3% is a Brazilian TV show which originally started as a YouTube series. It was then bought by Netflix and was running for 4 seasons between 2016 and 2020.
3% is a dystopian thriller set in Brazil in the distant future where the world has suffered a terrible catastrophe. The population is now divided between the 3% of people who live on the Offshore – beautiful, rich paradise island – and the 93% of the people who live on the mainland in poverty and ruins.
However, when a young person turns 20, they can take part in the Process – a series of logical, physical and personality tests. If they pass successfully, they are deemed worthy and get to join the 3% of people and live happily ever after on the Offshore.
The show includes a few different plot lines, a lot of action and plenty of twits. All in all it is quite entertaining, while also dealing with important themes such as inequality, social justice, and human value.
The story features a variety of characters with different agendas and back stories. Each one of them has a unique role in the plot and gets its own screen time.
The characters’ personalities are built slowly through the episodes in series of flashbacks. So you never know anyone’s motives, what they would do and why, and this keeps the show trilling. It is also fair to say that there aren’t just one or two main characters. The different episodes are dedicated to different people, giving you the opportunity to get to know them all.
3% is praised for its diversity and not without a reason. The characters differ not only in their aspirations, but also in gender, race, sexual orientation, social background, abilities and disabilities. Through their eyes we experience various emotions related to marginalization, the burden of family expectations and need of approval, and the desire to belong.
Not all characters are likable, and not all of them are right all the time. They are nuanced, complex, they grow, change, and switch sides. Thus, as a viewer you will be surprised by how emotionally invested you may become in their stories.
Themes and twists
The main theme here is inequality. Although set in the distant feature in a post-apocalyptic world, the story hits too close to home somehow. Today the gap between rich and poor keeps widening and leading to unprecedented economic challenges. The rich are getting richer; enjoy longer and healthier lives, while many people struggle in fulfilling their basic needs. In recent years the stats show that close to a billion people live in slums or in extreme poverty.
This is how a Friday night Netflix & Chill can actually open our eyes to global problems that are far from fictional. I have always thought that the scariest dystopian movies are not the ones that are the darkest but the ones that are closest to reality. 3% is one of those and as entertaining as it might be, it is also terrifying.
The second big word here is justice. Many, if not all, characters struggle to find or create justice. However, each one of them has a different understanding of what is just. Are the smartest people that deserve more, or the strongest? If you contribute to the development of a community today, does it mean you have the right to stay in this community if you are not useful anymore? What makes you worthy as a human being? What is merit? What is duty? Is there an ethical way of gaining power? Is there a system that can benefit all?
Finally, the show touches on some existential questions related to human nature and psychology. What makes us thick? Do we need hope to survive? Are we inherently selfish?
In this context the show explores really big themes such as governance, privilege, economic development, inclusion, environmental awareness, sustainability, morality and many more.
3% may not be that original as it is inspired by dystopian books like 1984 by Orwell and Brave New World by Huxley, but it is far from a cliché or being predictable.
3% is made for entertainment, and the plot can become somewhat cheesy at times, but overall it is an intelligent take on familiar concepts. It is all about storytelling, philosophy and character development, rather than sci-fi effects and action.
In addition, the show is absolutely beautiful with stunning cinematography, gorgeous costumes and artistic shots. It is ambitious, and bold, and definitely worth a try.