Last Tuesday night, as I sat back in the recliner with my paleo freezer dinner, I shuffled through the endless options on Netflix. Suddenly, a short movie displayed on the screen that I’d heard about but still wasn’t sure if I cared enough to watch. That movie was Fyre Fraud. Of course I’ve heard of Fyre Festival. Or at least, I was aware it existed, as is most anyone who pays attention to popular culture. But I didn’t really know the specifics of when or where it took place or what happened to make it so notorious. I decided to push play because I didn’t feel like getting too deeply invested in anything over my meal.
In a nutshell, Fyre Festival was marketed to be the one to which all others would eventually be compared. Models, influencers, private jets, music performances, beach houses, yachts…it was an early-twenty-something millennial’s dream come true. However, the promise was never to be fulfilled. By the time guests showed up to the festival, there were hurricane shelter tents erected instead of the expected luxury accommodations. Attendees were served cheese sandwiches. There was an absurd amount of alcohol, which was certainly welcome concession. Oh, and none of the musicians showed up. By all measures, the festival was an absolute disaster.
But the festival itself is not necessarily the subject of Fyre (the movie). It’s more concerned with spelling out who was responsible for committing the massive amount of fraud that resulted in the catastrophic failure. The movie goes to great lengths to lay the blame squarely on the shoulders of Billy McFarland, at the time a seemingly genius entrepreneur as well as the founder and CEO of Fyre Media, Inc. The company was created in order to develop an app that would make it simple for average people to book musicians for events. If I’m being honest, it seems like a great concept. The company wanted to throw a shindig to celebrate the app coming to fruition. Unfortunately, McFarland and Ja Rule pumped the entire thing up so big that it was an impossible task.
As the movie closed out, it was heartbreaking to realize that, though no one was physically harmed, this festival had a long-lasting detrimental effect on the lives of people who were taken advantage of. Besides the local Bahamians, the effects were also felt in the influencer community as well. I’ve never understood this culture personally, and it was hilarious to watch these kids be inconvenienced when they didn’t receive the luxury they felt they deserved. On the other hand, the ones that promoted the thing initially learned a harsh lesson about protecting your brand and doing research before attaching your name to something. When Fyre ended, I was left with lingering questions like, why doesn’t Ja Rule bear any responsibility for this? and why is the hot dude seen in an early clip and picture important to the sequence of events?
The following day, in thinking about Netflix’s movie, I decided I didn’t need to see the Hulu film, assuming I got the gist and that I had other things to do. That night, lying in bed, bored and coming down with a cold, I changed my mind. Initially, the plot of Fyre Fraud was difficult to follow as it kept jumping around to different events with no definitive direction. It didn’t help much that the visuals seemed to do the same thing. This is opposed to the almost contemplative and nearly chronological direction of the Netflix movie.
The movie began to get more interesting once they sat McFarland down for an interview. So I know what you’re thinking: this is when he becomes a sympathetic villain. Nope. He is just as slimy and remorseless as Fyre made him seem. The interviews that follow paint a clear picture of all the fraudulent activity in which he was involved to the point of calling him pathological. The festival is treated as more of an afterthought, merely the event that brought everything crashing down.
Whereas Fyre developed its narrative around the stories of the people who directly organized the festival with McFarland, Fyre Fraud was focused more on those who were tertiarily involved, the more average individuals. That is a pretty distinct difference when you think about it. Netflix’s version is filled with people saying they didn’t do anything wrong and McFarland kept them in the dark when, in truth, they were all just nodding their heads the whole time hoping for a big payday eventually. Hulu wants the viewer to see and relate to people like themselves saying that the whole lot of them are culpable.
Fyre Fraud also answered my lingering questions from the Netflix movie. The hot guy is a member of FuckJerry, and Ja Rule was indicted with McFarland in many of the charges, though he still claims he is innocent and had no knowledge what was transpiring behind the scenes. For those who are unaware, as I was until this movie, FuckJerry is a massive media company whose sole reason for existing is to make memes. They were in charge of the advertising campaign for Fyre Festival and were also named in many of the indictments that came out. It is still debated how much they knew about what McFarland was doing behind the scenes. Come to find out, there’s a reason their and Ja Rule’s roles were downplayed and they were made to look like victims in the Netflix version: they were executive producers for the film!
Ladies and gentlemen, I can’t rightly give review scores to either of these movies because they are both pointless and terrible. The events revolving around the Fyre Festival are emblematic of the kind of culture that birthed it and are not worth trying to glean a message from. Though they are perfect for watching on a rainy day when you’re bored, my life was not made any more whole by watching them. I can say however that Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened made for a better movie-watching experience. Considering that watching the Netflix version is enriching some of the people behind the fraudulent festival in question and Hulu paid McFarland in order to get him on camera for Fyre Fraud, you will feel a lot less dirty if you don’t watch either film. You won’t be missing much. On the other hand, if you watch one, you really need to watch the other to get the full story.
Oh and don’t feel too bad for the Bahamians. Thanks to many generous people and GoFundMe, the local laborers are close to being made whole.