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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Circle is a reality competition in which players communicate with each other and vote each other off the show via a social media-like system. As is typical with reality competitions, it can be painful to watch people be voted off; it causes hurt feelings and tension. Since not all players are using their real photos and personas, there's an additional aspect of deception; however, this may be instructive to viewers who may be reminded not to believe everything they read online. Players talk a lot about "flirting" and may be inauthentic to gain influence. The cast is diverse in terms of sexual identity, race, and ethnicity, but all but all but one are about the same age (24-30), and the two players who are pretending to be other people are both pretending to be young conventionally attractive women. Contestants curse as they talk to themselves and each other: "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "bitch," "douchebag," "dickhead." They also take revealing photos of themselves, particularly the female players, which emphasize body parts and the camera lingers over. Adult players are served cocktails or drink in their apartments during portions of the game; no one acts drunk.
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What's the story?
Eight contestants are set up in their own solitary apartment, cut off from the rest of the world and only able to communicate with their fellow players via a voice-activated system called THE CIRCLE in this reality TV exercise. On each episode, contestants take on challenges and answer questions in an attempt to get to know each other, as the audience and host Michelle Buteau looks on. Then they're asked to rate the other players. The players rated most popular become "influencers" who can "block" (i.e. vote out) others. At the end of the competition, the last player left standing takes home $100,000.
Is it any good?
As reality TV goes there are shows with more gripping drama, but as an exercise in laying bare the hidden mechanisms behind social media socializing, this experiment is intriguing. "This is crazy, I'm going to do this without even meeting people!" says flustered player Sammie before her first Circle rating session. Well, yeah. That's what we all basically do every day, judging other people on a photo or a line of text, as well as judging ourselves for not living up to the idealized images that others project. So it's illuminating to watch Sammie and the other players rating each other more or less highly for things like posting highly filtered images, liking to cook, or having blonde hair.
Perhaps most interesting to watch in The Circle are the two players who choose to project images of other people instead of themselves; both choose to play behind the personas of conventionally attractive young women, reasoning that they'll be more universally liked. Well, sorta. Though the other players are indeed trying to ferret out signs of fakeness and looking for a "catfish," they're just as likely to see the genuine as fake as they are to suss out real trickery. There's a message coming through here, and it's a good one, as ugly as it can be to watch human animals jockeying for power.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how The Circle is the same or different from others like Big Brother, Survivor, or The Bachelor. What aspects are similar to these shows and others? Which are different? Why do you think this show retains some common aspects of reality shows, such as people being gradually voted out?
Families can also talk about healthy competition. Why is it important to be a good sport? How can you handle an opponent who doesn't play fair? Which of the contestants on this show play fair, and which don't? Is it OK to play dirty in a competition? Why or why not?
Why do both Karyn and Seaburn play as young and attractive women? What advantage do they believe this will this give them in the competition? Does the gambit work? Are there people who have an easier time beimg liked in the world? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
For kids who love reality TV
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