This summer brought an array of shows to watch on Netflix, from "Avatar: The Last Airbender" to the illegal antics of Joe Exotic and his rival Carole Baskin in "Tiger King." Collective TV-binging kept crushing boredom away during lockdown and allowed us to stay connected with others.
One such phenomenon was "Outer Banks," a show so consumable it’s up for the People's Choice Award “The Bingeworthy Show of 2020,” “The Show of 2020” and “The Drama Show of 2020.” Leading man Chase Stokes, who played John B., also pulled some personal nominations for his role. The show rested comfortably in Netflix’s Top 10 for 51 consecutive days, a record broken only by "Ozark" (57 days) and "Avatar: The Last Airbender" (61 days).
With the nominations and the show confirmed for a second season, North Carolinians are revisiting what it means to have a hit show based so close to home.
“I figured, oh, the Outer Banks, it’s about North Carolina. It’s gonna be lame because North Carolina’s lame," UNC junior Sophie Pruett said. “So I was like, ‘I’m not going to watch it,’ then it ended up being pretty cool.”
"Outer Banks" is a soapy teen drama much like any other, except instead of being set in the Upper East Side or Los Angeles, the plot takes place on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
Plot is the key word here: the show was set to be filmed in Wilmington but moved to Charleston, South Carolina, due to North Carolina's House Bill 2. Netflix did not want to film in a state with an anti-trans record, co-creator Josh Pate told the Wilmington Star-News in April.
The show’s co-creators, Shannon Burke and Josh Pate, are UNC alumni and included nods to their alma mater throughout the show. UNC students like Kwame Amankwah chuckled at the episode in which the characters took a ferry to landlocked Chapel Hill.
“When they went to UNC … that was definitely not Chapel Hill,” Amankwah said. “I don’t think it mattered — it was just funny having experienced Chapel Hill.”
In an interview with the DTH in May, the show’s creators reacted to criticism about the show’s accuracy by pointing out that "Outer Banks" is ultimately a work of fiction.
“It wasn’t anatomically correct,” Pruett said of the show.
But she echoed Amankwah’s sentiment, saying she didn’t think it was that big of a deal.
“People from other states would definitely not care, or even know," she said.
Pruett was right.
“We had so many people that came saying they came because they watched the show and wanted to see the place,” said Jacob Hinson, who lived in the Outer Banks during the summer.
Despite COVID-19 restrictions, tourism to the Outer Banks went up this summer compared to 2019. Hinson attributed this to a Forbes article that ranked the Outer Banks as the number one destination Americans were “dreaming about” traveling to right now, in part because of the show.
“It affected the culture in the Outer Banks for the summer,” Jared Warner, who spent the summer working at a surf shop in Nags Head, said. “Especially on Tinder, man. I think every Tinder girl, literally 80 percent, the bio was like ‘looking for my John B.’”
Most residents of the Outer Banks didn’t watch the show, Warner and Hinson said.
“Some people watched the show, liked the show, but it’s not a show about the Outer Banks,” Hinson said.
"Outer Banks" did get some aspects right, though. Hinson said there is a real class divide on the Outer Banks, and many locals struggle to make ends meet during the winter when the wealthy tourists leave. And the term “kook” doesn’t mean preppy rich local so much as it means poser who can’t surf, but it still carries weight.
“It’s the biggest insult on the beach. Ever,” Warner said.
Regardless of its authenticity, the show’s effects on North Carolinians linger.
“It did make me think, the Outer Banks is such a North Carolinian thing and I’ve never even been,” said Pruett. “The show prompted me to want to go.”
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