Oh, how satisfying was it to watch Fyre Fest go down in flames, circa summer 2017? How gleefully rapt were we in observing young folks with more money than sense descend upon the nightmarish event in the Bahamas only to learn they'd been oversold nothingness by snake oil salesman Billy McFarland? It was the type of schadenfreude that doesn't come along every day—or every generation, even—and now we can relive the glorious drama in the new Hulu documentary, Fyre Fraud.
It's important to note that Hulu competitor Netflix has a similar documentary out now as well, titled Fyre: The Greatest Party that Never Happened (which we haven't seen yet) and, according to outlets like NPR, there are journalistic issues with both—namely that the Hulu doc's exclusive on-camera interviews with McFarland were bought and paid for, and that the Netflix version was produced by Jerry Media, the selfsame company that helped produce and promote the disastrous Fyre Fest itself, and members of which are reportedly extensively interviewed in that movie. But we're almost willing to forgive these ethically shitty steps to observe the beautiful train wreck that hit the Bahamas all those many months ago. Besides, no one is filing these docs in the annals of history as anything more than trashy fun. We hope.
Ultimately, Fyre Fraud is a tale about a conman who foresaw and harnessed the dark powers of social media in a way that many are just now beginning to grasp. Yes, certain aspects of the internet are obviously shady at best, but by enlisting the dubious marketing/meme factory Jerry Media (aka Fuck Jerry), an army of Instagram-famous models and influencers and tapping into millennials' FOMO (fear of missing out), McFarland managed to kick up the perfect storm of desire and stupidity like almost nothing before it. As one interviewee in the film says, Fyre Fest looked like the most enticing parts of Instagram come to life.
But there was one big problem: McFarland and his partners impatiently insisted on a six-month timeline. Experts interviewed in the film estimate that even 18 months would have been cutting the planning too close. Throw in a cast of other idiots, from longtime McFarland collaborator Grant Margolin and early-2000's rapper Ja Rule, and one wonders why anyone thought it was a good idea. Of course, we all know the rest—from the infamous images of FEMA tents on the Bahamian "beaches" and cheese on bread to the mad dash to the airport from terrified young folk who realized they'd made a horrific mistake. It's frankly miraculous that no one was killed.
But, since everyone survived, Fyre Fraud is pretty fun (funny?), even if McFarland's interviews mostly amount to him not commenting on things. The other players are absent altogether. Ja Rule was famously unwilling to accept accountability, though, so … y'know. We do hear from people on the ground as well as culture journalists who predicted the mess—people should've listened to them in the weeks leading up to the event—but we mostly feel bad for these unpaid and unheeded people. McFarland is of course now serving six years in prison, but we hear rumblings of potential new business ventures in the documentary. Jesus.
The lesson, though, we think, is in how prevalent we've allowed the internet to become in our decision-making process. The evidence was all there and smart people were begging people not to do it. But they did, and we now know exactly how that turned out. Glorious.
+Sweet, sweet schadenfreude
-Paid interviews are weird; why are we watching this again?
Directed by Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason
Hulu, NR, 96 min.