Media Beat: The bigger picture of “Squid Game”

The Netflix TV series “Squid Game” has dominated popular media for the past few weeks. Memes, Twitter chatter, and news outlets all seem to revolve around the South Korean drama series. Released Sept. 17 worldwide, the series was an instant hit, claiming the number one spot on Netflix just four days after its release. It’s a tense, disturbing, bite-your-nails-down-to-the-quick type of show that leaves viewers thinking long after an episode is finished. 

“Squid Game” is a fast-paced, dystopian-flavored drama series that follows desperate contestants that compete in deadly games for a cash prize. The premise is simple: win, or die. While this “Hunger Games”-esque series is undeniably entertaining, it also explores some darker social realities and the question of “How far would you go?”

Simply put, “Squid Game” reflects on capitalistic greed and its consequences. Players are in major debt and are willing to put their lives on the line to escape their painful, impoverished existence. Money is everything, and it becomes clear that the promise of it can lead people astray from their own values and morals. As the show progresses, we realize that all the players have their own backstories as to why they chose to play. But at the same time, the idea of choice is illusive in “Squid Game.” Indeed, players have made the personal decision to play, but did they ever really have other options? Players are reminded that they can always leave, yet life outside the games is hopeless. In a world where money is God, the ultimate reality is that you either seek out money to the point of extremity, or live an agonizing life of purposeless struggle. 

Meanwhile, players also must navigate the complexity of alliances and friendships amidst the fatal games. Though players are tied together by some metaphorical invisible string—their debt and resulting desperation—they still must view each other as competition, or obstacles to their success.

“Squid Game’s” popularity in a post-pandemic society is quite relevant. After all, haven’t we been living in “survival mode” the past year and a half?

For those who want late night TV binge and a taste of the darker side of capitalism, all nine episodes of “Squid Game” are available to stream exclusively on Netflix. 

 

linggi1@stolaf.edu

 

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