By Kassidy Hart– The Netflix original series, Squid Game, was released on September 17th and it has been the subject of every conversation since. Whether or not students could stomach the gory scenes of adults playing child games, it somehow still becomes the center of many conversations.
Squid Game follows the life of Seong Gi-Hun, played by Lee Jung-jae, who has been left by his wife and daughter, is in crippling debt to loan sharks, and is also a gambling addict. The show starts with all his winnings from a bet on a horse-race being stolen by pickpocket Sae-Byeok, played by HoYean Jung. As he is sulking in a subway, a mysterious stranger in a black suit asks if Gi-Hun is interested in playing a game. To agree, he picks a blue envelope, and this is the beginning of his journey for the possibility to play a series of games and win 45 billion dollars. Everyone who has agreed to play, including Gi-Hun, was unaware of just how high the stakes were when they agreed to play – revealing a lot about the impoverished population when they agree to stay and continue playing.
As you watch, and I mean REALLY watch because you can’t look away, the series goes on and it’s clear that a lot of social commentary is happening. The players of the game demonstrate the evils that result from poverty as the VIPs show the evils that wealth can bring. The children’s games represent adult’s loss of innocence, and the red workers show the robotic-like make-up of a capitalism society driven by money. These commentaries are shown through a satire and melodramatic script and are common in popular Korean films, especially ones surrounding themes like the impact of capitalism on modern society. So, it comes to no surprise to Korean narrative fans that this series follows a similar path.
Before viewers begin the series, they should note there can be a language and cultural barrier that has been off-putting to some. It was originally written and produced with Korean dialect, so not only do the English voice-overs not match up exactly to the lip movement, but there is also some meaning that is lost in translation as well. Multiple Korean-fluent people have shared, via the internet, that the botching of the subtitles can compromise viewers’ understanding of the true message.
Another barrier could be the lack of knowledge of games the players play. The six games that are played are classic playground activities that almost every player understands the rules of before they begin. The games are: “Red Light, Green Light,” “Honeycomb Candy,” “Marbles,” “Tug of War,” “Glass Bridge,” and “The Squid Game.” I personally had only heard of two of these games and will admit I am still confused about the last one shown but, nevertheless, their role in the show was clear to me – child games that have lost their innocence.
After finishing the series, it is interesting to see the different theories and comments presented online about it. One of these includes a Tik Tok in which the content creator theorizes that the choice of the envelope offered by the front man to Seong Gi-Hun may have determined whether he was a player or red-worker. One comment I found especially interesting was that the writer said it took him 10 years just to find a company that would produce the show – attributing this to the changing times and acceptability of violent television.
Overall, I found the show to be one that made you really consider social issues and socioeconomic positions. It was empathetic to the main characters, giving them a backstory that gave more value to who they were – as they were no longer only a criminal. Because of this, there were a couple deaths that I certainly shed a tear over, though I knew it was inevitable. The ending also held a huge plot twist, which I was not 100% on board with, as it took away from prior sentiment actions, but I somewhat understood the connection.
The series is one I would recommend to my fellow peers to check out, only if they aren’t too squeamish when it comes to murder and blood. It presents thought-provoking topics and captivates your attention through a fast-paced plot.
The series earns a 4 out of 5 from me.