If you missed watching the show, or following the comments circulating about it online, you must have heard about Squid Game.
The thriller and violence Squid Game has attracted the attention of millions around the world, and has set record viewing numbers since its launch on the Netflix platform two weeks ago.
The story of the Korean series is about a survival game in a brutal context. Squid Game is now rivaling American drama Bridgerton for the top spot in the most-watched original series on Netflix ever.
Although the idea of the work is not very new, the skill of the photography, the composition of the characters, and the attempt of the creators to probe the depths of human nature – are among the factors that have attracted an audience for Squid Game from around the world.
Massacre in a playground
In Squid Game, 456 characters in debt and frustration stand a chance of winning nearly $39 million on the condition that they win a series of six killer games – the loser is dead.
However, the games are simple; They are children’s games that the contestants may have played in their childhood. Perhaps what attracts the viewer is the mixture of the innocence of childhood games and the bloody desire to win the huge financial prize of people burdened with debt.
“The irony of desperate people risking their lives to win a children’s game is what attracts the audience,” says Dong Hyuk, director of the series.
“The games are simple and easy, so the viewers’ eyes are drawn to the contestants’ characters more than to the rules of the games,” he added.
Another attraction is nostalgia. This includes the challenge of dalguna, which is loved by Korean children, and was talked about in the third episode of Squid Game.
In the challenge, each contestant must cut a piece of candy no thicker than a thin paper, using a needle, with the cut-out portion having a specific shape.
If the contestant managed to cut off a part of a very complex shape, but the piece of candy cracked or broke, then the contestant is considered a loser.
A Korean viewer commented on Twitter, “Squid Game made me crave dalgona again after nearly twenty years of not eating it. Is it still there? I don’t think I’ll find one.”
Characters like you and me
There are critics who attribute the success of the series to its characters, most of whom suffer from social marginalization. What unites these personalities is that they are all burdened with financial burdens, yet they represent various types of personalities of human society.
The hero embodies the character of an unemployed man who gambles and suffers in order to gain the respect of his family, and through the events of the series, the hero meets a young fugitive from North Korea who drags behind him a life tragedy, and he also meets another young Pakistani who was suffering from mistreatment by his manager.
“People, especially the new generation of young people, who are alienated in real life, show sympathy for Squid Game characters,” says Kim Byung-gang, professor of global cultural content at Sangmyung University.
The series highlights the competitive aspect of the character of the South Korean, among other characters in the neighboring East Asian countries.
In South Korea, despite hard work, not everyone can secure a good university degree or a good job.
Although the loser in Squid Game games is killed, the series offers an alternative to real-world rivalries, but on a fair basis.
In the words of one of the contestants in the series, these words are: “All participants in the game are equal. We are giving the last chance to win a fair competition for people who suffer inequality and discrimination in the world outside this game.”
Western media has compared Squid Game to the Oscar-winning 2019 Korean film Parasite, which highlights wealth inequality and social inequality.
In East Asia, viewers have compared Squid Game to the Japanese movie As The Gods Will, citing similar details to the point that some have suggested art theft.
But the director of Squid Game denies these accusations, saying that there is “no connection” between the two works, and that the similarities are due to the nature of the issue at hand.
Dong Hyuk explains, “I started planning for Squid Game in 2008 and wrote the script in 2009… The similarities mentioned are purely coincidental, and there is no transfer between the two works.”
Whatever the case, the success and controversy raised by Squid Game, prompted many to demand a second season for the series. But it looks like the masses will have to wait a long time for that to happen.
Dong Hyuk told Variety, “I didn’t envision a second season of Squid Game. Just thinking about it is exhausting.”