Tweedledee and Tweedledum: Which Fyre Festival Documentary?

Maria Luevano ‘21
Staff Editor

Sam Pickett ‘21
Staff Editor

Pro Hulu

It’s 2019 and the Fyre Festival fail of 2017 is back in the form of two documentaries—one airing on Hulu and one on Netflix. If you didn’t get enough of seeing rich, devastated millennials arrive at what they thought was going to be the ultimate “luxury music festival” in the Bahamas, only to find out that none of it ever existed, now you have two chances to get the full, bizarre story. But who has time these days to watch two hour-and-a-half-long documentaries about the same event?[1] I’m here to save you some time and let you know that there’s really only one documentary you need to worry about watching: Hulu’s Fyre Fraud. This documentary will give you the full picture of how outrageous and delusional this fraud really was.

The main reason I prefer Hulu’s documentary is because it gives you the full picture of how this whole mess came to be. Who even is Billy McFarland? How is Ja Rule involved? Where did that cheese sandwich come from? Fyre Fraud answers all of these questions and more. The Hulu doc feels almost like a true crime documentary, complete with the suspense and drama of knowing exactly how bad everything is going to turn out. While the Netflix documentary feels flashier, and definitely uses way more drone footage, the Hulu documentary is all about giving the necessary background details.

Fyre Fraud has a major leg up on Netflix’s doc because they scored an interview with Billy McFarland, the mastermind behind the entire thing. Okay, allegedly he was paid to appear in the documentary, but ethics aside, who doesn’t want to hear from the guy that dreamt all of this up? I also appreciated hearing from a previous employee of Jerry Media, the company that ran the festival’s social media campaign.  Since the entire thing was basically just a huge social media promotion, his commentary is a great eye into what it was like actually working on the festival and how far people were willing to go to pretend like they were going to pull this off.

One thing I will hand to the Netflix doc—it has a lot more information on the days of the festival itself and what it was like for the people on the ground in the Bahamas.[2] But, it left me with some questions. If I’m being honest, it’s probably best to just watch both of them. They complement each other and fill in the blanks about this crazy story. Plus, we’ll all be hungover after Barrister’s this weekend, so what better time to waste three hours?



I want to begin this review/debate by clarifying that I am not a film critic, nor do I pretend to be. As I was reading other people’s reviews of the two documentaries, they mentioned narrative structure, transitions between shots, and access to footage. Well, I don’t know about those things. What I do know is that I have lots of emotions and opinions, and those things were more triggered by Netflix’s Fyre than Hulu’s Fyre Fraud. And that’s where we shall begin.

            Watching the Hulu documentary, I got the feeling that festival creator Billy McFarland was something of a boy genius. He was painted as ambitious and full of potential—more like a youth in over his head than a compulsive liar and sociopath. This effect is compounded by the fact that Billy is interviewed in the documentary (rumor has it that Hulu paid him upwards of $250,000), which makes him somewhat more sympathetic to the audience. Netflix’s documentary, on the other hand, is full of original footage showing Billy[3] and Ja Rule, Billy’s partner, talking to the camera and looking incredibly dumb. The footage makes Billy look less like an evil genius and more like the cringe-y scammer he is. At one point, Billy is walking with former NFL player Jason Bell when he calls Fyre Festival “the biggest event of the decade” before strangely looking back, tapping his chest twice, and pointing awkwardly at Jason. The whole sequence made me so uncomfortable that I almost stopped watching thirty-six seconds in. Yet, it also does the best job of showing you how fake Billy is, and how inexcusable and remarkable the entire fraud was. Netflix caused me to react, while Hulu just caused me to observe.

            Secondly, Netflix did a better job of making me angry. While Hulu is worried about what Fyre means for our future with social media, Netflix sheds a light on the effect the fraud had on the local Bahamian workers, like owner of Exuma Point Restaurant MaryAnne Rolle. Rolle spent $50,000 of her life savings in order to help cater the event at the last minute and tearfully declares that she no longer wants to talk about the festival because it is upsetting. She wants to “start a new beginning” and to forget that the whole event ever happened. While Hulu was somewhat like watching a detached documentary about a serial killer, Netflix left me with a sense of deep injustice and understanding of how the real victims of this event were the Bahamian employees who were never paid, not the spoiled kids who were stupid enough to buy tickets.

            The final reason Netflix is the better documentary is less about my emotions and all about the memes. In today’s social-media-driven world, memes matter. There is no more iconic moment in either documentary than when Andy King, who helped produce the festival, reveals his willingness to do anything to help Billy pull off the festival.[4] When customs seized trucks of Evian water and demanded the payment of import fees, Billy called Andy and asked him to talk to the head of customs and “take one for the team.” Thankfully, the water was released without King having to perform the favor Billy asked, but it created a viral meme used to connote that desperate times sometimes call for desperate measures.

            That being said, I would still recommend watching the Hulu documentary to get the full picture of the disaster. It provides some important background information on McFarland’s rise to fame and also provides a more in-depth view of how Jerry Media contributed to the crisis. Since Jerry Media produced the Netflix documentary, they are kind of biased. And with that, I thank you for letting me express my emotions and promise that I’ll never write something like this ever again. You’re all welcome.

[1] Honestly, we all do, it’s only the third week of classes. But that’s not the point of the article.

[2] Also, the Evian Water dude.

[3] I call him Billy because I don’t respect him enough to refer to him by his last name. He acts like a Billy, and that is how I will treat him.

[4] If you have to ask, then you need to watch.