“Squid Game” has quickly risen to Netflix’s No. 1 spot since its Sept. 17 release and is on track to be the streaming service’s most-watched show of all time. But what’s all the hype around Hwang Dong-hyuk’s dystopian creation?
The Korean drama is centered around characters who are in major financial debt and whose lives have hit rock bottom. All 456 players receive and accept a strange invitation that offers a large cash prize for winning a series of children’s games as a final resort, but they are unaware that being eliminated from one of the six games results in a gruesome death.
Because of the simplicity to each game, audiences have the ability to dissect the bigger picture, like who are the mysterious masked hosts in red suits organizing the game? And how did the Front Man of this twisted operation bring his idea to life without getting caught? The series also locks viewers in with insane plot twists in its final episodes, sparking theories posted across the internet in hopes for a season two.
But the intriguing theories being discussed on social media platforms are not the only reason why this dark game show concept is exploding on the internet. In an interview with Variety Magazine on the show’s inspiration, Hwang explained why he believes this odd concept he was even unsure about at first was able to become the No. 1 watched show in over 90 countries since its release:
“I wanted to write a story that was an allegory or fable about modern capitalist society, something that depicts an extreme competition, somewhat like the extreme competition of life,” Hwang told Variety. “But I wanted it to use the kind of characters we’ve all met in real life.”
The richness and relatability of the characters that Hwang created makes it incredibly heartbreaking to watch the games unfold, but they are ultimately the reason why its viewers are still hung up on the show days later. Both the characters’ struggles and personal developments through this brutal competition mimic those of real people who become caught up within our own modern capitalist society.
Washington Post Reporter Bethonie Butler also wrote an analysis on the series on Oct. 4, 2021 titled, “Netflix’s intensely popular ‘Squid Game’ is worth the hype — and much deeper than its chilling violence.” Her points set aside the striking action and violence of the show by opening up a more chilling debate on the show’s popularity:
“Thankfully, the ultraviolent thriller — in which people participate in children’s games with a deadly twist — is purely fictional,” said Butler. “But like reality TV, it’s a window into how human beings treat each other and what we’ll do to succeed or, in this case, what we’ll do to survive. And people can’t stop talking about it.”
Seeing the effect of human behavior when placed under intense pressure is the catalyst to this show’s exponential success. Yes, the concept of a game-show leading to death is entirely fictional as Butler points out, but is the competition aspect of it truly out of our society’s reach? Friendships and morals are put to the test in this “every man for himself” situation, and has viewers wondering the lengths they would travel to for monetary success and victory.
“Squid Game” mirrors our money-hungry society driven by competition and displays how much (literally, how much) it will truly take for humans to turn their lives around and become genuine individuals. The tragic part is that the majority of the players in this game do not get the chance to go out and make that change, displaying how short and unimpactful one’s mark on the world can be. This show is certainly not an easy watch, but its cryptic message allows for audiences to analyze their adjustment into adulthood before it’s too late to make their mark.