Why The Circle is the reality show the world needs right now

The brand new Channel 4 programme has brought reality TV to the modern age.


Reality is one of the most popular genre’s on TV and has been for a while now. From the likes of Big Brother and I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, to constructed reality, such as TOWIE and Made in Chelsea; there’s something about watching real people go about their business, while being allowed to snipe about them that we humans have come to love.

It’s easy-watching, it incites debate about how humans react to fellow humans, and sometimes it can be hilarious, upsetting, or down-right weird. Some reality shows stay popular, while some only last a couple of seasons before dying out. But with Big Brother being axed from Channel 5, we’re left to wonder whether the true godfather of reality TV will ever grace our screens again after the current season.

However, the newest TV show to join in the fun is The Circle. It’s a little complicated to explain, but essentially the producers have bought a huge block of flats, with eight of the flats playing home to a different contestant for however long they last in the game. The contestants can interact with each other, but only through a social platform (such as Facebook or Snapchat) called ‘The Circle’. Each player can either stay true to themselves, or pretend to be someone else. The aim of the game is to be the most popular. Whoever manages that wins.

As the contestants are never interacting face-to-face with each other, you’d be forgiven for assuming the show would be monotonous and boring. But in fact it’s highly entertaining. For example, a man pretending to be a woman flirting with a gay man pretending to be a straight man is just as strange and intriguing as you may think.

“A man pretending to be a woman flirting with a gay man pretending to be a straight man is just as strange and intriguing as you may think”

The contestants that are pretending to be someone else are all going for a different tactic. Alex is pretending to be his girlfriend, Kate, and actually proved the most popular for the first two ratings (where players rate each other out of 5). Frankie is an openly gay man who’s playing it straight. There was even a Welsh girl pretending to be her grandfather. But some players have opted for mostly being themselves, except for a few white lies such as changing their age or career.

The show does tackle a more sinister side of the internet, and while it’s refreshing to see a completely up-to-date representation of the real world, we have to acknowledge that the internet isn’t always a very safe place. Catfishing is a real issue, with people pretending to be someone else in order to get revenge, find romance, or perhaps just make new friends. But it can be extremely hurtful and dangerous. Behind some catfish profiles, there could very easily be paedophiles, terrorists or abusers.

The Circle warns us just how easy it is to create a fake profile. It reminds us that we don’t always know who we’re speaking to on the internet. But rather than parents having a go at kids about talking to strangers in chat rooms, it’s a modern and relatable way of showing the dangers.

There is another side to The Circle though, which reaffirms what we all know but often forget – that what we see on social media isn’t real. We may see our friends Instagram account and instantly believe their life is great, but social media accounts only show the best side of our lives. We don’t see the bad parts, they’re left out. This is true in The Circle, with flattering filtered pictures making the contestants look more aesthetically pleasing (or at least what they think is more aesthetically pleasing) in their pictures than in real life. Also, their time in deciding how to phrase a sentence during a chat shows how much more control we have when conversing through technology. Which is either a good or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it.

The Circle is cleverly warning us of something we hate being warned about by people twice our age who don’t really understand how social media works. But it manages to do that in the form of a fun, entertaining and addictive reality TV show. You still love some players and hate others. You still laugh and relate to the contestants. But the big question is, who would you enter The Circle as?

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