Today, just as the dust had started to settle on its Fyre Festival documentary, Netflix released a follow-up interview with Andy King, the event planner at the centre of the documentary’s most controversial story. There are a lot of shocking moments in the film, from Ja Rule’s absurd demands of models, to a pilot who learned to fly on Microsoft Flight Simulator. But Andy’s story of being asked to offer a sex act in exchange for retrieving trucks of Evian water stands alone as the most jaw-dropping.
In case you need a reminder, mid-way through the documentary Andy begins explaining how Bahamian customs had seized trucks of Evian water, demanding $175,000 in import fees before they would release them to the festival. He then goes on to details a call he got from Fyre Festival founder Billy McFarland: “Billy called and said, ‘Andy we need you to take one big thing for the team… Well you’re our wonderful gay leader, and we need you to go down. Will you suck dick to fix this water problem?’”Billy reasons that Andy could save the festival—if he’s willing to perform oral sex on the customs officer. Andy accepts the instructions, continuing that after the call he went home, and used mouthwash before heading to the customs office.Thankfully the water is released without Andy having to do anything but talk to the officer in charge. “Can you imagine? In my thirty years of career, this is what I was willing to do. I was honestly going to do that,” says Andy, as he finishes his story with a chuckle.The Evian story quickly became one of the most talked about scenes in an extremely talked about documentary. People were shocked at what Andy’s superiors asked of him, while others were focused on how he responded to it.Naturally, it wasn’t long before Andy King became a meme:
In contrast to the memes, jokes and praise labelling Andy a hero, there were also some more concerned reactions online. Some people focused their attention on Billy’s role in the story rather than Andy’s. When Andy tells the story he mentions that Billy singles him out as “our fearless gay leader”, which raises questions about whether Andy was only asked to perform a sex act in exchange for goods on the basis of his sexuality. Others raised concerns about Billy’s position of power as Andy’s employer and as the cult-like leader of the Fyre Festival team, with some suggesting sexual harassment and that it’s not something to be made light of.While these concerns are warranted, we need to contextualise the role that memes play in online conversations as a way for us to address, reframe and take back control of uncomfortable topics. In other words, a meme doesn’t always indicate an endorsement. It’s also important to remember that it’s not our place as viewers to assume that Andy King feels victimised. Some light is shed on this in Netflix’s follow-up interview where he addresses his newfound viral fame. Throughout the interview Andy admits he’s confused but positive about the online discourse surrounding him. Ultimately he just wants to use the attention to steer focus towards paying back workers in the Bahamas who were defrauded.But it’s hard to get past Andy’s statement at the beginning of the interview. “I just don’t want to be necessarily known as The Blowjob King of the world,” he says. A wish that has perhaps come a little too late.