– By Carly Twehous –
Mild Spoilers Below
Out of The Hunger Games craze, audiences were smothered by a sudden influx of YA dystopian dramas, complete with love-triangles galore, forlorn female heroes, and social philosophies just out of reach and hidden by romance. (Seriously. The entire purpose of The Hunger Games is that the Capitol distracts the districts from their revolutions and ideologies by presenting them heroes and star-crossed romances. Then look how they marketed the movies, with all that Gale vs. Peeta stuff. You missed the whole point of the novel, guys.)
Things like Divergent and Maze Runner had their moments in the sun, their claim at uniqueness, their outcry for social justice, but those too got bogged down with over-marketed, b-story romances that have no credence on the actual outcome of the revolution, other than to rev up drama at just the right moments.
These stupid, wonderful, annoyingly massed-produced YA novels have never, ever been about the romance. There is nothing inherently romantic about fighting a revolution against the established social order. Nor is there something inherently awe-inspiring about a sixteen-year-old starting a revolution. I wouldn’t take directions from a sixteen-year-old, let alone trust the foresight and political wisdom of one enough to overthrow our oppressors. Sixteen-year-olds tend to be…flighty and unfocused and rather unpredictable. I certainly was. Not the best qualities for a leader of the revolution.
The 3% is of the same vein of brewing political unrest, inherently unstable social orders, and a series of Herculean tests the destitute and unlucky must pass in order to ascend to a better life. Except, in the 3%, you have to be twenty to begin the Process.
Thank God. We’re saved.
Produced by Netflix and in Brazil, and though on an incredibly (and noticeably) lower budget than its blockbuster sister-stories, the 3% certainly has a charming intrigue that’s not entirely a tenant of the genre anymore. The premise: the proletariat class lives with the constant hope that, when they’re twenty, they can begin the Process, of which 3% survive and ascend to the Offshore… Basically, the Promised Land.
Though dubbed in English from its original Portuguese, the 3% is surprisingly well-written. More importantly, it’s not bogged down by the same sensationalism of its predecessors. It’s budget simply doesn’t allow for it. Therefore, the story has to be high quality. The main characters are each fascinating, with more complicated emotional depth than just mere hatred of their oppressive overlords.
There’s a disabled character, who’s going through all of this in a wheelchair. There’s the girl genius, who passes every test with flying colors, and the shockingly entitled proletariat snob, whose entire family was among the 3% before him. There’s the cheater, who steals answers and gets other contestants eliminated to mask his own incompetence. Then, of course, there’s the Foxface character (if you’ll pardon one more Hunger Games reference): the unassuming girl who everyone—audience included—assumes is weak and timid, but whose desire for basic revenge fuels her forward and allows her to poison anyone who stands between her and her goal.
These characters are not heroes, nor are they ever made out to be. Better yet, there’s no romance, aside from that necessary for manipulation, and the characters figure out pretty fast that in order to make it to the 3%, you have to work as a group. There’s no single face of the revolution, no Katniss Everdeen amongst these. That’s the best part, because as they slowly realize that the Offshore is not all its cracked up to be, it’s their combined talents that will be their salvation.
That is, of course, until they all reach the Offshore. There’s definitely something fishy going on over there, but as is the nature of these things.
So let the Games begin.