Skip to navigationSkip to content
Netflix/Hulu photo illustration
METAPHYRE

The Fyre Festival’s greatest legacy is a handy metaphor for failure

By Jenni Avins

How did we even describe things before the Fyre Festival?

Once upon a time, an event or product that failed epically after a great deal of anticipation was simply, well, an epic failure. We might have called it a “debacle,” a “fiasco,” or a “flop.”

Enter: Fyre Fest. That 2017 dumpster fire of a music festival—promising a weekend of models, bottle service, and yachts on a private island “once owned by Pablo Escobar”—did not just leave us with dueling documentaries about the event’s catastrophic demise. It also bequeathed us a handy linguistic shorthand for social media-fueled failure and disappointment that comes with a side of schadenfreude: “The Fyre Festival of _______.”

Headlines have lately proclaimed neon green “the Fyre Festival of fashion trends“; failed meal-delivery company Munchery “the Fyre Festival of startups“; an influencer’s creativity workshop tour the “Fyre Fest of Instagram” (OK, that was us); and the direct-to-fan platform Pledge Music the “Fyre Fest of crowdfunding.” Social media posters took the definition even further, using this most 2019 insult to describe yesterday’s Rent telecast, La Croix sparkling water, and US president Donald Trump. People used it to describe their own hangovers, and personalities in general. It has gotten pretty meta at times:

And in the age of the influencer economy, social media stars who are paid to suggest we could all be riding jet-skis with the Hadid sisters off the coast of a private island are a pretty perfect metaphor. We need new language to describe not only the failure of the reality to live up to that expectation, but the glee the rest of us feel in witnessing it. And who could say it better than this sad cheese sandwich in a styrofoam box?

We can now look forward to using this handy term to refer to the Fyre Fest of dates (witty and charming in DMs but a handsy, drunken mess IRL); the Fyre Fest of politics (Brexit, with Theresa May as Ja Rule); and the Fyre Fest of fashion trends (when it’s a thing on social media, but you’ve never once seen it on the street).

“Giving something a name can give us a shorthand to reference a complex concept, and that’s really powerful,” Jane Solomon, a Dictionary.com lexicographer, recently told Quartz’s Annaliese Griffin. “Without that word, people might not be talking about that concept; they might not have the language to frame that concept.”

Solomon added that once a word or term is adopted by popular culture, its definition will inevitably evolve. So the Fyre Fest of college dining halls (an over-hyped student center that’s liable to disappoint) might not be as literal a usage as the Fyre Festival of pizza (an actual $74 pizza festival that failed to provide sufficient pizza). That doesn’t mean it’s incorrect! Keep on Fyring off those metaphors.

Herewith, a sampling of Fyre Fest metaphors, out in the wild: