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Netflixs Byron Baes is Your Wild New Reality-TV Addiction

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

The Aussie docusoap, set in the New South Wales beach town of Byron Bay, follows a group of hot, crystal-loving influencers as they go about their clout-chasing days.


Over the course of Netflixs new Australian reality series Byron Baes, about a wide-ranging group of creatives living comfortably in the New South Wales beach town Byron Bay, the cast describes the coastal hotspot as the following: a surf town with hippies, a breeding ground for creativity, a postcard, a Mecca for influencers, a place built on that hippie, zen lifestyle with beautiful beaches and beautiful people. The energy is a total vibe and a half, one cast member puts it quite abstractly.

ishonest No.313 - Prevent Acne

No.313 - Prevent Acne

The docusoap, premiering today, features plenty of these vague, rudimentary observations. Cast members present the town as an Anthropologie mood board as opposed to a place with its own rich history, culture or community outside of the wealthy, mostly white content creators whove made it the backdrop for their photoshoots in recent years.

This tourist perspective, which the show touts without any interrogation or much context, has already been a point of contention among Byron Bay locals for obvious reasons. When Netflix announced the show as its first Australian original title last year, some of the towns business owners, residents, politicians, and traditional owners of the land called on the streaming giant to cancel filming over concerns that it would depict Byron in a false, superficial light. Another main worry was that the program would mask the towns housing crisis thats become more severe amid Hollywood projects filming there and celebrities purchasing property. In response to the uproar, Que Minh Luu, Netflixs director of content for Australia and New Zealand, assured locals that the reality program would address the sometimes uneasy coming together of the traditional old Byron and the alternative new.

The series, at least in its first season, doesnt really deliver on that promise. Cast members mention Byrons protective locals but are, of course, referring to their tight-knit group of snotty socialites. We have a cynical audience surrogate in Alex, a talent manager who loathes his crystal-hoarding, sound-bathing peers and has a radar for phonies. However, you dont really need his incessant snarkiness to clue you in on the absurdity of the shows ensemble.

Despite all the ethical rules Netflix is breaking or opinions its disregarding, Byron Baes seems aware of a prevalent skepticism toward a specific New-Age personality in the age of social media, often represented in pop culture as an upper-class white woman (although the cast is more diverse). This lifestyle is presented as aspirational to a certain degree, considering how gorgeous the environment is, but hardly ever authentic. Overall, it makes for a good hate- watch with an assortment of wonky characters and quasi-spiritual rituals to gawk atnot to mention the breathtaking pastoral and oceanic views.

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Aside from Simba, Sarah represents a minority perspective entering a largely white space, as she informs us of her mothers Seselwa heritage and the bullying she experienced from blue-eyed, blonde-haired, pale Aussies. No other cast members ethnicities or backgrounds are disclosed. And Byron is depicted as a progressive, racially harmonious utopia despite how often the cast alludes to the towns exclusivity.

Byron Baes cast (L to R): Cai Leplaw, Jessica Johansen-Bell, Simba Ali, Saskia Wotton.


It wont be shocking to see viewers classify Byron Baes as a satire, considering the amount of comical beats and gesturing at its own absurdity. The most delicious moments of comedy occur when a persons perception of themselves differs so wildly from the audiences. Likewise, theres something deeply amusing about watching a group of people build identities around notions of uniqueness and nonconformity that clearly doesnt exist in a community where everyone shows up to parties in the same cream-colored ensembles.

Read more on: thedailybeast, addiction

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