Fyre vs. Fyre Fraud: A Competition

Competing documentaries on competing platforms.

Fyre movie poster

Though I’m a millennial, I had never heard of the Fyre Festival or the Fyre Fraud until these dueling documentaries were released earlier this year. Netflix had been slated to release their documentary on this massive scam on a Friday but, in typical cutthroat fashion, Hulu released theirs a few days before. Talk about beating someone to the punch!

I’ve been fascinated by these documentaries since this drama between the streaming platforms unfolded and finally, I took the time to watch both of them.

Both Fyre and Fyre Fraud convey a lot of the same information: Billy MacFarland was a dreamer and a criminal who took advantage of millennials who had serious cases of FOMO. People involved in the creation and execution of the failed festival are interviewed and cast a negative light on the founder and visionary behind the crazy plan that was never going to work.

The Ethics of Documentaries

Whether we’re consciously aware of them or not, we all have various biases that influence our actions and reactions. No matter how hard we try, it’s really hard to remove these things from what we say, do, and produce. And the same is true for these documentaries.

Hulu’s Fyre Fraud featured an interview with Billy MacFarland, one that he was presumably paid well for. Netflix’s Fyre was produced in partnership with Jerry Media, the company responsible for the media and promotion of the festival.

While both documentaries were critical of MacFarland, Hulu’s documentary, in my opinion, was much harsher with their criticism. Though you see portions of his interview, he was not painted in a sympathetic light and each time he opened his mouth, he was seen as a crookster and a cheat.

I don’t think Netflix’s documentary tried to paint him in an incorrect light, but the fact that the company that was responsible for the disaster took part in creating the film does raise questions for me.

But how important is neutrality in documentaries, really?

Fyre Fraud movie poster

Competition of Ideas

What’s better than one documentary on the Fyre Festival? Two documentaries… apparently.

Our capitalistic society thrives because it’s a marketplace of ideas. When various companies compete, we can get innovative and wonderful products, exciting new media, and the world is better for it. Or at least that’s how it works in a perfect world.

But in a day and age when streaming services are constantly being pushed to come out with the newest, greatest, and best content for its subscribers to ingest, I wonder if they’re running out of ideas. What happened to creative and innovative new media?

And, if you don’t have a new idea, you might as well beat the competition to the punch. And that’s exactly what Hulu did. This shrewd business move created a lot of buzz around the release of the documentary, but I wonder if anyone else thought it was just a little too shady.

But how important is originality in the production of media today?

Drawing Conclusions

Film is such a powerful platform that I believe creators need to be careful with what they produce. For a few hours, the audience is trapped in a story or a world and suspending their disbelief, deferring to the creators for that period of time — it’s an enormous responsibility!

Documentaries are the same way, which means that each conclusion that is drawn needs to be done carefully. While I really enjoyed the Hulu documentary, I did not like some of the conclusions they strongly came to, especially about my generation.

I will be the first to admit that many millennials can be self-absorbed and focused on social media. For many, FOMO is a real thing that they suffer from and the value system for many is different than that of our parent’s generation. But not all millennials are like this. In fact, I know many who are the exact opposite of the conclusions drawn from this documentary. And this is the inherent flaw with drawing sweeping conclusions about a broad range of people.

But how important is it to let viewers draw their own conclusions, anyway?

I enjoyed watching Netflix’s documentary better. I liked the narrative Fyre created and the way it was filmed. This was my introduction to the entire scandal and the story that unfolded on the screen had me engrossed and stressed. But I dislike the fact that it was created in part by people who profited off of something that hurt so many people.

I liked that Hulu’s documentary wasn’t produced by the people who profited from the fiasco. I liked Fyre Fraud’s unyielding criticism of the companies and people who brought it to life, but I didn’t like the strong generalizations they made about millennials. I felt like I needed to defend myself while watching, though I had no idea about the scandal when it happened.

With so many opportunities out there to create new content, I wonder if we will continue to get innovative new pieces of media or if we will have more situations like this one. Only time will tell…

Listen to our discussion about Fyre and Fyre Fraud on The Strategic Whimsy Experiment here: https://apple.co/2DH63Vv.

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Sarah Callen

Every number has a name, every name has a story, every story is worthy of being shared.