Squid Game, Netflix’s Korean thriller, has taken the world by storm. Since its release on Netflix in late September, it is what nearly everyone is talking about. From Tiktok trends to replica outfits on Amazon, the obsession with this show is worldwide and it’s no wonder. Here’s our review of the incredible Korean show.
WARNING! THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS!
A commentary on today’s society, Squid Game is one of the most realistic T.V shows ever. The criticism of capitalism as well as the illusions of ‘civility’ makes the audience question the lives they are living and whether they will be playing that game soon.
456 people, all in countless amounts of debt, join the games to play for some life-changing money. A seemingly great opportunity, all players are excited but curious when starting the first game, Red light, Green light. The rules are simple: when the doll is facing the tree, walk towards her but when she turns around, players need to stay still. Any player found moving is out. Little do players know that being ‘eliminated’ means being killed by the mysterious guards. This starts the 6 vicious and violent games, killing all but one of the players.
But this isn’t just a commentary on dystopian ideals. It seems that this isn’t some dystopian fiction that is so far from our lives. Today’s society is only a few steps away from the reality of the show. Reality T.V shows like Love Island or I’m A Celebrity are fun to watch but at the expense of who? And how far will it go?
A long time coming
Now known as the most popular and successful Netflix show to ever grace viewers screens, Squid Game is number 1 in over 90 countries, every single country Netflix is available in. It is a complete phenomenon, one that even director Hwang Dong-hyuk couldn’t have predicted. Hwang started working on the thriller in 2008 and was rejected countless times before Netflix finally took it on. Even weeks after its release, people are still talking about, still theorising, still wanting a season two.
So many positives come from the success of the show, one being the viewing of the show in its original language with subtitles. So often, international dramas aren’t viewed the same way as English or American shows. Having these T.V shows and films in the mainstream can only help integrate them into our culture and society. Thinking back to 2019, the buzz and excitement created by Parasite’s Oscar win cemented the film as one of the greats. Things can only get better.
Fans may have to wait a little longer for season two though. Director Hwang has stated that the thought of Squid Game 2 is ‘quite tiring‘ as the production of the first season was so stressful that he lost six teeth.
Moral of the story
It’s interesting when looking at the main characters in their first and last scenes of the Netflix show. Gi-hun, a seemingly useless father and son, gambling his money away and losing his daughter isn’t someone the audience particularly likes at first. However, throughout the series, Gi-hun demonstrates to us how good of a man he is. He is kind and loyal to Il-nam, which makes the brutal revelation in the final episode hurt so much. He offers his drink to Ali, forever grateful that he saved him in the first game.
We meet Sang-woo, an old friend of Gi-hun, who has lived a completely different life. Top of his class at Seoul National University, as Gi-hun constantly reminds us. He is intelligent and self-aware, being one of the only players to have read the contract as shown in Episode 2. Sang-woo is also quick, especially when it comes to the different games the characters endure, and yet doesn’t give any information out. He keeps things from even Gi-hun, someone he has known a long time. He is the game for himself and that is apparent throughout.
It’s interesting that these two characters, who started off the same, took different paths but still ended up in the game. Hwang himself has mentioned how he modelled these characters from the two sides of himself. They are two different sides of the same coin. Gi-hun, who still sees Sang-woo as his friend, would rather forfeit the money. He wants the two of them to go home. He sees this as the best way to honour those who died. Unlike Gi-hun, Sang-woo would rather sacrifice himself. He knows Gi-hun can’t bring himself to kill him and allow him to take the money. If what all 456 people have been playing and fighting for has gone, what was the point of it all?
Who is the real villain?
When the audience meets Jang Deok-su it’s clear that he is one of the main antagonists. He’s harsh, brutal, and quite scary at times. Pitted against Gi-hun and the main characters, he is one of the villains. Another character, Sang-woo, who was once a friend of our protagonist Gi-hun, is also positioned as a ‘bad guy’ for being ruthless and wanting to win. But are they really villains? Is it really their fault? Can we blame them?
If anyone, even people who weren’t in debt, were given the chance to be rid of all their worries and troubles, wouldn’t they take it?
The blame can’t be put in the player’s lap, but the creators themselves. The idea that this is a charitable act, giving these poor souls a chance at something life-changing, is almost laughable. It may seem like a wonderful thing for the players at first, but every player is changed by the experience. People may be brutal, ruthless, cruel but to kill another person purely for the money? That is something else.
But this act isn’t charitable or a chance for the bourgeoisie to help the so-called ‘needy’. The whole point of the game is for a week of entertainment. The V.I.Ps are a perfect representation of how damaging and ignorant the upper classes are. In real life and fiction.
Weaknesses or strengths?
The idea of appearing weak is something that is constant throughout the Netflix show. Characters have to hide any sign of weakness. When we first meet Sang-woo he is wearing glasses, however, when players come back after voting to leave, his glasses have gone and the man himself seems to have changed. When players must choose a team of 10 before the tug of war, the female players are apparently weak and therefore useless. Ali, who has a disfigurement due to an accident at work, is told to hide his hand away when recruiting players to join their team. The idea of not being masculine enough or being viewed as weak is the worst thing possible for many of the players. This is a clear criticism of toxic masculinity.
Every single one of the players is in a way weak, in the eyes of the upper class who watch the games for fun. Their apparent weakness is particularly true when even after voting to leave the game and go back to their lives, almost every single player comes back. The Front Man and V.I.Ps know many players will, and are happy they do. They can continue to play with these people’s life, purely for their own entertainment.
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