The social seize of Squid Game


I have spent the last 72 hours fully immersed in the world of Squid Game. The newly released nine-episode Netflix original currently holds the number one spot in television, and rightfully so. The clever games, deceitful players, and intense atmosphere make for an entertaining series. I must confess that I don’t have a taste for Hollywood violence, and initially, the unexpected murders made me nervous. “Is this going to be another ploy for filmdom money-making?” I wondered, accompanied by an eye roll. Although I am not a film connoisseur, I can determine if a show is worth my time. While, yes, there are expectedly cringy aspects of the show (like the arbitrary insertion of rich white people), the social commentary on Western society by Korean director Hwang Dong-hyuk achieves the unachievable. What began with uncertainty developed into a clear allegory for capitalism and a long-awaited one at that. With that said, do I think Squid Game is worth a watch? Short answer: No, and here’s why.

The idea for this article originated in FOMO (fear of missing out). In the Bi-Line story meeting, I contemplated recent events I could form into an unpopular argument— in short, I wanted a story that would make people mad. Ultimately, I landed on the Netflix show everyone on Reddit raved about. Unfortunately, Squid Game is best viewed in the dark. No, not in a dark room (although that might add to your viewing experience), but entering the series knowing absolutely nothing about it. This is proving more difficult because of the show’s popularity and because many people on the internet are becoming self-declared Squid Game meme creators. I would estimate that the mass media content associated with the show now reaches a larger audience than the show itself. In fact, I had already provided my English class with a description of the plot before even beginning the series. I cannot deny that I enjoyed the show regardless, but it made the experience as predictable as playing “I Spy” on a tree farm. 

The Korean children’s games utilized in the show initially seem to cater to a specific young audience. That is until you witness the first murder. Then you realize you probably shouldn’t let your nine-year-old watch this. Don’t worry, the first gruesome death takes place only a couple of minutes into the first episode, and the death toll only rises from there. Just like on a tree farm, the players are harvested one by one. The show is as bloodthirsty as the characters in True Blood. Although Squid Game is about people fresh in the coffin instead of out of it, it is still inevitably dominated by wealthy white people. Similarly, the anticipated reveal of the VIPs was simply disappointing. In the final episodes of season one, white men clad in metallic masks and luxurious robes offer only atrocious dialogue and cringe-worthy banter. Listening to the VIPs proved an exhausting feat. Moreover, the motive of the game culminates in a clichéd “we did it to feel something” trope. Despite the approach of multiple social issues within the show, Squid Game comes full circle with the VIPs betting on humans like horses, a conclusion that makes the audience want to jump off of the glass bridge. The ending lacks closure and falls flat, and it’s painfully apparent that this was a directive misstep by Hwang. One can only hope that the widely awaited season two will respond to the public’s vengeful demands. 

Literally speaking, a recent Twitter exposé of US-Netflix English subtitle translation for so-called anti-capitalist media, specifically Squid Game, has revealed severe alteration of certain phrases that attack economic policy. As most international television consumers know, it is more acceptable to watch shows in the original language with English captions. This maintains the cultural relevance of the show, the tonal inflections by the actors, and could help you learn a new language. While subtitles are usually reliable (i.e., every other Korean show on Netflix), the nature of Hwang’s series has made Netflix’s subtitling forever infamous. While I had a personal experience with subtitle censorship, Twitter user @YasminLG18 wrote, “started to watch the dubbed version— it was worse.” In case you didn’t get that, the dubbed interpretation is probably the epitome of Americanization. Unless you are reading this article in a communist country, the on-screen censorship is probably just as bad. 

The concept of Squid Game I have no problem with. The show explores important topics, incites conversation, and is relatively gripping. This Halloween, it was  a source of costumes for all ages, regardless of the content of the title. There’s no debate that the show is generation-defining. Is it worth a watch, though? That’s up to you.