If you’ve been on the internet at all over the last month or so, you’d have heard about the extremely successful Netflix original series, “Squid Game”. If you haven’t watched it yet or have never heard of it, it’s a Korean mini-series directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk. The show takes place in South Korea, and throughout the nine episodes, it follows Seong Gi-Hun, an imperfect father with an even more imperfect family and a severe gambling addiction.
WARNING: there are spoilers of the first episode ahead, so stop now if you haven’t seen the show yet. One day whilst at the train station, a man approached Seong and suggested they play a game, using Seong’s gambling problem to his advantage. The unknown man gave Seong a business card with irregular symbols and a phone number. Seong Gi-Hun calls the number, leading him to his misfortune. He wakes up in a giant-warehouse-type room with bunk beds and hundreds of other prisoners all wearing jumpsuits, each labeled with a number. Shortly after his arrival, the games begin.
All 456 players were instructed to move into a game room, leading them up a spiral staircase to a room reminiscent of sand dunes. Once up the stairs, the players faced their first challenge, a giant creepy doll all the way to the far end. The players were instructed to play red light green light and if any motion was detected from the doll…. the moving players were instantly eliminated and killed.
After the game, everyone became aware that the more people who die, the more money that adds to the winner’s prize. Alliances formed in a desperate attempt to make it out alive. This is when we are introduced to Kang Sae-Byeok, a teenage girl who needs money to help sneak her mother across the North Korean border. We are then introduced to a fan favorite, Ali Abdul, father of a struggling family. After that, we meet Cho Sang-Woo, who was an already familiar face to Seong. Cho Sang-Woo was a graduate of one of the best schools in South Korea his life went downhill as he fell into debt. Lastly, we meet Oh Il-Nam, an old man who was the first person to register for the game.
This was one of the biggest and most expensive Netflix original series ever, costing an estimated 1.5 million to 2.5 million euros per episode, with the actor playing Seong Gi Hun raking in $216,000 per episode.
The general public and the majority of social media has loved “Squid Game.” What started off as a Korean phenomenon quickly became an international sensation. But why did it become such a hit?
“Squid Game” became a hot topic on social media for its “memeability”. Some of the challenges were relatively easy to replicate and people took it as a personal challenge to see whether or not they would survive (Rosenblatt). Others were amused by the seemingly childish challenges that yielded such deadly results. Hundreds of thousands of videos were made of people singing the children’s songs from the show, dancing around, and imitating characters.
Another major contributing factor to the success of “Squid Game” is the rise of foreign media in the United States. Over the past few years shows from Europe and Asia alike have dominated the entertainment industry. The anime, manga, and K-drama crowds alone are gigantic, let alone the horror show scene. Adding in the scary, psychologically thrilling aspects of murderous games to an already well-loved genre of shows was fuel to the fire, leading to what is one of the most well-to-do shows in Netflix history.
Once returning to the mysterious place where the players are held captive, there are only more and more plot twists and crazy things to come. This show is strongly recommended as the 9-episode mini-series takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions as your feelings about characters change at a moment’s notice.