What ‘The Circle’ Reveals About Authenticity on Reality TV

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What ‘The Circle’ Reveals About Authenticity on Reality TV

The term ‘reality TV’ is one that evokes many different reactions across cultures. Generally, viewers have encountered some form of reality television through shows such as Keeping Up With The Kardashians, Big Brother and the more recently popular The Voice and Survivor. And yet, the concept of reality television has been around for more than just a few decades with some of the longest running genres such as game shows and dating-themed shows like Blind Date running since the 1930’s (Yancey & Shaffer, 2017).

Recently, Netflix’s series ‘The Circle’ puts a drastic twist on the idea of reality television by digitally connecting all contestants via an app, removing face to face interaction altogether offering an interesting new research field of authenticity on reality TV.

What is The Circle

The Circle has been described as “a complex and layered show akin to Big Brother, Survivor, and The Bachelor” (Lowry, 2020). Despite its similarities to those shows, The Circle offers something that viewers may have never seen before—a game made up of nothing more than social media and direct messaging.

The Circle pits a group of players against one another in an effort to earn the $100,000 prize. Players must create an intriguing social media profile, where they reveal little details about their lives, but without revealing too much (Harper’s Bazaar, 2020). Throughout the show, players manipulate one another to become popular and loved by the general public as well as each other.

Players also rate one another’s profiles every week, and each week one of the bottom two in the rankings are sent home– a concept similar to ‘survivor’.

Authenticity on reality tv

The concept of authenticity on reality TV is one that has been widely studied. According to recent studies, “Authenticity is seen to be the hallmark of the ‘reality’ of reality TV and its ability to appeal to viewers” (Strawberry & Redfern, 2013).

Authenticity on reality TV shows is often achieved through a variety of ways. One of these involves the use of personal confessionals, where the protagonist reveals something intimate about their life, such as an embarrassing moment or an emotional hardship. Confessionals help to establish a more authentic connection between the audience and the protagonist, as the audience comes to understand and sympathize with the character on a more personal level (Strawberry & Redfern, 2013).

Another way to increase authenticity in reality TV is by using documentary-style camera work. This involves using multiple cameras to capture candid shots of the contestants in their natural surroundings and during various activities that they might not normally experience. This helps to further cement the idea that the audience is witnessing something “real” and that they are learning something new about the contestants.

How The Circle affects authenticity

The use of social media as a platform for The Circle creates a unique opportunity to explore authenticity on reality TV. Without physical contact, all players must rely solely on their words, photos and videos to create a connection with their fellow contestants and with the audience at home.

The contestants may have felt a greater obligation to be more truthful and honest if they felt their lies would be exposed. Indeed, some of the contestants were even caught lying during the show and were quickly “shut down” as a result.

The lack of physical contact may also have encouraged the contestants to be more creative in their storytelling and “sell” themselves over social media in a bid to become the most popular contestant in the group. As a result, this could have caused an increase in performances and ‘unreal’ behaviour, blurring the boundaries of reality and fiction within the show.

Although The Circle cracks open a new perspective on authenticity in reality tv, it is still important to remember that all reality shows share fundamental techniques in order to maintain authenticity and viewer loyalty. In addition to techniques such as personal confessionals and candid camera work, contestants must remain honest and genuine across all shows. The Circle’s unpredictable twist on reality tv will surely leave viewers compelled to keep watching and tune in for more.

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