Photo Courtesy of the Circle via Instagram
I don’t love reality TV. I can make it through a few episodes before I get annoyed or depressed. But this, this is something else.
In mid January, Netflix began us on a slow drip of their new reality TV game show, “The Circle.” The show can only be described as an American take on “Love Island,” the popular British reality show, digitalized. The concept is the same as the British phenomenon: players choose who to save and befriend in a competition of likability, all the while screaming out about “alerts” on their big screens. But, the spin is, they’re all alone! Each player is isolated to their own (very nice) apartments, and they can only communicate using a social media platform called the circle.
This lack of face-to-face interaction and overemphasis of technology is the stuff of nightmares and everything that is going wrong in the world, but you can’t help but love it. The players are all interesting, and it is engaging to watch the thought processes of people as they send messages and post pictures all in the hopes of being rated in the top for that round. Some players act as catfish, others go as themselves, and almost all lied about their relationship status. They flirt, manipulate, and it’s just so fun to watch!
The gem of the show, however, is contestant Shubham. He wears his heart on his sleeve, is constantly seeing only the best in people, and never doubts those he deems to be in his close circle, no pun intended. If you don’t think this show is for you, watch it just for him!
Shubham adds an interesting element of earnestness and genuine behavior. He is smart, granted, and he could have been playing everyone, even the viewers, all along. But he never really seems to have an agenda. He wants to win, of course, but he is motivated to say and interact with people purely because he perceives them as friends and people who he cares about.
What is so engaging about this element of his character and the way it acts as an element of the show is that it gives a contrast to the others. None have truly malicious intent and they just want to win. But what they put out is what they think others want to see. They portray what most of social media is. Yet, you can see them all gravitate towards Shubham, or Shooby as he was nick-named. Their calculated online personas of what they thought would garner them popularity were no real match for Shooby’s untested loyalty, kindness, and genuine attitude.
This trueness to self can be seen in other characters, but they are all carrying with them a notebook to take notes, to observe, and to manipulate themselves into fitting with what the others want. One character, Sean, plays with this idea by entering the game as a catfish, then revealing herself as the plus sized woman that she is. However, it is obvious that the reveal of her true self was her scheme all along. She makes a show of being herself, emphasizing the fact that she was being genuine rather than just being genuine.
However, the one issue I did have with this game show though, was the format. As one player is eliminated, another joins, and it feels like no time passes before the next elimination begins. Yes, it is important to keep things moving, especially with the limited attention spans of this generation, but there isn’t enough opportunity for new players to make lasting connections like those who came before them. It seemed a little unfair.
Overall, it was a good, engaging show that for some reason did not terrify me as I thought it would upon reading its description. I think there is a valuable lesson to be seen in a lot of the characters, and I think it is easy to come out of the experience with a message (weird, considering the premise of the show). Being yourself, and owning it is how you are the best, most desireable version of yourself. In a world where so much is determined without even seeing a person and looking them in the eye, and it is easy to get away with being what you may perceive as a “better” version of yourself. We need to start to reexamine the way that we present ourselves online, and reexamine what we think people truly value.
I would tell anyone to watch this show. It’s a lot better than you think it’s going to be.