If you have not yet seen “Squid Game,” odds are you have at least heard of it. The show has become the internet’s newest breakout success, with anyone and everyone shouting its praises. With striking visuals, a heart wrenching and encapsulating plot, and plenty of memes being spread around the internet like wildfire, it’s no wonder why this South Korean survival series has quickly become Netflix’s #1 show in less than one month. However, why does a show like this not only capture the hearts and minds of people from its country of origin, but audiences worldwide?
For the very few of you who have no clue what a “Squid Game” is, let me briefly explain. Ordinary people who are in extreme debt are given the opportunity to win 45.6 billion won (roughly 39 million US dollars) by competing in a series of competitive children’s games. The catch? The price for losing is your life. The whole ordeal is run by a very secret rich organization, and while I do not want to spoil anything as I think anyone who can stomach the violence should watch this show, twists and turns happen through the nine hours of content that will leave you on the edge of your seat the whole time.
After watching this show, however, I started to think about what it all means. The simple answer? Capitalism is bad.
The rich elites of the world pitting poor civilians who are down on their luck and desperately need the money against each other all for their enjoyment is a sentiment that hits close to home no matter where you live. From themes of taking advantage of the work of illegal immigrants to layoffs and protests of companies—these are all issues many people deal with daily, especially during these trying times of a global pandemic.
Many may think this show is a direct response to said pandemic, but the director and creator, Hwang Dong-Hyuk, has had this idea since 2008, over ten years ago. Ironically, this is the very year a separate death game that swept the nation was published: “The Hunger Games.”
Death games are nothing new to media. Many point out the initial spark for this concept to be “Battle Royale,” a Japanese film released in 2000 which was based on a book published in 1999. Since then, death games have spread from video games such as “Danganronpa” and “Mortal Kombat,” to movies like “Escape Room” and the aforementioned “Hunger Games,” all the way to television with, you guessed it, the insanely popular “Squid Game.”
The concept of the death game in media will never die. It is a fantastic way of showing the lengths people would go to for survival and is a great way of displaying class inequality, with most of the media having that as its main theme. And it looks as if this particular show’s popularity is not going anywhere.
Unlike most Netflix shows that explode in popularity only to fizzle out just as quick, “Squid Game” is still going strong well after one month of its release. You can still find plenty of people talking about it, theorizing, and getting excited for the inevitable season two. The use of its unique, colorful aesthetic—extenuated using visuals we associate with childhood like tug-of-war, playgrounds, and bright pinks and greens—juxtaposed against the brutal violence and dark themes it throws at its viewers is what gives “Squid Game” the edge over all other death game media.
“Squid Game” is one of the few shows worthy of the hype. It is a show that entertains while giving its audience much to think about. Netflix once again has a mega hit on their hands and many fans are very excited to see where the series is set to go. If you have yet to jump on the bandwagon and have a stomach that can handle severe violence, then this is your green light to go join in on this bloody good show!