The Villian Hero Trope - Channel 4's 'The Circle'

 Channel 4's The Circle season 2 is comign to an end.
[Image of the building that the TV show ‘The Circle’ used to house their participants. It is a normal block of flats, but with an illuminated circle on the side of the building]

Article by Emily Bourne.

If you’re not acquainted with the TV show ‘The Circle’ I’ll quickly sum it up for you:
The Circle is a game-show in which each contestant moves into a newly refurbished block of flats in London - but none of the show's participants have ever met each other in person, and will not until the winner is crowned. Instead, participants communicate by a specially designed social media app, ‘The Circle’. The platform is completely voice activated, so the only way for the contestants to communicate is through the app. The game means that each person can either present as themselves, or as some rando off of the internet. They only get the opportunity to see another contestant when they are knocked out of the game. At the end of the series, the most popular player will be in with a chance to win the £100,000 prize money.

If you watched Season 2 of The Circle, you will know there we so many big characters in the game - all with their own strategies to win. For some it was to ‘play it straight’ (Emelle), for other’s it was to ‘White Male’ way through the game (Busayo) and for one, it was to manipulate their way to the money (James).

James, who entered The Circle as single mum ‘Sammie’, shocked me when he first entered the game, as - of course - his choice of character felt a little heartless. Throughout the game, I found James to be funny, cunning and likable - and as the game went on, I was amused watching him play all other the other contestants around him for fools. And heck, was he good at it!

 James will be playing a single mother called Sammie in The Circle
[Image of James wearing a white t-shirt with his arms folded and looking right at the camera. Behind him is The Circle’s logo - a lit up circle]

But, closer to the end of the series, James opened up about himself; which he hadn’t done up to this point. He expressed that he wanted to win to support his family and use the money for honourable reasons (he wanted to donate some of the money to a charity supporting single mothers and use the rest to support his family), and this is what got me thinking. As lovely and genuine as he seemed, and I don’t doubt that he is, his strategy was really playing on my mind.
I thought, ‘Is doing a good thing actually good if the means in which you were able to do it was by being ingenuine, manipulative and lacking in morality?’ Dwelling on this question made me think about how, no matter how well-intentioned your motives are, manipulating multiple people to get them to love and pity you can surely never be justifiable.
Although, it’s a common trope for people to do bad things so that their families can have good things, so yes, I understand the sentiment - but it doesn’t make it right. James could have gone into The Circle as himself and won the money; his personality plus the mother-son bond he has with his own mother, a single mother, could have been enough for the other contestants to understand why he went into the Circle.
This article wasn’t written to shame James - honestly, I still think he seems like a sound guy. I wrote this in order to question the idea that you should do anything for your family, no matter how many innocent people you are hurting/manipulating. I know that sometimes situations are excruciating, and people will support their families by any means necessary, but I’m not sure that going on a TV show and manipulating people is the best way to support your family/raising money for charity. So, I want to leave you with this question to mull over: Are you really doing a good thing if the means in which you are able to do them is by manipulating and acting immorally?