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Warning: Spoilers for The Circle are in play. If you haven't seen the movie, and want to remain unspoiled, please bookmark this page and feel free to wander off to another one of our articles in the meantime.
During the marketing push for writer/director James Ponsoldt's The Circle, the film was made to look like a straightforward "villain / hero" paranoia tract, with Emma Watson being pit against Tom Hanks' tech magnate in charge of the latest, greatest social media monster. Really thinking about the marketing for this film, you can't help but figure that the folks in the marketing department either had no clue how to market this film, or they slyly misled the audience on purpose.
I say this, because once I'd gotten out of my screening of the film this weekend, a thought came to me loud and clear. While the film is about the supposed villainy about all-encompassing social media, there are three vital parties that are responsible for The Circle winning in the end. And when you get to its ending, it seems like the question of who the real villain of The Circle is happens to be a multiple choice scenario. Which means, we have to ask flat out, who's the true villain of The Circle?
Now obviously, a case could be made that Bailey and Stenton, the duo respectively played by Tom Hanks and Patton Oswalt, are the baddies at the top. They're at the head of The Circle throughout the whole film, and they use the company to conduct all of the shady shit of which they're a part. From buying politicians to monitoring their employee "family," they built the empire to what it is today. So almost anything that comes out of the company would certainly be at their hands.
However, there's the scenario that paints John Boyega's Ty, the mysterious creator of The Circle, and its progenitor, TrueYou, as the head honcho of heinousness. For starters, without TrueYou, The Circle would have never happened. Solidifying a person's digital identity was the basis for creating a more secure social network, which leads to more confidence in everything from legislation to integration of such a platform into everyday life. Most importantly, Ty's totally working within the framework of The Circle, and could have stopped or sabotaged it at any moment. But he didn't, until someone asked him to.
That someone is Emma Watson's Mae, our last competitor for the title of the true villain of The Circle. While Ty may have created The Circle, and Bailey and Stenton may have built it up into what it was at the beginning of the film, Mae proposed the crucial ideas that turned it into the all-encompassing horror we came to know towards the end of the film. But is taking the tools that someone laid out for you and running with them really as bad as building those tools, or reforming them into the weapons they've become?
Well, now that you've read all three scenarios, feel free to create your own opinion, and join us on the next page to see just who I think the true villain of The Circle is.
Surprise surprise, Mae is the true villain of The Circle. In fact, the crucial push of the second act is the transformation of the formerly skeptical Mae into the full bore team player she winds up becoming. That transformation comes at a pretty high cost, as she not only spoils her relationship with her parents and her best friend, she also gets someone killed because of the SoulSearch tech demo she conducted, proving that finding someone outside of The Circle is easier than you'd think. Mae gave The Circle the push it needed to become what it was by the end of the film.
Even though she tried to derail Bailey and Stenton's plans by pushing for their full personal transparency, this pretty much dooms the world to constant, invasive surveillance. Whether it be Mae, or someone else, at the head of The Circle, who's running the company, the policies she pushed for will help ensure that personal privacy is a thing of the past. Not to mention, her brilliant idea to require people to vote through their Circle profile, as well as allow random civilians to track supposed criminals, are both dangerous tools to have laid down in the wrong hands.
Mae may have awoken from her power hungry / workaholic drive to make The Circle the dystopian starter kit it became in the end, but by that time, it couldn't be stopped. At any other point along the line, revealing Bailey and Stenton's dirty laundry might have worked. But by time she submitted her bright ideas to the inner workings of the platform, it was way too late. If Mae thought she was ever going to kayak without her loyal fans watching her through social media, she had another thing coming. And it's all because she had a couple brilliant ideas.
The Circle is in theaters now, in case you want to give it a watch. And weigh in with your own theories below!