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[Herald Interview] 'The 8 Show' questions capitalism's class system

By Lee Yoon-seo

Published : May 27, 2024 - 09:20

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Han Jae-rim, the director of Han Jae-rim, the director of "The 8 Show" (Netflix)

The director and one of the actors of Netflix's original series, "The 8 Show," sought to criticize capitalism today while asking how far creators should go in the pursuit of entertainment.

Based on popular webtoons "Money Game" and "Pie Game," "The 8 Show" follows the stories of eight contestants in dire financial straits as they strive to earn money in a mysterious reality variety show. The participants are trapped on separate floors in an eight-story building, where they accumulate money simply by passing the time.

Director Han Jae-rim, known for hit films such as "The Face Reader" (2013) and "The King" (2017), said he intended to criticize contemporary capitalism by portraying the characters on different floors as emblematic of capitalism's different social classes.

For instance, the character on the first floor represents those who are severely disadvantaged, while the character on the eighth floor symbolizes those born into wealth, Han explained.

"The 8 Show" also reflects Han's internal struggles as a director.

"In the past, the audience tried to find meaning in the content they watched, and they critiqued works that raised questions for viewers to ponder," said Han, during an interview with a group of reporters held in Jung-gu, Wednesday.

"However, now, viewers have no problem with content created solely to provide entertainment, and they even show a preference for those types of content," he said.

"I pondered about the role I should play as a creator of content in a world where everyone is addicted to dopamine," he said.

"The 8 Show" is rife with scenes in which the participants engage in explicit performances, including nudity and violence, to increase their earnings in the game, as additional money is doled out based on their ability to entertain the viewers, who watch them through CCTV cameras.

The explicit scenes came under criticism from viewers who said the show is explicit to the point that it is uncomfortable to watch.

Responding to such reviews, Ryu Jun-yeol, who played the series' narrator as well as the third-floor resident, said that the plot was designed to raise questions about the extent to which content should strive to be entertaining.

"When we engage in conversations regarding the pursuit of entertainment in content, it's unavoidable that uncomfortable scenes will emerge. In 'The 8 Show,' we explored concerns that both viewers and creators should consider," said Ryu during an interview with a group of reporters held Thursday.

Ryu Jun-yeol (Netflix) Ryu Jun-yeol (Netflix)

Ryu said he focused on getting the audience to empathize with his character.

"In my recent works 'Alienoid' and the 'Night Owl,' the focus was on expressing my emotions. However, in this series, I prioritized having the audience relate to my depiction of my character," said Ryu.

"I thought of the role of the narrator as that of a middleman between the characters on-screen and the audience. Therefore, while acting the character, I tried to go back and forth between the characters and the audience to lessen the distance between the two," he said.

All eight episodes of "The 8 Show" are available on Netflix.

A scene from A scene from "The 8 Show," starring Ryu Jun-yeol (Netflix)