The CW’s ‘Barons’ is a television drama series set in the 70s in Australia. The story revolves around two friends — Bill “Trotter” Dwyer and Snapper Webster — both of whom love surfing and even run a custom-made wetsuit business together. However, a rift forms between the two because of Snapper’s lax attitude towards their company and Trotter’s ambition of starting his own business making designer shorts exclusively for surfing. The fact that Snapper is in love with Trotter’s wife, Tracy Dwyer, only adds fuel to the fire.
Created by Michael Lawrence, John Molloy, and Liz Doran, the series features Sean Keenan, Ben O’Toole, Jillian Nguyen, Hunter Page-Lochard, George Pullar, and Lincoln Younes, amongst others. Though about the rivalry between rising businesses, ‘Barons’ has a very relaxed atmosphere to it with plenty of beach parties and crashing waves. But is there any truth behind this groovy series? Read on and find out!
Is Barons a True Story?
No, ‘Barons’ is not based on a true story. However, the series does take inspiration from the creation and rivalry between surfing-related goods manufacturers such as Quicksilver, Billabong, and Rip Curl. Michael Lawrence, one of the show’s creators, told Flicks that he was inspired to create a story about this time period and boom in Australia’s business industry surrounding surfing when he read the non-fiction book ‘Salts and Suits’ by writer Phil Jarratt. “I thought Phil beautifully articulated the rise of this youth industry into the billions of dollar companies that Aussies love,” said Lawrence.
He added, “I read it so proudly, and it also raised this idea that if you sell paradise, can you buy it back again?” ‘Salts and Suits’ chronicles how a group of fun-loving young surfers put on suits and created a billion-dollar business out of leisure activity. The book’s author conducted over 200 interviews with company founders and industry professionals to piece together the history of these youth-centric businesses. The passion with which ordinary surfers achieved something extraordinary is echoed in ‘Barons’ as well. This particular facet of the story, while important, isn’t always at the forefront, however.
Set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, ‘Barons’ focuses more on the people and their interpersonal relationships, as well as all the new and exciting ideas that were introduced in Australia in the 70s. “We take moments like Vietnam, racism and homophobia, and the misogynistic marginalization of women’s capability and throw it all into the NutriBullet,” Lawrence continued. “Our job was to make it a proper ensemble where everyone had their own journey and nothing was tokenistic. By the end of episode eight, you understand and want to spend more time with them.”
And bringing these ideas to life in the series are characters that are just as nuanced. Speaking about his views on the 70s culture, actor Ben O’Toole (Snapper Webster in the show) told ABC TV, “Everybody looks back on the 70s nostalgically, whether they were there or they weren’t. The music was better because they were kind of making it for each other, [and] not making it to be famous.”
Adding to the conversation about queer relationships and the role of women in the 70s, actress Sophia Forrest said, “The 70s was a time period of questioning everything — societal norms, gender norms, misogyny — and there were these women who just paved the way for us now.” Though a fictionalized retelling of the surfing scene in Australia and the subsequent rise of businesses from it, ‘Barons’ focuses on the formative experiences of the characters and how they transition from beach-loving party-goers to business-minded adults.
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