I love her sage green kitchen cabinets. I’m also obsessed because she was born in 2001 (making her three years younger than me) and she has a lodge – and not just any house, but a huge, sprawling house. It’s like witnessing a real-life miracle. For a few minutes, I can suspend my disbelief and buy into the myth of meritocracy—turning my nose up at his ugly tiger blanket, coveting his assortment of vintage rugs, as if I could one day afford to manufacture those kinds of choices. It’s pure fantasy.

“I would like to own a house of my own one day and I have always loved the idea of ​​designing the interior of my own house from scratch”, Aditya keep on going. “But it’s not easy at all, especially when your budget has nothing to do with celebrities or influencers. And with soaring global property prices, the possibility of complete ownership of a houseSeeing each other anytime in the near future is almost non-existent for me. She feels the same. “I will never have a house like this,” she says.

This is, ultimately, why the allure of celebrity home tours endures. As the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, the prospect of owning a ten-bedroom home – or even a modest one-bedroom – becomes increasingly remote from our reality, making us more hungry for this type of content. As Ella says, “I can’t even imagine what I would do with all that money when it came to buying, decorating or designing a house. I just like to dream about it.”


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