Round 6

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By EUGENIO BUCCI*

The Netflix series is a digital inventory of the capitalism we bled and will bleed to death.

The most successful series on Netflix is ​​not spoken in English, it does not come from the United States or Europe. Round 6 it's a South Korean production and has almost all the dialogue in Korean anyway. The story revolves around a macabre Olympics, governed by capital punishment or, more properly, by summary execution. About 500 competitors play different games, more or less like these reality shows of television. The difference is that, in Round 6, whoever loses the round also loses his life. In the end, a single survivor will take the cash prize (something around R$ 200 million).

The great asset of Round 6 it's in the showroom of violence she delivers to the public. They are hideous crudities and, at the same time, futile. The characters slaughter each other in close-up, in the most varied positions. Forget what you've seen of dismemberment in bad taste movies: Round 6 it is worse, not necessarily because of the angles of dissection of the bodies, but because of the moral context, in which homicide is carried out in frivolous rituals.

And for what? For pleasure. A group of billionaires, all men, the so-called “VIPs” (the only ones who speak in English in the series), pay lots of money to see the rivers of blood up close. Billionaires love. They are the secret of the “business model” of spectacular killing: competitors offer their lives in sacrifice to delight the owners of the money, and these cover the costs and leave profits in tip.

Round 6 had its world premiere on September 17. By mid-October, it had been viewed in 111 million households worldwide. In 94 countries, it reached the rank of the most successful series on Netflix, with 132 million viewers. The success never stopped. The escalation of blockbuster do streaming continues unshakable and unaccountable, like the flames in the Brazilian forests.

Then you ask: where does the fascination that this festival of massacres arouses in globalized audiences come from? What delight is there in this kind of attraction?

A line from a Johnny Cash song gives us a clue: "I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die." According to the composer, there would be a certain concupiscence of the gaze, albeit unconfessable, in seeing the life extinguished in the body of others.

Another clue is hidden in the story of slaves who were gladiators in Ancient Rome. For centuries, emperors and the people had fun with fighters slaying themselves on the sand floor, alongside wild beasts that devoured defenseless people. Contemplating disheveled human bodies was the greatest of public entertainment, and that was the “circus” with which Rome offered the populace. Would the circus be a pacifying catharsis? The question remains.

Let us now jump to Paris in 1794, in the midst of the Terror of the French Revolution. Let's ask the same question: were the public sessions in which the nobles were guillotined been cathartic? Did the heads that fell like ripe coconuts satisfy the hunger for justice of the poor?

Let's stay a little longer in 18th century Paris. The indecipherable Marquis de Sade, in 1786, when he was imprisoned in the Bastille, put the finishing touches on his book The 120 Days of Sodom. In the plot, four gentlemen organize a feast that lasts for months to sexually abuse boys and girls. The orgies included homicides. In a numerical balance on the final pages, as in an accounting book, Sade informs that, of the 46 participants, 30 died – and they died for your enjoyment.

The Marquis de Sade made his name as a libertine, a pornographer, adept at scatological and degrading eroticism. But we can also understand him as a crazy thinker (which is not contradictory). In his writings, we glimpse what would become of the bourgeois revolution if the course of history were handed over to the impulses of the capitalists – greed and flaws (which unconsciously mirror each other) would decimate the foundations of civilization. In this perspective, Sade, although delusional, had one of the reasons for the Enlightenment.

That being said, let us now return to Round 6 (before the unlikely reader starts complaining). In the Netflix series, there are orgiastic passages, clearly sadistic. In one of them, one of the VIPs tries to sexually abuse a waiter, treating him like a slave. Both wear masks – and more will not be told here.

By the way, with the exception of the competitors, all the characters of Round 6 wear masks. In these masks, we have another allusion to libertine traditions, like the one seen in a Kubrick film, eyes wide shut, from 1999 (which, in turn, is based on a novel by Arthur Schnitzler, a friend of Sigmund Freud). The mask hides the subject's identity in order to uncover his libido. Masked, Sade triumphs again.

Anyway, why do the masses love Round 6? In part, perhaps, because of the pleasure of contemplating, with masked lust, the suffering that he does not know is his own. The mass identifies itself with the drooling lords, without knowing itself identical to those who die and kill for money. Round 6 it is a digital inventory of the capitalism we bled and will bleed to death.

* Eugene Bucci He is a professor at the School of Communications and Arts at USP. Author, among other books, of A superindustry of the imaginary (Autentica).

Originally published in the newspaper The State of São Paulo.

 

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