2019, Movies

Fyre (2019, Chris Smith)

This is a fascinating film about the disastrous Fyre Festival that we all heard about on social media. It’s a classic story of the problem with “fake it until you make it” mentality of entrepreneurship. If you’ve watched or read anything about fraud, you’ve probably heard this story before. But it’s also about the problems of social media and influencer marketing and the blurred lines between obvious advertising and supposedly real experiences. It’s worth watching.

I was vaguely aware of this festival because, like all of you, I enjoyed the schadenfreude of hearing about some really rich people who went to a disastrous music festival. I enjoy when rich people lose money on stupid things when they should have known better in part because I don’t have that money to waste and, in part, because I hope it humbles at least some of them. (Maybe that’s a little optimistic.)

But this story is much more interesting than just “a bunch of rich people bought tickets based on some models’ instagram posts.” As I noted above, it’s a class story about an entrepreneur getting investors and employees to believe his lies. As Jenn said, it’s like Bad Blood. And it really is like so many other fraud cases you hear about; so many people who should have known better didn’t and even when they had doubts, they let themselves believe more lies.

As is always the case with these stories, the fraud runs deeper than you initially think. But there’s a fascinating spin to this one which suggests that the founder of the Fyre Festival is a little more mendacious than he initially seemed. (Often these entrepreneurs mean well initially but get so caught up in their lies they end up doing terrible things. In this case there is some evidence to suggest this guy could be a sociopath or some such thing.)

One other thing about the schadenfreude of seeing rich people struggle: I did feel briefly for some of the people who bought tickets, though the conditions were hardly on par with, say, a refugee camp. But who I really feel for are all the Bahamians who were never paid – the people who couldn’t afford to lose the money. And I wonder how many of the staff or attendees have ever tried to do anything within their considerable financial power to help these people out. I also couldn’t help but think how the attendees would have felt had they been put in an actually dangerous situation, such as a refugee camp, instead of in a place where they had wet mattresses in shitty tents, with too many mosquitoes. I hope that at least a few of them have realized how lucky they are as a result of this experience, but I doubt it.


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