Byron Bay residents protest against filming of Netflix reality series
Angry Byron Bay residents have protested against the filming of a reality television series that some fear will damage the reputation of their trendy Australian tourist town.
Around 100 surfers paddled out to sea on Tuesday to form a cancel symbol off the coast of the New South Wales town in the hope that Netflix will stop the series about social media influencers.
Several Byron Bay businesses have refused to sign filming permits that would allow Byron Baes, a contemporary abbreviation of Byron Babes, to be shot on their premises.
“It’s potentially going to threaten businesses if the portrayal of Byron is as absurd as I guess a lot of the doco-soap-reality shows are,” Byron shire mayor Simon Richardson told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
“As a community, we should have a right to be able to not be exploited and to go about our business and also just have a community that has its real and genuine concerns and challenges shared rather than a picture postcard filmed with people who have potentially been here for five minutes,” Mr Richardson added.
Ben Gordon is refusing to allow the eight-episode series to be filmed at his business, The Byron Bay General Store.
“They’re proposing to drag our name through the mud and make millions of dollars without offering anything back to the community and completely misrepresenting who we are and it’s totally wrong,” he told Nine Network television at the Main Beach protest.
“There was no consultation whatsoever. They just came in unannounced,” Mr Gordon added.
He led a community meeting on the subject last week and complained that most of the cast were not from Byron Bay.
Netflix said its first Australian reality series would “aim to build a connection between the people we meet in the show and the audience”.
“The show is authentic and honest, and while it carries all the classic hallmarks of the form and embraces the drama, heartbreak and conflict that makes for such entertaining viewing, our goal is to lift the curtain on influencer culture to understand the motivation, the desire, and the pain behind this very human need to be loved,” a Netflix statement said.
“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,” the statement added.
The town of 9,000 people is one of the most famous in Australia, partly because acting couple Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky have built a mansion there. International celebrities who are based or spend time in Byron Bay include Matt Damon, Zac Efron and Simon Baker.
Mr Richardson said the town 388 miles north of Sydney did not need the type of tourists who “might be turned on by a vacuous vision of who we are”.
“If we become a laughing stock through a really vacuous, fake show, it could have big — not just sensitivity challenges for us — but also economic challenges,” Mr Richardson said.
Byron Bay activists have successfully stood up to big business in the past. The town has prevented KFC and McDonalds from opening restaurants there after protest campaigns.
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