The Circle Review

Lacey Harms

Class: Junior

Major: Writing

Minors: English and Classical Studies

Hometown: Coppell, TX


American reality competition series, The Circle, took Netflix by storm when it aired in January 2020. Produced by Studio Lambert and Motion Content Group, the twelve-episode series was released over a three-week period, four episodes at a time airing from January 1st to January 15th. The Circle has been compared to a number of popular reality television shows and competition series, most notably Big Brother and Catfish. The contestants, or rather “players,” on the show compete to become the most popular social media influencer and win a prize of $100,000.

Players all reside in a single building, each in their own apartment, where they have no contact with the outside world. They have no way of communicating with anyone except for each other virtually through an in-house voice-activated social media app called the Circle. Players create profiles made up of pictures and statuses to display and represent themselves to one another. With the freedom to choose their profile pictures without the ability to see each other face-to-face, there are naturally several “catfish” (i.e. people using fake pictures or taking on fake identities to benefit themselves) within the competition. As the show progresses, players who become the most popular are deemed “influencers” and are able to “block” the least popular players, forcing them to leave the competition and allowing new players to come in and replace them.

The setup for this show sets the precedent that the competition could do one of two things—highlight the negative aspects of social media or glorify the superficial nature of posting online. In line with other reality television shows, you’d think that a game such as The Circle would produce a drama and hate-filled atmosphere where arrogant contestants compete for supremacy over one another. However, this social isolation experiment takes a different turn. Being placed in a bubble with only the words of fellow players, the cast here rush to find allies in one another and develop friendships. Quickly, it becomes evident that the original players are not entirely here to win—they are here for these relationships.

Well, until it comes down to the wire and they have to decide between removing those who pose a threat or keeping their friends in the game a while longer. An interesting part of the competition is seeing the internal struggle of each player become largely vocal, as the Circle is a voice-activated platform. The majority of the show features the contestants loudly speaking to their screens as they type out responses to one another and compete in various contests throughout the series. It is compelling to see the players attempting to make friends and influence people through these conversations, especially because they often talk aloud to themselves about what they should do next in order to reach their goal.

The Circle seems to explore whether we are better or worse versions of ourselves online. At the end of the day, the players prove that this is ultimately a conscious choice for each individual. As the audience, we get to see each player decide for themselves how they can charm and win over strangers in order to progress in the game. As it turns out, all it takes to be successful in this game is being supportive and sticking with your friends, while adding in some playful flirting and the occasional confession. Thus, The Circle proves all you need to be “influential” is really just being nice. But, if you don’t believe me, check out The Circle for yourself on Netflix!