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What Makes Squid Game So Captivating?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

TW: Mention of Death

Even if you have not watched the show or gone through the thousands of memes flooding social media, you have probably heard of Squid Game. According to the Wall Street Journal, Squid Game is on its way to beating shows like Bridgeton and Lupin to the be most viewed show on Netflix.

The show revolves around 400-odd people burdened by debt taking part in a fictional game show where they play children’s games like Red Light, Green Light. However, this is not like any other game show; it is more adequately described as a “survival” show. If you lose, you quite literally die…BUT the winner of the game emerges with 40 million dollars!

As expected, corpses soon pile up as contestants play against each other for the mega cash price. The show is filled with gory details; for example, the first episode itself features a massacre. Many critics have labelled the show as “disturbing” and many watchers of the show have talked about how certain parts of the show have given them recurring nightmares.

So, despite the gory and disturbing nature of the show, why is it that so many people have continued watching the show? How is it that it has become the first South Korean show to reach number one on the Netflix charts?

Realistic elements

Even though the idea behind Squid Game might seem very farfetched, the reality of the world however is quite close to how the show portrays it. Sure, we don’t have a game show where people kill each other for money, but how far away actually is the modern world from the show? Not very and perhaps this reliability is one of the scariest aspects of the show.

Hwang Dong-hyuk talked about this in an interview, where he said that the disparity between the rich and the poor is the greatest it has ever been and the pandemic just brought this out even more; “The world has changed,” Hwang said. “All of these points made the story very realistic for people compared to a decade ago.”

As the show unfolds you realize that the show is hosted for the entertainment of a few rich men, which again is not far from the reality of the world we are living in. Billionaires are going to space and controlling government decisions around the world. Just today the Pandora Papers were leaked, which named celebrities and world leaders like Vladimir Putin, King of Jordan, Kenyan President, Nirav Modi, Tony Blair, Pakistan PM Irfan Khan and many more to have been using offshore accounts to move their money without having to pay tax cuts.

We live in a world where people will kill for money, and if you don’t think this is true, you have not yet come to terms with the harsh realities of the world.

Makes you Question

Another reason for Squid Game‘s success is the ability of the show to make you question your own choices in the world. It questions the much-debated “illusion of choice” in the capitalistic economy, that is, do we really have a choice in the world?

As each of the games in the show plays out, we watch sitting on the edge of our seats for any signs of mercy or cruelty…to understand what a person on the brink of death is capable of.

It searches for an answer to one of the most terrifying questions – when pushed, what are our limits? What would we do? The chilling brutality of this question and it’s even more horrifying answers have most of us hooked.

Dark Humour

Many have drawn parallels to Parasite, the Oscar-winning South Korean movie which dealt with the rising poverty levels in Korea and showed the levels to which people will go to enjoy the world of the ultra-rich. Just like the 2019 movie, even Squid Game mixes dark humor with unexpected gore.  

The Gen-Z kids have grown up loving “dark humor”, jokes about everything from school shootings to societal collapse. Humour has given us the method to combat traumatic situations and episodes in our life, it has opened up backdoors to revisiting disturbing memories without triggering them. Squid Game uses dark humor and nihilistic ideas to appeal to the younger audience.

Someone compared Squid Game to watching a car crash and I could not agree more – even if you wanted to, you just can’t look away. The show may not be the most enjoyable thing to watch, but it is probably one of the truest portrayals of ourselves out there.

Aditya is a freshman at Krea University, where he is looking at a prospective major in History. He really enjoys writing (especially poetry), sports and talking about and watching the weirdest movies.
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