Ian Thomas Malone

fyre festival Archive



January 2019



Breaking Down the Fyre Festival Documentaries

Written by , Posted in Blog, Pop Culture

Are two Fyre Festival documentaries in the same week too much, or not enough? Having watched both in one day, I can’t honestly say I’ve had my fill of Fyre just yet. The horrors of the event provide more effective scares than most fictional narratives could hope to achieve. The sheer absurdity of the event, one that practically everyone involved knew would be a disaster, hasn’t lost any appeal after two feature-length films.

There’s something timeless about Billy McFarland. Hulu’s Fyre Fraud makes the mistake of using McFarland as a conduit to criticize millennials, forgetting how many carnival barkers make their living off the same antics. He’s insufferably caught up in himself, for no apparent reason other than the faint idea that he could exist in proximity to the rich and famous.

Fyre Festival was a dream concocted in service to nothing other than the idea of a dream. The documentaries give about as much focus to the music as MTV does these days. You get the sense that it was never about music, but rather the idea of being on a tropical island with a bunch of famous people. In that regard, the attendees kind of got what they paid for, an experience to remember.

Neither documentary presents much cause for sympathy for the ticketholders, much in line with the internet’s initial reaction to the disaster as it unfolded. The notion of a “once in a lifetime” experience exists in on the surface level with regard to something like the Fyre Festival, but falls apart when you consider the unspectacular music lineup. McFarland sold the dream of exclusivity, the chance to live a real-life Instagram story. In many ways, all the media surrounding the disaster gave the attendees exactly what they wanted, an event unlike any other in music history. Surely the stories of surviving Fyre are worth more cultural capital than a Blink-182 concert.

The Fyre Festival documentaries have captured an impressive slice of media attention, especially when you consider how much new content debuts each week. The entire saga was the perfect blend of millennial-centric catastrophe, a lightning rod used to indict an entire generation. Just like the Tide Pod Challenge that followed a few months later, there’s nothing inherently illuminating about Fyre Festival, an obvious con that fooled the kind of people who spend their days on Instagram looking for the white rabbit beyond their reality.

If you’re wondering which documentary is more worthy of your time, the Netflix one gives you a much more satisfying front-row seat to the disaster as it unfolded. For the true Fyre experience, watch them both back to back. You’ll wonder how so many people could be fooled by one man, but maybe you’ll also think about why we as a country delight in these train-wrecks.



January 2019



Netflix’s Fyre Documentary Provides an Extensive Look at the Disastrous Festival

Written by , Posted in Blog, Movie Reviews

Part of the intrigue surrounding the Fyre Festival debacle lies in the sheer absurdity that the event wasn’t canceled well before guests began to arrive in the Bahamas. The simple answer of fraud barely begins to satisfy the larger question of what anyone behind the festival was thinking throughout its sloppy preparation period. Netflix’s new documentary Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened seeks to illuminate the many twists and turns of this disastrous saga.

Billy McFarland is a professional conman with a long history of grifts before Fyre Festival, and even a couple afterward with the FBI right on his tail. The documentary explains his methods quite effectively, reconstructing his pyramid schemes to accumulate capital by making promises he couldn’t possibly deliver on. Fyre’s narrow application of these findings is mostly kept to how his behavior directly impeded the festival, making no broader assessments as to how McFarland might represent the current generation. The film doesn’t particularly care about the why of his motives, but instead about the people he harmed in the process.

The idea that Fyre Festival was doomed from the start is certainly present throughout the narrative, but the documentary doesn’t settle for the obvious findings. The infrastructure needed to hold a successful festival cannot be designed and constructed in a few weeks, but there were plenty of people involved with Fyre who did actually try to make it happen. While the weekend was never going to be the VIP luxury event advertised in the initial promo video, hard as it is to believe there was a significant effort made to actually plan a concert. Fyre breaks down everything that went wrong, conducting extensive interviews with employees directly involved with the planning. Extensive contemporaneous video of the planning in progress provides a front row seat to the disaster as it unfolded.

The film takes a measured approach to the comedic factor of the disaster. All the memes of stranded rich kids and the pictures of cheese sandwiches are quite funny, but there were a lot of people hurt by McFarland’s actions. Fyre manages to present its findings in an entertaining fashion while shedding light on the real victims of the nefarious con.

While McFarland lies at the heart of every scandalous decision, the documentary does a good job assigning responsibility to other key players. Fyre Media co-founder Ja Rule deserves much of the blame, as do the influencers and marketers who promoted a fairly obvious scam. In an uncomfortable conflict of interest, Fyre is produced by Jerry Media, the firm that marketed the festival. The ethical dilemma is worthy of scrutiny, but hardly detracts from the overarching narrative. Fortunately, other documentaries about Fyre Festival point this out, ensuring that the conflict will not go unnoticed as the history of the event is recorded.

Fyre presents an extensive look at the many cons and blunders that went into crafting the disaster. It manages to be funny, horrifying, and deeply sad all at the same time. Fyre Festival will live on as one of the most infamous grifts in concert history. The documentary ensures that its viewers will know all the various twists and turns of this epic tragedy.



January 2019



Fyre Fraud Loses Sight of the Scandalous Festival In Pursuit of Millennial Bashing

Written by , Posted in Blog, Movie Reviews, Pop Culture

Millennials are a frequent punching bag for the media. Apparently, we’re selfish, superficial, and we ruin everything, claims that we’re supposed to believe have never applied to any other generation. Hulu’s new Fyre Fraud documentary, one of two films released about the disastrous festival in the Bahamas, builds its premise based on the notion that such a grift could only work in modern times. Such a thesis seems to forget that America’s luxury class has always pursued community through exclusivity.

Social clubs have been popular for hundreds of years, granting access to those deemed worthy of membership in the eyes of the elite. Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Club was built around the same premise, mainstreaming a sense of community through a shared interest in seemingly refined tastes. People frequent cigar lounges not for smokes, but for the chance of a fraternal bond blossoming beneath the fumes.

Fyre Fraud paints Fyre Media CEO Billy McFarland, currently serving a six-year prison sentence for crimes related to the festival, as a kind of genius capable of manipulating the easily-fooled millennial masses. The younger generation somehow deserves some blame for falling victim to the con, which hired hundreds of influencers to create an aura of luxury before any infrastructure was put in place to deliver on such promises. The documentary hoists McFarland up as a natural symptom of a narcissistic generation, hailing him as the spiritual successor to The Wolf of Wall Street Jordan Belfort.

The documentary is less about the festival than it is about McFarland, who was paid to appear in the film under ethically dubious circumstances. Billed as a “true-crime comedy,” Fyre Fraud uses frequent animated cutaways to poke fun at the disaster. There’s a lot to laugh at about Fyre Festival, as social media at the time collectively mocked the hoards of rich kids stranded in the Bahamas after being denied the luxuries they overpaid for. For some reason, the documentary felt obliged to play the role of standup comedian rather than to let the contemporaneous jokes speak for themselves, laughing off serious material that deserved closer scrutiny.

There are a few scenes where the interviewers hold McFarland’s feet to the flames, but can’t manage to shake anything substantive from his slick hands. There are natural reservations on his part to not reveal any information that could add to his prison sentence, but he isn’t forthcoming about much of anything at all. It’s hardly uncommon for a subject to not appear in a hostile documentary, which begs the question of why the film felt the need to pay him to appear at all. Such time could have been spent providing a fuller picture of how the festival was doomed from the get-go, or to showcase the many Bahamians who were conned out of payment for their services.

The documentary does shed some much-needed light on the involvement of Jerry Media, the company behind the infamous “fuckjerry” Instagram account that helped market the festival. Jerry Media produced the other documentary on Fyre Festival, a conflict of interest that deserves to be called out, but Fyre Fraud handles this footnote in a way that seems driven less out of journalistic obligation than as a dunk to claim moral superiority over a competing narrative. There are certainly other people to blame for Fyre Festival than simply McFarland, but this documentary doesn’t spend much time on any of the other perpetrators beyond those who dared to make their own film about the experience.

Fyre Fraud hoists Billy McFarland up as a straw man indictment against millennials, casting aside a thorough examination of the festival in favor of cheap laughs. Grifters like McFarland have been around for thousands of years, robbing Peter to pay Paul. The only difference between McFarland and Charles Ponzi is that none of Ponzi’s victims were able to post an Instagram picture of their experience. The documentary allows McFarland’s charms to suck the air out of the room, lazily criticizing millennials at the expense of exploring the greatest con in festival history.