"Adapted from a British game show, The Circle is exhilaratingly stupid: a popularity contest waged online through selfies, two-sentence bios, group chats and private DMs by competitors isolated in their own apartment units," says Inkoo Kang. "Delusion has long been a mainstay of reality TV, and we’ve got two varieties at work here: the competitors’ often wrong perceptions of how they come across to other people in their social-media self-presentations, and the personae they project onto their fellow players based on the tiniest and flimsiest of data. There’s $100,000 on the line, which inspires some contestants to catfish, or pose as someone of an ostensibly more preferable sex, size or generation in the hopes of racking up likability points." What makes The Circle especially relevant to our times, adds Kang's colleague Lovia Gyarkye, is that the show "indulges in and rewards the artifice of social media...What does it mean to be 'real' online when every platform offers you an opportunity to curate your image (Instagram) or your thoughts (Twitter)? The show queries this sentiment and reveals that even the quest for authenticity, to present a 'real' self, can feel like a performance. Part of that has to do with the fact that social media has broken our brains and warped how we relate to one another. When you’re getting to know someone, there is always a chance that they might not be who they purport to be, but online life has probably heightened that paranoia. Season two pushes the envelope even more and embraces the freedom of crafting an online persona. It felt less about, 'How can I present the most real version of me?' and more like, 'How do I create and craft authenticity? Who do I want to be and how do I make that person feel real?' That, to me, feels true to how some people approach life online these days. It’s less about presenting a fixed version of yourself and more about using the freedom to be whoever you want to figure out who you are. On a less fake-deep note, the show is also surprisingly fun!" Kang adds: "Reality competitions are all about hokey challenges and artificial environments, and in a time when we’re all so cynical about the genre, I find endlessly charming how The Circle foregrounds the ersatz-ness of its entire premise. Reality participants have said for years that they spend most of the time when they’re not on camera in social isolation with little to do, and I love that on The Circle we see how these competitors kill time, making bad food, bad music and bad poetry. Those aren’t the most riveting segments, but we do get a fairly good sense of who they are as people, whether it’s Chloe and Lee drawing the other competitors, Deleesa switching wigs or virgin Mitchell just … never wearing a shirt...I never thought I’d ever go on any reality show, but I actually think I could make it to the final round on The Circle?"
TOPICS: The Circle, Netflix, Michelle Buteau, Reality TV