Welcome to Breaking Geek, where uber-geek Nick Doll offers strong opinions, fun commentary, informed reactions, and thought-out theories regarding the most interesting news of the week, using his expansive knowledge of all things geek!
This week I had the odd experience of watching two documentaries about the same topic, and was shocked as to how different they were. I am of course referring to Hulu’s Frye Fraud and Netflix’s Fyre, both documentaries about the disastrous Fyre Festival put on by con-man Billy McFarland.
Bias is obviously inherent in all documentaries. With directors shooting or rooting through hours upon hours of footage, what they choose to include, or not include, always leads to a certain degree of bias, intentional or not. But, with these two Fyre Festival documentaries, the bias of Netflix’s version is disturbing, even before you learned who produced it.
For those not in the know, the Fyre Festival was billed as a once in a lifetime experience for rich Millennials, scheduled to take place in April 2017 on an island “formerly owned by Pablo Escobar.” Guests were sold a commercial telling them they would all get private jet flights to the island, cabanas or villas that they paid ridiculous amounts of cash for, an unprecedented line-up of music artists, and access to these celebrities and the social media “Influencers” that helped make the event a hit… that wasn’t.
Instead of a high-end, once in a lifetime weekend, guests were horrified to find out they would be sleeping in Fema tents, on wet mattresses, and at a different island than promised. Instead of private jet rides, they were loaded on a Boeing 737 and put on a school bus to the very unfinished venue with no musical artists. With nowhere to sleep and almost nothing to eat, it still took over a day for most to get off the island.
Both documentaries make it clear that Billy McFarland is the big bad. Even before the festival scam – and it was a scam and not simply poor planning – Billy had a history of cons including selling overpriced tickets for hard to get into events like Hamilton, then wouldn’t deliver on the deal. But, the documentaries differ on who else is to blame, with Netflix focusing mainly on Billy and Hulu widening its gaze to include the marketing firm Billy used to sell the festival, among others.
And that’s where the seemingly intentional bias in Netflix’s Fyre began, as that marketing firm that advertised the festival, F—k Jerry, are the very producers who made Netflix’s documentary.
Does that raise any eyebrows? Billy hired F—k Jerry to sell his festival. Then, the newly named Jerry Media produced a documentary about the festival.
Such a move would not be as damning if both documentaries painted F—K Jerry as complicit in the scam. But, while Hulu has a F—k Jerry employee admitting they knew what was going on and were silencing people online who were saying negative things, the F—k Jerry employees on Netflix claim they were just as much victims of Billy’s scam as everyone else.
Hulu’s Fyre Fraud interviews a wide range of people not included in Netflix’s documentary, from experts on the music industry — mostly journalists — to more Influencers, Elliot Tebele from F—k Jerry, and even Billy himself (who was paid a hefty fee to be interviewed). It paints a wider picture of Billy’s history of cons, the culture of Influencers, and how Millennials are viewed and view themselves. With the exception of Tebele, Billy, and Millennials who attended the festival, Hulu has less of an inside look at the disaster itself, but perhaps a more beat by beat development of why the festival was impossible, and who knew it when, whether it was Tebele, or one of the media insiders watching and warning people about the fraud.
Meanwhile, Netflix has all the insider footage including documentation of the aforementioned commercial to trick Millennials to waste their life savings, because, again, it is produced by the company who shot and held onto the footage. We’re given a darker look at how nefarious Billy was, while writing off F—k Jerry employees and Ja Rule as victims, not accomplices in this great scam.
In that way, Netflix’s Fyre feels like a documentary not just to enjoy, but also a chance for Jerry Media to get ahead of the game and clear themselves of any wrongdoing. It is partially propaganda, in my eyes.
Unfortunately for Netflix, Hulu dropped theirs first, so I watched it before Netflix’s Fyre even came out. Hulu points out at the end of Fyre Fraud that there are two other documentaries about the Fyre Festival are produced by Jerry Media, and yes, as I said, one is on Netlix.
Now, I do recommend everyone watch both for themselves. I myself have bias, maybe even based on the order I viewed the two documentaries. I’m not writing a review here, but I seem to be in the minority, as most critics prefer Netflix’s Fyre over Hulu’s Fyre Fraud.
To be fair, if Fyre’s agenda is to pass all the blame to Billy, then Fyre Fraud takes too much glee in having an agenda of tearing everyone apart. Millennials are unfairly stereotyped, and the overall goal of the documentary is to compare Billy’s rise and lies to that of President Trump. And the connection is made fairly clear before they overdo it and show a photo of Donald, similar to the bashing over-the-head Spike Lee did at the end of Blackkklansman. We know these are movies about different events that mirror our current reality. You don’t need to explicitly say it.
I still find the larger crime and most suspicious element to be Jerry Media producing a documentary about events they had a hand in, without disclosing it from the get go. You can certainly find bias on both sides, but even after doing more research to write this, I still feel most disgusted by Netflix’s Fyre.
Though I do plan to give both a second viewing. ‘Cause I’m nice like that…