Netflix Flashback: Series 7, The Contenders

I remember when Series 7: The Contenders came out back in 2001, and I thought it was a terrifying premise for a film and rejected it outright.

You may not have heard of this film, and a lot of Christian viewers might reject the premise of a film that is about a reality show where contestants literally kill each other. I can understand that, but films that often don’t say their message are ten times as effective as films that do not, and Christian people really need to learn this lesson of subtlety.

It would be pretty sick world if we actually did watch a reality show where people kill each other, but is it really too far from the truth? This film came out in 2001, which was when reality shows were starting to come into their prime. Now reality shows are completely unavoidable, and Series 7 was ahead of its time as it uses the same method of presentation as all reality shows that came after Survivor.

Sure, we don’t watch people kill each other on reality shows, but we seem to have no problem watching people humiliate their opponents. I remember an episode of The Bachelor that was advertised with a tagline of: “Let the backstabbing begin”. How long will it take before these contestants start using actual knives?

Series 7, The Contenders is done in a format of a reality show, and it is essentially like you are watching an episode of this reality show. The world it takes place in seems as real as ours, and the Contenders don’t seem to be competing over money or love. It shows a world where these men in hoods show up at your front door, and give a contestant a gun. Apparently, people cannot refuse this “honor” of playing this game.

From there, it is about contestants who try to kill each other, and it’s “all real”. Actually, there is a character who claims that The Contenders is fake, but this is one loose thread that is never tied up. It’s probably better for this film to just introduce this element and leave it open-ended.

Apparently, this takes place in a world where the law would allow people with guns to engage in gang-like warfare in public places. In one scene, a character enters a shopping mall, and the security finds her gun through the metal detector. All she says is “it’s okay, I’m a Contender” and they let her in.

Yes, that is the type of world this is. The Contenders apparently does not care if its contestants are not ideal either. One of the contenders, Dawn, is in her last trimester. It is no spoiler in saying that any character you see in a film that is pregnant will give birth by the end of the film, and I’m sure you can see what is coming.

There is even a contender who has cancer, and he just happens to know Dawn. That is quite coincidental considering the game is supposedly random with a lottery to choose its competitors.

Yeah, there is a lot of stuff happening in Series 7 that the viewer has to fill in on their own, and that is why it works. The film is low-budget and violent (but not too much), but don’t let that stop you from watching it. One of the interesting things in the film is a character who is Catholic, but doesn’t seem to have any qualms about playing this lethal game. There is a scene where she is in a literal confessional, and suspiciously absent is that she does not confess killing people.

In short, Series 7 shows the psychology of how seemingly stable societies embrace gladiatorial death sports. It is worth seeing simply due to thematic nature of this film, but it isn’t easy to see. However, violent films do succeed, so what does this say about us as a culture?

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