A couple of weeks back, Netflix announced a new series, Byron Baes. According to the streaming giant, it’s set to be “a docu-soap series following a ‘feed’ of hot Instagrammers living their best lives, being their best selves, creating the best d̶r̶a̶m̶a̶ content.” Filming is due to begin next month.
Guardian Australia report that over the last week, residents of Byron Bay, including Indigenous community members, have held an emerging meeting to discuss the proposed series, and to consider things that could be done to protect the community.
An Arakwal Bumberin Bundjalung traditional owner, Delta Kay, was worried that the series would create a “fantasy world about our little home town”, citing her worries that the series may distort the reality’s currently facing the town.
“We have huge environmental issues, huge social issues here,” Kay said. “I don’t want these influencers coming here and painting this fantasy picture that all is well in Byron Bay. It isn’t.”
She also said she was disappointed in the show’s lack of engagement with the Arakwal community prior to announcing the show.
“Personally, as a traditional owner here I would like to see Byron Baes stopped. They really need to have a think about this and come in and talk to us locals before they even think about doing this production.”
Comedian Mandy Nolan, who is the current Greens candidate running in the federal seat of Richmond, voiced her concerns about the show’s potential glossing over of the town’s current housing crisis.
“Most of our friends, so many people that we know, have nowhere to live right now,” she said. “They don’t really feel like you rolling into town telling a fantasy story that doesn’t exist.”
Local schoolteacher Nick Gibbs was worried about the impact the reality show would have on local kids.
“The impact that Instagram has on kids’ body issues, self-perception, that constant need to be validated or gratified, or the feeling of insecurity that can come from not gaining that, I find that it’s something [that] is not going to go away. It’s something we can’t change but we need to manage.”
“But when we get our community and our town, and the place where we live, given a forced rebrand like this, we don’t get that say, and we don’t deserve to have that say removed from us.”
There is currently a petition going around to local business owners asking them to refuse permission to the show when wanting to film on private premises.
Guardian Australia have noted that Netflix consulted with some locals before announcing the show, including reps from the state and federal governments. The show will bring work to the town, as they’ll be hiring caterers, drivers and will need accommodation.
Netflix’s director of content for Australia and New Zealand, Que Minh Luu, told the publication that the show aims to “lift the curtain on influencer culture to understand the motivation, the desire, and the pain behind this very human need to be loved.”
“The reason behind choosing Byron Bay as a location was driven by the area’s unique attributes as a melting pot of entrepreneurialism, lifestyle and health practices, and the sometimes uneasy coming together of the traditional ‘old Byron’ and the alternative ‘new’, all of which we’ll address in the series.”
Earlier this week, Byron Bay residents staged a “paddle-out” in protest of the series.