The show, which Netflix chief Ted Sarandos stated is on track for becoming Netflix’s most-watched Trending TV Series, has dominated charts around the globe, providing a striking proof positive of Netflix’s global strategy. It’s encouraging that so many people are interested in a project with subtitles or dubbed, but it is not unusual for people to flock to a project that allows them both.
Hwang Donghyuk designed “Squid Game”. It depicts a contest with 456 entrants in which unlimited wealth is available to the winner of a series of brutal, fatal events. These stages were borrowed from children’s play areas, which lends a simple irony to how brutal they are. In the first stage, where competitors move after “Red Light”, more than half are shot.
More than half of the competitors are killed in this scene, with “Squid Game,” a company that is not afraid to show its emotions. At the same time, violence feels intimate and personal. While competitors are brutally beaten to death, shooters are either masked employees of the game (or, as in the case with Red Light, Green Light a robot doll). Random functionaries are responsible for the death of players, but we don’t know much about them. Through the use of a detective, we slowly learn that the players are completely bought-in into the game, following their rules and believing in the game with rigidity.
This simple fact, those game makers and gamers are both bound by need and a strange loyalty towards the rhythms and competition is straightforward. It is structurally sound and appears, at first glance, very clever. The show’s early episodes have a similar structure. Survivors are given the chance to leave following the bloodbath. They end up returning on their own because they so desperately need the money. These characters represent an interesting cross-section from contemporary Korean culture. They include a North Korean defector as well as a Pakistani migrant worker. We now have to face the hard realities of their lives at home and in the Squid Game. The Squid Game’s infinite odds of survival might be better than any modern society.
This is just a starting point, and the series has little to no future development. “Squid Game,” however, amplifies itself inexorably, increasing the stakes of the game and the level to which it is cruel. Its first salvo of hundreds of dead bodies is difficult to top. But it goes over the line with displays of brutality by players, which alternates schematically with their amazing acts of kindness. Hwang Donghyuk, the show creator, has stressed that he wrote and directed the series’ script in 2008 before he encountered similar projects like “The Hunger Games” film and book series. Comparing the two shows, I would argue that “The Hunger Games”, the series, indicted the audience more. This may explain why the final installment was so popular and why it is rarely discussed today. Nobody wants to hear that they are wrong for what they love. This was the more flattering 2019 film, “Joker”.
As here, violence is shown flatly. The embellishment comes from the elaborate trappings of death and gore. Murder is made into a religious icon to raise the stakes of a convoluted political discussion without offering a solution. Both “Joker”, and “Squid Game” have the idea of economic equality floating around in the air. “Squid Game”‘s broad cross-sections of the modern Korean subclass are ultimately seen more as characters or avatars of unluckiness. In both cases, the meticulously constructed visual landscapes — namely, 1970s-Scorsese tribute and playland-Esque neons, and rustic imagery from childhood — appear to have been created to be disturbed by death. It’s important to note that much of “Squid Games’ nostalgic visual palette comes from Korean culture. This is an aspect about which a white American critic doesn’t have a good grasp.
The series reveals that the Squid Game is not only there to harvest human organs from the dead, but also for amusement for wealthy chattering people (some of whom are depicted as white Westerners) who have placed bets on the outcome. The first episode is the most interesting. Remarkably, the series was able to show how the human body can be disassembled more directly and humanely. The second episode seems to lack irony and even meaningful appreciation for the fact that the show encourages its viewers to do the same things as the loathed observers. For example, one-man shows up at the Squid Game viewing parties and immediately begins to threaten and violate a young functionary. This leads to an attempt at coercive sexual sex.
It is telling that the show insists that people who watch the Squid Game for entertainment have morally compromised views than those who watch it for entertainment. As with “Joker,” there is a trying-to-have-it-both ways insistence that violence-producing cultures are inherently sick and deranged. The show plays out an overstated version of sick derangement in a way that is maximally tense, amusing, and entertaining.
Spectatorship of real-world violence and fictional violence differs from spectatorship, even before Hwang’s dramatic script draws it out. It might be easier to recognize that distinction if the bodies were being slaughtered for an idea that is more interesting than inequality. The game’s architect and the winner of the season concluded that it was designed to entertain and show if people can be good. He believes they aren’t, despite seeing many of the participants display teamwork, selflessness, and cooperation. However, he was also personally betrayed in the end by the winner of the game, so his emotions may not be as raw.
As a justification for the 455 bodies, this feels painfully thin. This is perhaps the point. Those who play The Squid Game are subjected to the banalest, juvenile philosophizing of all those who, through lucky breaks in their lives, can determine the reality of everyone else. It is not surprising that this show has been so successful if you take it literally. The show spent so much time and fake blood to create a character-based investigation into goodness. The viewer is assured that he is doing something noble by enjoying fictional death. The viewer can enjoy gruesomeness, while simultaneously tut-tutting at the system that creates it, and rooting to its downfall. This is a double pleasure. It’s the feeling of being able to enjoy a show while also presiding over it.