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Byron Baes on Netflix is god-awful ... and mildly addictive

Cool gangs have been around ever since Zeus built his forever home up on Mount Olympus and surrounded himself with flunkeys of varying usefulness.

These ethereal creatures, all tanned and toned and draped in linen, had a good handle on the whole work-life balance thing, devoting a small portion of eternity to lucrative tasks such as inspiring war and fertilising crops, and the rest on partying and having sex with each other - and maybe the odd stray mortal if they had their own teeth.

It was a great gig.

Selfie obsessed: Hannah Brauer and Sarah Tangye. Picture: Netflix

Selfie obsessed: Hannah Brauer and Sarah Tangye. Picture: Netflix

These days, such god-like beings might be called "creatives" or "influencers" (careful, some of them take offence at that term) and they might apply their special skills (holistic health coaching, eco-entrepreneurship, brand management) from an Earthly paradise so enticing, Thor himself might be tempted to build a $20 million pleasure dome there and invite exotic envoys from faraway lands to loll in his infinity (stone) pool and attend pirate-themed New Year's Eve parties.

Ahh, Byron Bay, beautiful one day, insufferable the next.

In Netflix's new mildly addictive reality TV series Byron Baes, the easternmost point of Australia becomes the stupidest, as a clique of pretty young people fall for their own Instagram reflections while fiercely protecting their coveted patch of social and geographical real estate.

 Saskia Wotton and Dave Frim in Byron Baes. Picture: Netflix

Saskia Wotton and Dave Frim in Byron Baes. Picture: Netflix

Just like the Winklevoss twins, who realised before Mark Zuckerberg that "exclusivity" would be the making of any money-spinning social media platform, the content creators responsible for this "docusoap" understand the seductive power of a siren's call from behind a velvet rope.

In this vein, we're in Heathers territory, just without the satire or intrigue or even the vocabulary, but we are being invited to invest ourselves in protagonists who think their lives will improve markedly if they can just be accepted.

Not that any of the following matters, but, loosely, Byron Baes adheres to the (purportedly unscripted) plot where a couple of relative hayseeds arrive to this nation's current capital of self-aggrandisement with big dreams and the abject vulnerability of Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy.

Raven-haired Sarah is a musician and Jade, resembling a collagen-injected Clark Gable, is proud to call himself a social media influencer, so proud he rates himself as the "No.1 most-followed male" example of that particular species, a hubristic invitation to be taken down a peg or two if ever there was one.

Sarah and Jade both believe the key to their success will be found within the embrace of a local "friendship group" but gaining entry into the tightknit and even tighter-abbed collective will prove difficult, not least because the newcomers are tainted by their unfortunate place of origin, the Gold Coast.

Just uttering these two ugly words elicits side-eyes of Grace Tame proportions and accusations of tackiness.

Not far into episode one of this eight-part series, a member of the anointed menacingly articulates the challenge Sarah and Jade face by travelling south of the border and daring to make friends with any of those who came before them (some of whom even display proof-of-life photos of themselves as children, underwriting their claims to Byronic lineage).

"Byron Bay has this strange power," she warns, perhaps with an unseen hand rummaging around some rabbit entrails.

"If it wants you here, it sucks you in. If it doesn't, it will literally spit you out."

Hear that? Literally spit you out.

I know, chills, riiiiight?

Jade Kevin Foster claims to be Australia's 'number-one most-followed male influencer'. Picture: Netflix

Jade Kevin Foster claims to be Australia's 'number-one most-followed male influencer'. Picture: Netflix

As the action is directed towards a soiree being thrown by spiritual Hannah (surely this series' goddess of mischief), who swoons over crystals and is intent on inflicting something called "sound healing" on her frenemies, it's worth remembering how many Byron Bay residents were up in arms when they caught wind a reality TV show about their hometown was in production. The council got involved and eventually filming was moved to the Sunshine Coast.

There's a certain symmetry in the fact a show about exclusivity drew the ire of a community wanting to protect itself.

Unless caught in a rain bomb, anyone who visits Byron Bay returns home with some wonderful memories (such as getting stonkered at the Beach Hotel while watching the remarkable 2000-01 second Test between Australia and India) and it's no wonder cashed-up sea/tree-changers are swarming to the place, determined to make life one long perpetual holiday, but altering the sacred "vibe" of their delicate destination in the process.

It's also no wonder those with roots in such special places are raising the drawbridge both physically and philosophically. Who can blame them? We all want to protect our own slice of paradise.

Sometimes, the gods aren't so crazy.

This story Byron Baes is god-awful... and mildly addictive first appeared on The Canberra Times.