‘Squid Game’ Is the New Netflix Phenomenon

Unless you are living under a rock, you have probably heard about “Squid Game” (or “Round 6”). The Korean drama took the world by storm this past week, gaining so much popularity it actually led a South Korean broadband firm to sue Netflix because of the network traffic surge caused by the show. The show’s premise is comparable to a mix between Hunger Games and Saw. A group of cash-desperate people are offered a chance to win a lot of money, if they make it through 6 games. What the players don’t know (until the games start) is that failure to “pass” or “win” the game means death. And so, lured in by the cash prize, the players are forced to compete in a series of high-stakes games where they risk their lives, all for the benefit of the  “VIP”s, disgustingly rich people whose idea of entertainment is watching poor people kill themselves. If you haven’t seen the show yet, be warned the rest of this review contains spoilers. 

Park Hae Soo as Sang-woo, and Lee Jung-jae as our protagonist Gi-Hun. The players get ready to start a new game. Netflix

The Netflix hit is on track to surpass even Bridgerton, becoming the biggest Netflix show in the streaming service’s history. The hype and popularity are for good reason. The plot is entertaining and well developed, the dialogue is well written (I hear it is even better in Korean), and the characters are interesting. It is difficult not to get invested in the story. Also, the show conveys an important message. It condemns classism and economic inequality. It criticizes the dehumanization of the working class, whose lives are treated as worthless and expendable by the elite. This commentary becomes very clear when the main character, Gi-Hun,  confronts the Front Man, a sort of host/organizer of the games.  Gi-Hun asks how they can stand to do this to people, and the Front Man casually says: “You like horse racing, right? You people are horses. Horses at a race track.”  Gi-Hun later angrily responds: “I am not a horse. I am a person.”  The show basically demonstrates, in a very extreme way, how little value society places on the lives of people in its lower rung. 

But the show is also surprisingly hopeful. At one point Gi-Hun is talking to Oh Il-nam, one of the people responsible for creating the game, and they bet on whether the drunk homeless man outside the window will receive help before he freezes to death around midnight. Oh Il-nam asks Gi-Hun, “can you still trust humanity to be good?” and bets him no one will come to the drunk man’s aid. Right as the clock strikes twelve, a police car or ambulance appears to help the drunk man.  At the same time that this happens, Oh Il-Nam takes his last breath. Gi-Hun turns to him and says “You saw that, didn’t you? You saw that you lost.” This conveys that there is still hope for humanity, there are still people who care and people who choose to do good. The drunk man receives help. Gi-hun, one of the few players who doesn’t compromise his morals throughout the game, wins. So the show is as much a plea for us to do better as a society, as it is a declaration that we can do better, and that there is hope for us yet.

The show is also a testament to the benefits of globalization. There are so many amazing movies and shows beyond those produced in Hollywood. The success of ‘Squid Game’ proves that there is a lot of great content out there for those willing to use subtitles, and that audiences today are more willing to surpass that one-inch subtitle barrier. 

‘Squid Game’ is a great example of how, by limiting ourselves to only consuming media created by the US or UK, we are keeping ourselves from experiencing a whole host of amazing content. Our world becomes a lot bigger, and by extension, a lot more exciting and interesting, when we allow ourselves to explore more of it. Thanks to technology and the internet, there is so much more of the world we can now see, so much possibility for exchange and connection that crosses borders, oceans, and entire continents.  So why not make the most of these technological advances and interconnectedness and experience different cultures? Watch movies with subtitles, listen to songs from a different country, try a recipe from a different cuisine. You’ll be missing out on some of the best things this world has to offer if you refuse to try art, media, food, etc. from other places. 

The show can get pretty graphic, but it is definitely worth the watch. The plot is amazing, the cast is stellar, and the show feels especially relevant in these dystopian times we are living in. So go watch the show if you haven’t seen it yet. 

All nine episodes of “Squid Game” are available to stream on Netflix. 

By Alice Braga

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