Netflix’s 'Physical:100' viewers question buff bods of contestants

A scene from ″Physical:100″ [NETFLIX]

Netflix’s “Physical:100,” a reality television show featuring one hundred contestants in “top physical shape” competing for a crown, is gaining attention — both good and bad. Accusations of steroid use among contestants, displays of machismo culture and violence during competition events have surfaced on social media.

While “Physical:100” has climbed to first place on Netflix’s rankings of non-English language shows worldwide, online controversy regarding the content of the reality television program has also gained steam. “Physical:100” is a tournament show with a hundred contestants performing various tasks throughout episodes — often involving sparring, fighting and displaying their physical attributes.

The controversy online centers around two points. First is the allegations of steroid use among some contestants.

“This show is not ‘Physical:100’ but ‘Roids:100,’” reads a comment left by an anonymous user on Twitter. “If the show’s producers had actually done a proper steroid test on all the contestants before they started filming, they could have sorted out most of the current contestants.”

As “Physical:100” is not a regulated gymnastics or sports contest mandated by the Korea Anti-Doping Agency (KADA), some viewers have criticized the negative comments on the show themselves as being overdramatic. “'Physical:100’ is just a reality show, so what is the problem?” reads another post on an Instagram page by an apparent fan of the show.

Main poster for ″Physical:100″ [NETFLIX]

However, steroid use for enhancing physical performance in sports is firmly prohibited under Korean law. KADA, established in 2006, upholds and enforces the World Anti-Doping Code and International Standards to regulate the use of steroids in the country, and operates a committee with the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety to oversee illegal use of steroids — especially in sports competitions.

No official investigation has been launched into the alleged steroid use by the contestants participating in “Physcial:100,” but accusations are not dying down. As the show is a Netflix original, it is hard to gauge the general responses of viewers — Netflix does not have an online commenting system or viewer board where audiences can leave complaints or objections as Korean domestic broadcasters do for their shows.

“I think something should be done about the allegations and an investigation needs to be launched,” said a viewer, who spoke to the Korea JoongAng Daily under the condition of anonymity. “I am a bodybuilder myself — not by profession, I like to exercise and build my profile in my spare time — and to me, it is obvious that some of the contestants have employed at least some sort of ‘help,’ so to speak, from drugs. There is a certain amount of muscle and physical performance that you can build up naturally within a given time. It is questionable to me whether that was the case with people in this show.”

The producers of “Physical:100” could not be reached for comment through Netflix.

Two contestants spar in an episode of ″Physical:100″ [NETFLIX]

The second point of controversy related to “Physical:100” is regarding the apparent display of machismo culture and violence between contestants on the show. As the contestants perform the various tasks and quests during the episodes, scenes with them fighting each other and showing graphic collisions were broadcast.

This aspect was criticized most when the violence displayed was between a male and female contestant. In one particularly controversial scene, a male contestant, Park Hyung-keun, a professional mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter, and a former Ultimate Fighting Championship commentator, was seen pushing down on and appearing to grab and crush the breasts of Chunri, a female bodybuilding coach and Physical Culture Association (PCA) Asia World Champion.

Online commentators on social media were outraged. Viewers leaving their thoughts on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and various online communities accused Park of taking advantage of fighting a female contestant and being unnecessarily aggressive.

While Chunri herself clarified on her official social media account that the sparring between her and Park was a fair fight between two professionals and that viewers should not escalate the controversy into a gender issue, over a thousand comments were left on one post alone on a popular online community regarding the scene, with a number of comments calling out the producers of “Physical:100” for intentionally creating controversy in order to gain viewers for the show. This accusation was mainly due to the fact that the scene in question was included in the main teaser and trailer for the show.

The intent of the producers aside, online responses toward this controversial scene has itself created another battle between Chunri and viewers. A number of comments making derogatory and sexual remarks about Chunri have gained attention, and the bodybuilder has announced that she will take legal action against such commentators.

“I have loved exercising and bodybuilding for the past 20 years and this is my profession,” Chunri wrote on her Instagram. “I did nothing wrong and did nothing to harm others. These comments regarding me are unsubstantiated and defaming. I will take the necessary legal action. Do not underestimate the power of the Korean cybersecurity investigators.”

″Physical:100″ contestant and professional bodybuilder Chunri [SCREEN CAPTURE]

With all this controversy and mudslinging, “Physical:100” has definitely seized the attention of Netflix audiences and the public. The word on the street is that over a thousand people had initially applied to participate in the contest — as the total prize money for the last remaining contestant out of the hundred is up to 300 million won ($235,610).

The final episode of “Physical:100” is set to be released on Netflix on Tuesday. A second season of the show is also in the works, according to local reports. Whether the program can climb above not just the streaming service rankings but also the controversies engulfing it remains to be seen.