October 2021, Opinion, Previous Issues

‘The Squid Game’ lives up to the hype

South Korean drama “Squid Game” has quickly become one of the most talked-about shows on social media. Netflix has even described it as the “biggest-ever series at launch.”

Since its September debut on Netflix, the dystopian drama has been watched by 111 million accounts. It has also taken the No. 1 spot on Netflix’s Top 10 lists in 94 countries. As a result of the show’s increasing popularity, the United States now has a Korean series in this spot for the first time.

“Squid Game” is composed of nine episodes that begin with the story of Seong Gi-Hun. He is a divorcee grappling with a gambling addiction and constantly sinking further into debt. After encountering a mysterious man who invites him to play a risky game with a significant cash prize, Gi-Hun accepts and is blindly taken to a deserted island. He finds himself in a dormitory with 455 other players who are all in similar desperate positions. The contestants compete in a set of dangerous games of ethics, will and brainpower.

So why are millions of people watching, talking about and even creating memes of the show? Although it resembles films like “The Hunger Games” and “Snowpiercer,” the series challenges the audience to contemplate how well their morals can withstand the temptation of millions of dollars. “Squid Game” could become reality in today’s economic and political climate. More people are talking about how far people are willing to go when they are deeply in debt.

It may be easy to disagree with the actions of a character, and even criticize them when you are not in their exact position. While watching, I found myself understanding exactly how a gambling addiction can destroy one’s life.

The visual aesthetics also play a critical role in the success of the drama. Director Hwang Dong-hyuk masterfully juxtaposes elementary settings that show bright colors and exaggerated sizes with the grim truth behind the games.
The characters are a purposeful combination of familiar and new faces in Korean drama. Each actor plays their role well, with some making it difficult to distinguish the character from the actor. The unique costume coordination consists of classic Korean gym class uniforms with some that resemble video game characters.

Hwang’s careful pacing and cliffhangers highlight why many, including myself, find the show easy to binge watch.

— Shappelle Marshall