Squid Game is breaking the internet right now. The South Korean TV series is the latest sensation to come out of the country, which is on its way to become the most watched show on the Netflix. Within just two weeks after its debut, Squid Game ratings have already surpassed to those of widely-acclaimed romantic show Bridgerton.
While, on the surface, Squid Game is a violent/ dystopian thriller centered on survivalist instinct but it is much more than that. The show is about a group of desperate, back-to-the-wall, under-debt adults who agree to play in seemingly harmless children’s games for a life-changing cash prize. But there is a brazenly violent, sick twist to all this: They will die a gruesome if they fail to win the game, any game.
The show’s meteoric rise has inspired various TikTok trends where people are attempting to complete a range of challenges. Several online games have also sprung up and a pop-up shop in Paris where an actual fight broke out on its opening day.
A well-executed original idea almost always stands out on the screen but the Squid Game is founded in modern capitalist society, especially South Korea’s personal and housing debt problems; much like the theme of the Korea’s 2020 Oscar winner Parasite.
When we think about South Korea today, we think of cars, microchip production giant, technology, smart phones, k-pop and k-beauty. But it has not been always like this. It has taken decades for the Korean economy to get where it is today. Back in 1953, South Korea was one of the poorest nations on the planet earth. However, the fortunes began to turn in 1960s and 1970s as the country saw the beginning of an economic boom, which has not let up since.
Global tech giants like Samsung, LG, and Hyundai have made great strides in changing the economic landscape of South Korea. These companies are referred to as Cheoballs, meaning wealth clique, an exclusive band of companies that practically run the south Korean economy today.
While South Korea remains central to global technological expansion and, by extension, the world economy but the picture is still not that rosy for a lot of Koreans, and to be fair, an overwhelming global population.
Sounds familiar? Yes, capitalism and its quite irrefutable banes.
A common man in South Korea struggling to make ends meet is not just a Korean problem. And the Korean filmmakers seem to have identified the global appeal of the mutual sense of helplessness and desperation. But again, the appeal alone is never enough. What South Korean entertainment industry has apparently mastered is to astutely combine allure of the original and relatable and the aesthetics of masterful storytelling. It is because of this fantastic combination why shows like Squid Game and movies like Parasite are garnering the global claim.
There are appealing stories lying around every corner of the world, waiting to be picked up but, arguably, none is more pertinent than the societal desperation a capitalism-triggered class divide induces and the lines people would not cross to just barely survive the brutal realities of the capitalist global financial order.