Squid Game is already the most successful Netflix series of all time. Ranking #1 in 90 different countries, the bloody survival drama is so popular, in fact, that a South Korean broadband company is suing Netflix to pay for network and maintenance costs.
Swarming apps like TikTok – the #squidgame hashtag has been viewed more than 22.8 billion times – the white-knuckle ride is completely eviscerating the zeitgeist, and will no doubt inspire plenty of gaudy Halloween costumes later this month.
But what on earth is Squid Game, and why is it annihilating all of its streaming competition?
Get in the van. It’s time to play.
What is Squid Game?
Set in contemporary Seoul, Squid Game offers 456 citizens the chance to win life-changing money by competing in brutal survival games.
And yes, all the losers are mercilessly executed.
We follow the story of Ki-hoon, a loving, debt-ridden divorcee and gambling addict hunted by violent creditors. Backed into a corner, Ki-hoon feels like he has no other choice but to enter Squid Game for a chance at redemption.
The stellar supporting cast is slowly fleshed-out over the course of the nine episodes in the series. There are cantankerous gangsters, a North Korean defector, an exploited Pakistani migrant worker, and even a senior with a brain tumour and absolutely nothing to lose.
You’ll find your allegiances constantly shifting throughout Squid Game, and if you don’t wipe away at least one salty tear, you must be wearing a pink hazmat suit.
What is Squid Game about?
The social commentary is ruthless. A stark depiction of the dog-eat-dog outside world, the Squid Game competitors are compelled to commit atrocities for a chance at the giant, gilded piggy bank levitating above their heads.
Obviously, the rigged economic machinations of society appear in Hwang Dong-hyuk’s crosshairs. Squid Game pulls no punches, the cruel inversion of childhood games juxtaposing child’s play with the harsh realities of adulthood and modern society. Beneath the lurid, candy-coloured visual palette, the body count piles up rapidly.
Although paying homage to its blood-stained cinematic forebearers – such as Hunger Games and Battle Royale – Squid Game carves out its own path with lethal precision, subverting the inherited conventions of the genre.
Typically, the dystopian premise is orchestrated by authoritarian or fascist governments. In Squid Game, however, the institution is controlled by a private entity seemingly watching for his own entertainment. Indeed, we’re willing to suspend our disbelief because we’ve already been introduced to thousands of reality TV shows that unapologetically cash-in on human suffering or embarrassment.
Mercilessly pitting people against each other for cash prizes is simply taken to its most logical extreme in Squid Game, and we’re all invited to participate by watching.
Korean Arts is the Real Winner of Squid Game
Squid Game represents yet another high watermark for Korean art. K-pop, alongside Korean cinema and culture, has been captivating audiences across the globe for years now, headlined by Parasite’s recent win at the Academy Awards.
Continuing the ultra-violent and dexterous storytelling of Korean classics like neo-noir Old Boy and thriller I Saw the Devil, Squid Game mainlines the brilliant characteristics of Korean cinema, and will no doubt spark even more interest and investment in coming years.
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