I’d heard a lot about Byron Baes – Netflix’s latest reality show, based in Australia – before I watched it.
For those of you not au fait with Byron Bay’s linen selling, ‘booch drinking, micro-influencing, hinterland hopping new community, here’s some context.
Vanity Fair’s ruthless feature on the Creative Mecca of Australia (The Coast Of Utopia) shot Byron Bay into the limelight in 2019. But far from deterring visitors, it seems to have only encouraged them.
Who Weekly branded Byron Bay the “celebrity capital” of Australia in 2020 and from there things have snowballed.
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Byron Bay has experienced a rental crisis in response to its growing popularity. The region has also recently been the victim of violent flooding.
On top of this, during 2020 and 2021, COVID saw many Sydneysiders and Melburnians make sea changes up the coast thanks to big city burnout and the work from home revolution.
#ByronBaes is every shit conversation you’ve ever heard on public transport condensed into a tv show
— A really pissed off pulpo 🐙 (@chicharrona2vax) March 10, 2022
This phenomenon has had such an impact on the region that the creator of Byron Baes, Vice journalist Julian Morgans, told The Guardian he reckons anthropologists ought to study it.
“Someone could do a PHD on unpacking the cultural tipping point Byron has gone through,” he said.
“It was always beautiful. But there are lots of nice places that don’t have large communities of influencers.”
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He told The Guardian The show would have elements both of a documentary and also of a drama: “No one has really put a proper microscope on influencing as a business, what drives them, how they made their money … let’s unpack that.”
But he admits “what keeps people-watching is the dating, best friends, fights, breakups, makeups, all the good stuff.”
On that note: I can confirm the show got that right. I was interested in the first place (unlike, pure trash shows like Too Hot Too Handle or MAFS), because I know Byron Bay is ~trending~ and I was curious about what this Weird New World, just 8 hours up the coast from me , was really like (even if I knew the show would probably depict quite a skewed version).
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I was also intrigued by the controversy: any show which manages to get the local community to protest against it has got to be worth a watch, right? There was definitely an element of “how bad can it really be?” curiosity in my decision to watch it.
Despite Byron Bay not being as interesting of a place (as represented by the show, anyway) as I perhaps expected, compared to the massive splash it’s had in the news, the drama managed to keep me hooked to the very end of the show in the same way all good garbage reality shows do.
Just so anyone not familiar with Aus can empathise with the gravity and finality of the decision Sarah is grappling with about moving back to Gold Coast….#ByronBaes #bigdecisions pic.twitter.com/EQONFCbMF0
— shroomsavage (@shroomsavage) March 12, 2022
I’m not sure I learned a whole lot from the experience, but here are a few things I realised, while watching the show.
What I Learned From Byron Baes
When the first 2 minutes of #ByronBaes featured this phone conversation, we knew we were in trouble:
📞Him: “Hello, Alex speaking”
📱Her: “Hey, is that Alex?”
All downhill from there. 💀
— Mark (@markp_) March 9, 2022
‘Booch is a word
Whether it was thrown in there to confirm Sydneysiders’ worst stereotypes about Byron, or whether it really is a thing people in Byron say, in the first episode of Byron Baes the word ‘booch (ie Kambucha) is unironically used at Hannah’s house.
‘Lords’ is an expression
Similar to ‘booch, I wasn’t sure if this was a legitimate turn of phrase or just a thing that satirical Instagram pages like Lords Of Byron Bay use in painting a caricature of the Northern Rivers vocabulary. As far as I can tell, based on the show, it’s the former. It also seems to be spreading to Manly…
Sound healing still works just as well, even if you’re drunk
Thank god for that.
Grown men in the Byron area still have slips and slides
And they look like a whole lot of fun.
Relatively a few of the main characters are actually from Byron
Like, remarkably few.
People in Byron can tell if you’re not from Byron
Especially if they have only been in Byron for 6 months themselves…
Linen must not be messed with
As Gold Coast transplant and Byron Baes’ main protagonist Sarah discovers, if you put your own spin on a Byron Bay outfit you are liable to receive comments like “you can take the girl out of the Gold Coast but you can’t take the Gold Coast out of the girl.”
Also, apparently, joking comments like “If you’re wearing heels and no undies it’s a date” are quite offensive to Byron Bay’s spiritual community (especially if they feel you’re on a mission to hook up with their flatmate, whom they are still in love with).
Crazy looking hippies can be kinder than switched on tech heads
Despite being portrayed as a mad hatter, Hannah, Byron Baes’ resident spiritual guru, is the first character to really give Sarah a chance as a friend, despite being the classic sort of Byron Bay character people from Sydney or the Gold Coast might mock as a whack job.
Some people in Byron Bay think the Gold Coast is a world away
“I left all my friends behind and moved from the Gold Coast to Byron”.
It’s an hour’s drive. You can go home for dinner. Calm down. #ByronBaes
— Rachael (@RachaelHasIdeas) March 13, 2022
And (as you can see above), vice versa.
People who put a lot of effort into being at peace with the universe aren’t necessarily at peace with the universe
Or themselves, for that matter.
People on Twitter take reality TV characters a little too seriously
See: the below Tweets…
Elle keeps telling us she’s some wonderful person who just wants to “spread love and light.” When in reality she’s a nasty, mean-spirited, vindictive bitch.
Her lack of self-awareness is ASTOUNDING. #ByronBaes
— Princess Koa (@PrincessKoa) March 13, 2022
Am I alone in thinking “influencers” are wankers? What good are they exactly influencing, outside of self – promotion & helping further commodify our existence & advising us on things they have no actual expertise in. I’m hate watching Byron Baes which is making me super salty.
— Kon Karapanagiotidis (@Kon__K) March 11, 2022
Australia’s version of Pete Davidson is considered a hunk
— behindthebaespod (@behindthebaes) March 10, 2022
Skinny is the new strong, people. You heard it here first… Oh and – having lived in Berlin, and having tattoos, for some reason, makes you hot.
What I Didn’t Learn From Byron Baes
What Byron Bay is like if you’re not a micro-influencer, model, or ‘working on a label’
If you’re not one of the above, watching Byron Baes might activate your taste buds, but it won’t give you much of an insight into what your day to day life would be like if you moved there.
Whether the Byron Baes characters are full-on acting or whether the drama was real
There are moments when you think: “this had to be scripted.” But there are others where you are super hooked in, and even invested in the outcome, despite yourself.
How the longer standing local community sees these influencers
Because the show focuses on these young things’ relationships with each other, not the community at large, it’s hard to know how old school locals see these exotic blow-ins (from what I can remember Cai is the only one who grew up near Byron ).