lizcommotion: a hand drawn/colored happy cane (disability cane happy)
[personal profile] lizcommotion
I thought I was done with the genre of "dystopian shows where a group of young adults compete for survival/resources."

Then I watched The 3% on Netflix, and oh man I want so much more of this show. I have ALL THE FEELS.

First off, some background on the show. Basically, it's about a society where at age 20 people go through "The Process" to decide if they're one of the 3% eligible to live among the elite who have all the resources. This is supposed to make the society fair, because everyone has a chance in this meritocracy, and no one inherits a spot on the Offshore. Mostly what it does is poke at the idea of a perfect meritocracy, and make me think many thoughts about exploitative for-profit colleges. There is also a resistance group (La Causa) working to undermine The Process.

It's a Brazilian show, so unless you speak Portuguese, subtitles are a thing. (This is actually good for me, I process shows better with close captioning or subtitles anyway. YMMV.) There's a racially diverse cast because I think they used Brazilian actors; there's an array of hair types/skin colors. Pretty sure most of the racial subtext is written for a Brazilian audience/understanding of what race means, so I only caught some of it, but it seemed well done to me. A fairly decent blend of genders (though not so much with the queer/trans rep.) ALSO there is a wheelchair user on this show and honestly most of my feels relate to Fernando.

Most shows that feature a disabled character either have them as a side-character, or someone who is inspiration porn, or maybe someone who has a magical disability and thus doesn't have to deal with most of what being disabled is like.

The 3% enters my previous list of "two TV shows and a movie" that speaks to my own experience of disability. Also FWIW I'm not currently a wheelchair user, although they would come in damn handy in museums if it were not a gazillion spoons to actually find one and if they actually had good wheelchairs not crappy for the public ones.

Anyway, the 3% is not perfect, but I'm still catching my breath from that moment of "seeing my feels onscreen".*

Spoilers ahoy (mostly for Fernando's arc).

Fernando has a fully realized story arc, complete with back-story and a love interest with a fade-to-black scene. His father is a religious preacher who spends little time with his son. Most of his energy is devoted to preaching the wonders of The Process. Fernando starts the story 100% believing in this system, and feels that the only way to win his father's approval is to become one of the 3%. He still has Super Complicated Feelings about whether or not he actually loves his father. 100% Relatable.

One of the steps in the Process is a medical review. Some of the other participants are not-so-secretly hoping Fernando will get eliminated, thus giving them less competition. After all, he uses a wheelchair (because he's parapalegic, btw). How can he possibly survive? Won't he just slow the rest of them down?

There's a big flashy red light when Fernando goes through the scanner and my heart stopped because I was afraid that this was going to be yet one more show that said "hey disabled people, you're totally going to die in our dystopian future." BUT THEN a doctor pulls Fernando aside, gives him a shot in his back, pokes him with needles, and declares that if he makes it to the Offshore he will be able to walk again "with time and a lot of treatments." Then Fernando has a few minutes where he can feel his legs again.

Later he tells a friend, and she's very happy for him. He's quiet and then asks why she's happy. I should probably find a clip and just save it to my computer because it's...very real for me. He tells her that it took him years to accept that he would never walk again. That if he's going to make it to the Offshore, he needs to have his head in the game. He can't possibly focus if he's thinking about whether or not he will walk again (or whether or not he wants to). That he's perfectly capable in his wheelchair, that's what he wants to show. He just wants a better life, basically.

As an aside -- whether people want a cure for their disability/chronic illness is totally individual and up to them. AND I think that most narratives we see in media are people who DO want a cure, or parents who want a cure. Having a person say that they're okay with not having a cure is really powerful. Also, I personally get pretty messed up whenever I think I might have found some miracle cure, and it totally messes with my head. SO. It was really good, for me.

The next test in the Process involves dividing participants in groups of 7, and telling them to pick one person to send back Inland. One person is unpopular because he's a cheater, but he helped the group pass the previous test. Someone mentions Fernando, because again, there's an idea that he will slow them down. And Fernando almost accepts it, there's this moment, and his friend is hissing in his ear "aren't you going to tell them?" So he tells the group that the doctors think he can make it to the Offshore, and if he gets there he can walk again, and please don't take this chance away from him. So the group doesn't vote him out.

His friend is again happy he made it through, and he gets mad again. Fernando is upset that he had to play the disability-pity card to get through, because he wanted to make it on his own merits. Plus he technically lied because it's not that important for him that he get this magical cure. He hates himself for doing it, but also he wants to keep going.

I won't go into everything that happens. Those are just the bits that hit me in the gut with "You get me."

*For the curious, other shows that are relatable to my experience of disability while maybe not being 100% perfect because of say, fatphobia in the MCU one, are: Switched at Birth, Marvel's Jessica Jones, and the indie film Take Care.
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