Netflix’s Squid Game Captivates The Nation


Courtesy of Netflix

Squid Game is a very popular Netflix show.

Chloe Miller, Co-Culture Editor

“Squid Game,” a South Korean television series, was released on Netflix on Sept.17, though it began garnering major international attention in early October. Ted Sarandos, co-CEO of Netflix, announced that “Squid Game” is on track to become Netflix’s most-viewed series. Written and directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk, the nine episode series revolves around Seong Gi-hun, a divorced dad and gambling addict, as he competes in a contest that could pull him out of debt. 

Like Seong Gi-hun, 456 desperate and impoverished adults agree to participate in the contest, which consists of six rounds of gameplay based on popular children’s games. From all over South Korea, the contestants have varying life stories, though they are all in debt. Contestants include an old friend of Gi-hun’s, a woman who mugged Gi-hun and a Pakistani migrant worker. 

Living in one communal room, all contestants wake up, give consent to play in the games and start their first-round: red light, green light. Almost immediately after the game begins, the contestants become aware of the nature of the contest. If one makes a mistake or fails to follow the rules, they get shot. Simple, right?

There are multiple subplots throughout the show, including the reasoning for the games and unlikely friendships and alliances that occur while playing. The episodes follow the six games that are played, eventually leading to a victor (in a very Hunger Games-esque fashion). 

“Squid Game” questions how far one would go in the pursuit of riches. Dong-hyuk focuses on issues of social class, the human desire for wealth, friendship and death. The main commentary is clearly on modern capitalist societies. Although the contestants initially give consent and are told they can stop the games if a majority agrees, they are lured under false pretenses. They are given the allure of a democratic society that is quickly exposed as corrupt.

Many may question how a South Korean TV series filled with violence and pessimism towards society attracted nearly the 142 million households that viewed it. Part of the draw could be the lack of series due to the pandemic, the rise in the obsession with Korean culture or even the desire to not be left out of the conversation. 

“I feel like Squid Game got popular because people are drawn to things that are bizarre and dystopian,” sophomore Ryan Maloney said. “Things also spread really quickly through word of mouth and online. It’s a social thing.”

Other students were drawn to the fast pace of the show.

“The series really kept me on my seat and it was really hard to watch just one episode given that each episode had so much to unpack and typically left off on a cliffhanger,” junior Olivia Mulchaey said. “I enjoyed that the show had some realistic aspects that made it seem like this could happen in our world today.”

After a year of drought in television due to the pandemic, people are itching to watch anything new and exciting. It was perfect timing for a show like Squid Game to rise in popularity. Although it took director Dong-hyuk 13 years to get the show he wrote in 2008 to screen, the wait was well worth it.