I must admit, when I first saw news stories about the fabled Fyre Festival disaster, I was really not paying much attention. After all, my attention was on much bigger stories involving much more powerful people in this nation. I was not connected to this story, like many people were, through social media and other online platforms. So, when I had the opportunity to dig into this story via my favorite form of entertainment, documentary film, I was game to be educated, informed, and well-versed concerning the subject that was the Fyre Festival incident. Nothing could prepare me, for the debacle that it actually was.
To say that the documentaries are a cautionary tale, is an understatement. Two films both streaming currently on Netflix and Hulu offer an encounter that gives all of us a glimpse of what is currently happening in today’s world concerning a variety of subject matters such as media, marketing, branding, imaging, objectification, sexualization, social hiarchies and structures, fitting-in, experience-sharing, addiction to technology and so on and what happens when all of these powerful entities are used in a negative, destructive, and yes, dangerous way to influence a group of mainly young and naïve individuals.
Long story short, the documentary stars a character named Billy McFarland, a young entrepreneur that is hell-bent on creating a music festival in the Bahamas even when this proves to be an impossible task. Partnering with the rapper Ja Rule, the one that has already served one prison sentence for possession of an illegal fire arm and tax evasion, McFarland uses every shady trick in the book to lure hordes of rich, unsuspecting young people to paradise to party and dance with the hottest and most famous young celebrities around the world. Sound too good to be true? It was. And, the disaster that ensues throughout the film presents a schadenfreude I have not seen in a long time.
I do not want to spoil anything for viewers. Apparently, there were many folks that missed this story. Suffice to say, after viewing each documentary, I was left with a sickening feeling in my stomach, one that has remained for many days since, because I am left pondering a few questions regarding our current state of affairs in society and how this story points to growing issues concerning our obsession with celebrity, social media, and greed. The first question I have is did anyone at any point, employee or patron, question the legitimacy of this event before investing time, money and resources in such an endeavor? Of course, they did. Many admit this several times in the documentaries. But none the less, the employees continued enabling deception of their fearless and moraless leader and the patrons continued to be stupidly duped. Secondly, who was at fault for such a mess and who was held accountable for such terrible crimes such as fraud, money laundering, or worse not using the brain? Everyone, employee and patron alike, was seriously at fault. Not one employee attempted to contact the police or FBI during the design and construction of Fyre Festival. People could have seriously been hurt or worse. On the other hand, not one patron attempted to get off the so-called private jet to the Bahamas before takeoff even when that private plane by the way, was a rickety aircraft that included windows that could be easily removed. This would be enough for me to get off of this plane or any plane, or at the very least question this endeavor.
The worst part I believe, is not one person was really held accountable for their words and actions except the great people of the Bahamas whose countrymen at the time were dealing with an unemployment rate of 12.5 percent. Sadly, these people who were taken advantage of were never paid for their tireless work on the festival’s infrastructure. A woman who served as a cook, went through her entire savings to pay the employees she had for Fyre Festival. She was never paid a dollar for her services. Lastly, were any lessons learned from this terrible situation. Sadly, I think, the answer is no. Why? Because, our society today is more concerned about Kendall Kardashian than real news I’m afraid.
I came away from this viewing experience seriously worried about the future of our society. Many people were employed by Fyre Festival and not one had the moral authority to act. Many rich, attractive, young people were completely duped out of thousands of dollars all for the sake of having the greatest so-called three day music experience of all time with other rich, attractive young people. And why? Because, some young con-man posted a social media video featuring the most beautiful and famous models/influencers in the world on a beach in the Bahamas. Were these people really that naïve, or worse morally compromised? I sincerely hope not, but the proof is in the cheese sandwich they were all served in the so-called up-scale food pavilion that was supposed to be the epitome of world class cuisine at the event.
I would like to take a closer look at this dangerous and growing phenomenon amongst all people young and old over the next few posts. As educators, parents, and societal participants, we all have to be aware of how the times have changed and how technological advances, a variety of media platforms, and global connectiveness have created a new landscape for all of us to become victimized by the same types of conmen that used to have to go door to door selling magic beans. This accompanied by the obsession for celebrity culture and the longing to belong and participate in amazing experiences creates a situation like this one, where everyone is left wondering what happened to thinking for one’s self and upholding morals and values. Maybe these things were left in the states before getting on the rickety jet. Either way, I am still left worried.