Netflix Chronicles Byron Bay’s ‘Hot Instagrammers.’ Will Paradise Survive?

BYRON BAY, Australia — The ethical quandaries of life as an Instagram influencer within the famously idyllic city of Byron Bay usually are not misplaced on Ruby Tuesday Matthews.

Ms. Matthews, 27, peddles greater than vegan moisturizers, probiotic powders and conflict-free diamonds to her 228,000 followers. She can also be promoting an enviable life-style set towards the backdrop of her Australian hometown’s crystalline coves and umbrellaed poolsides.

It’s a part of the image-making that has helped remodel Byron Bay — for higher or worse — from a sleepy seashore city drawing surfers and hippies right into a globally famend vacation spot for the prosperous and digitally savvy.

“I do kind of have moments where I’m like, ‘Am I exploiting this town that I live in?” Ms. Matthews mentioned just lately as she sat at The Farm, a sprawling agritourism enterprise that embodies the city’s wellness ethos. “But at the same time, it’s my job. It puts food on the table for my children.”

The tensions between leveraging and defending Byron Bay’s popularity, at all times simmering on this age of entrepreneurial social media, exploded final month when Netflix introduced plans for a actuality present, “Byron Baes,” that can comply with “hot Instagrammers living their best lives.”

Local residents mentioned the present could be a tawdry misrepresentation of the city and demanded that Netflix cancel the mission. One girl began a petition drive that has gathered greater than 9,000 signatures and arranged a “paddle out” — a surfer’s memorial often reserved for commemorating deaths — in revolt.

Several retailer house owners, a lot of whom have substantial Instagram presences, have refused permits that might enable Netflix to report on their premises. A variety of influencers who have been approached by the present additionally mentioned that they had determined not to participate.

Others said they worried that a mere portrayal of Byron Bay as a shallow party town would make it come true.

“Personally, I have nothing against influencers,” said Ben Gordon, who runs The Byron Bay General Store, a “mostly plant-based” and oft-Instagrammed brunch spot, which was originally involved in the show before he withdrew it.

“It’s about a town being perceived in a completely false way,” added Mr. Gordon, who has more than 80,000 Instagram followers between his personal and store feeds. “My biggest fear is that the show will become self-fulfilling.”

To some, though, the pushback against the reality series smacks of elitism and hypocrisy, and is ultimately futile and even counterproductive, as the protests and resulting media coverage have given it free publicity.

“It’s absurd and ridiculous to think people can control how Byron is, or isn’t, represented,” said Michael Murray, a buyer’s agent who has spent more than three decades in the region. “It no longer belongs to a certain clique.”

Netflix has brushed off the criticism, saying it is going ahead with production of a show that it said would be “authentic and honest.”

Que Minh Luu, the director of content for Netflix Australia and New Zealand, said in an emailed statement that “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 woman with a yoga mat slung over her shoulder shouted to him. The woman, Lucia Wang, had just moved to Byron Bay the previous evening. She had come, she said, for the town’s beauty and healing properties.

“The first thing you need to do is just go to the ocean and have a swim,” she said. “Everything will be OK.”

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