‘3%’: Here’s Why You’ve Never Heard of One of Netflix’s Most Binge-Watched Shows

Let’s never forget Netflix has a strong presence around the world, including offering international shows that don’t get enough attention here in the U.S. When Americans find a premise they can relate to, though, interest often changes. Little did we know it would be in a Brazilian future dystopia drama.

The sci-fi series 3% has been a big hit through the Brazilian version of Netflix with three seasons already produced. Americans are just now catching up to this insightful look at a future where inequalities within the earth’s populace have whittled down to three percentage points.

Take a minute to learn more about this stunning show mirroring America’s own possible future.

Rodolfo Valente
Rodolfo Valente who plays Rafael Moreira in 3% | Mauricio Santana/Getty Images

A dystopian tale that borrows a little from other classic sci-fi

It’s arguably impossible to create a dystopian drama without pillaging from all other sci-fi shows and movies exploring similar themes. If you’ve caught 3% at all, you know the familiar tropes are only just small fragments compared to the bigger picture of what this show warns us about.

If you wonder what the title means, it refers to a form of Eugenics where the remaining populace of earth are thinned out in favor of the most intelligent. Everyone who’s just turning 20 goes through something called “The Process”, basically an intelligence aptitude test. Only 3% of the earth’s populace ever pass this test, giving them a chance to move on to an island paradise called “the Offshore”.

Yes, this sounds a little like the process of Carousel from the famous 1970s-era book and film adaptation Logan’s Run where everyone in the future turning 30 (21 in the novel) has to die for supposed renewal.

In 3%, things are updated to a more immediate and haunting parallel to where we are in the world now, with inequality rising too fast.

The Offshore as promised land most people will never reach

What better analogy for inequality is there than having a beautiful island to live on if you can prove you’re worthy to those who control everything? If you can also argue those with real talent are denied in today’s world (based on income inequality), then you can see where this show is coming from.

Thanks to the two main protagonists named Michele and Rafael, they’re able to overcome the Offshore and those running it. Down comes The Process as well, but it opened the doors to a further examination of how human beings can create failed societies.

On this front, it takes a little from The Walking Dead in that designed communities are crumbling under the internal politics of keeping fellow human beings in line.

By the show’s third season, 3% has been exploring territory similar to The Lord of the Flies, proving inequality can start to form even in small groups.

Will American viewers deem ‘3%’ a Brazilian Hunger Games’?

Finicky American viewers who think they’ve seen it all may think 3% is merely a Hunger Games ripoff told in Portuguese. You have to watch the show yourself to see how the familiar tropes are washed away through the astute and intricate plotting.

Seeing one society rebelling against a totalitarian society suddenly creating their own mini-society (ultimately called The Shell) is a haunting premise only countries like South America can handle with aplomb.

Everyone in America should check out 3% for a multilayered look at much of our own stateside problems of late. As the frustrations of inequality continue here, it may go on to prove other countries frequently understand America better than we understand ourselves.

Hopefully the English subtitles used in the show to reflect that message won’t be lost.