Netflix’s Fyre Highlights Problems With The Current Travel Culture
Netflix recently debuted the Fyre documentary, which chronicled the failed 2017 Fyre Festival. The festival was marketed with beautifully produced photos and videos that showcased the breathtaking blues of the Exuma waters and a bevy of models and popular Instagram faces. The Frye Festival used hundreds of ‘influencers’, who themselves shared carefully curated and ‘perfect’ depictions of their lives, to entice thousands of men and women to dish out their precious coins for the chance to live a life that was equally as perfect and beautiful.
While the Frye employed models racked up hundreds of thousands of likes and comments lauding their professionally photographed shots - that undoubtedly took dozens of takes to capture a perfect, yet spontaneous moment in their life - many Bahamians noted the buzz through a different lens.
Fyre would take place in the Bahamas, but it was not a Bahamian festival. It was undeniable that the Fyre Festival organizers wanted the Bahamas as a generic, and beautiful backdrop, but didn’t really want to be influenced by anything truly Bahamian. The request of Bahamian media outlets to cover the event were ignored or denied, and there was a vibe that the ‘locals’ were not welcome.
The documentary shared an unflattering depiction of what was really happening behind the scenes, and although it was beautiful to watch and well executed, Netflix’s Fyre played into the stereotype of the simple, primitive, but kind island folk. Near the end of Fyre, the organizers also dropped and then glazed over unproven allegations of the ‘locals’ putting out ‘hits’ on the Fyre Festival planning committee, and alluded to one worker who was a ‘big’ man trying to bully an event planner for money. These allegations are troubling, especially for how casually they were sprinkled into the conversation without any kind of proof. But, that is a larger conversation for another day.
Frye unwittingly shinned a blaring light on an issue plaguing the current travel culture. Amid the wider story of a con artist who hurt thousands of people, the film and those being interviewed painted a visually stunning, but shallow depiction of an ‘exotic’ location - one that was pretty, but lacked the rich identity of the Bahamas.
The organizers didn’t care about the Bahamian culture, food, music or any element that made the Bahamas unique. At one point in the documentary, Jah Rule, who has since tried to distance himself from the festival debacle, noted that they were denied the ability to film with the now iconic Exuma swimming pigs, and he demanded that they were able to do so – this was the only ‘Bahamian’ element that was desired. And, it was only desired for a pretty picture.
Fyre acknowledged that the Exuma residents were defrauded, swindled, and they were grossly stripped of their trust and resources, but it still presented the image of the simple, one dimensional, primitive, ‘local’. That may not have been the intention of the filmmakers, who in fact did allow some of the Bahamians who were impacted to tell a small part of their story, but that hollow depiction of the ‘local’ further illustrates the limited travel experience of so many, despite being physically being in a given location.
Even if the Fyre Festival had been successful, the event would have solely served as a backdrop for attendees to flex, and showoff their clothing, money, status, and to look pretty. During the documentary, the event organizers admitted it was not ever about the music, performers, or really the experience – it was all about the look, and the ability to say ‘I went to Fyre.’
There are many travellers who want to truly experience the places that they visit. Touch the culture. Taste the food. Respect the history. Feel the beat of the music. Be inspired by the art and architecture. Truly have an experience, and be immersed into that country.
Sharing photos and videos of your memories and moments of your travels is far from a bad thing, and truly experiencing a destination doesn’t have to involve living completely like the men and women who were born and raised there – it simply involves wanting to embrace the country and respecting it, and not simply jumping from one Instagram hot spot to the next.
Fyre didn’t care about the Bahamas. The country was just a pretty place, chosen at random. If successful, the thousands of attendees would have been perfectly content to not step foot off of the festival grounds and the stunning, natural beauty and beaches of Exuma could have been completely trashed as a result of the event, and no one would care if profits had been made. The attendees and organizers did not care about dining on delicious Bahamian food such as guava duff, conch in its many forms, stew fish, or gully wash – they wanted Sushi and international chefs to be flown in. They wanted no part of the ripsaw based Rake & Scrape music or the pulsating beats of the goatskin drums, horns, and cowbells that make Junkanoo so unique. And, the only Bahamians they wished to interact with were in a service capacity.
As long as the photos and videos were epic, garnered lots of likes, and looked pretty – that is all that mattered……
Exuma - and the Bahamas - is more than just pretty water and swimming pigs. Stay tuned for more information about what to do, where to eat, and how to truly experience the wonder of the Exuma Cays.