The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
*This article contains spoilers*
“We are people, not [race] horses…” notes Netflix’s South Korean executive Minyoung Kim about the relevancy of Squid Game. Whether we’re aware of it or not, a social obsession for status and wealth is constantly jabbing away at our humanity. Some people will work themselves to death in the race to be an elite, and some people will watch as others kill themselves trying to catch up. For a series that needs no introduction, the Korean survival drama Squid Game has been sitting comfortably in Netflix’s number one slot in more than 90 countries, not just for its ineffable plot and its candy-colored scenes, but also for its realness and relevancy to the real world.
So what does Squid Game have to do with the real world? Let’s start off with the director, Hwang Dong-hyuk’s, topic of cheating. We’re all guilty of it; minuscule or not, we’ve all put our success before the fairness of others. In this series, some players are secretly given hints which allow them to win the games with much more ease. This isn’t just used for a really good plot twist, the director is making a nod towards the barbarity of major corporations. Like the characters, they will stop at nothing in order to ensure their own success. The cheating is a commentary on how unfair it is that these companies get richer and richer while they watch others suffer. A clear-cut example of this is how we watched as the wealthier countries were able to supply COVID vaccines with ease whereas third world countries have been scrambling trying to hold their own. The playing ground isn’t even and there are definitely players in our world that have been given a major advantage when it shouldn’t be that way.
Now if you received major deviant energy from the VIPs in the show, it’s because you’re absolutely correct. In an interview with HuffPost, the director note’s that the VIPs are intended to reflect someone like Donald Trump, and when commenting on his presidency, “It’s almost like he’s running a game show, not a country, like giving people horror”. When the players in the series figure out a way to cross a glass-paned bridge without falling, the VIPs switch the game so that they would have to continue dying. This is the director’s commentary on how once the little guys figure out a way to get to the top, the rich will change the rules because then it’s no fun for them. A prime example is Trump bashing on representative Ilhan Omar, who has been gaining a lot of public support, claiming that she supported the terrorist group Al Qaeda; it was a complete lie but that didn’t stop him from smearing her name. It’s this outright abuse of power that the director wants us to reject.
But as we confidently point our fingers at those above us, the director grabs our hand and points it straight at us. The series consists of people competing in a series of Korean-based children’s games. The director knew that bringing these out would invoke feelings of nostalgia, of innocence, and of peace—all to which he would then completely tear apart and stain with violence. In the competitive society we live in, adults can be violent, and when you place an adult in a kids game, well the outcome is seen in the show. This is the director’s way of commenting on how as we grow older we lose our innocence and our trust. We become guarded, distrustful, and full of hate. The director asks for us to take a moment to save the bit of humanity we have left and expand on the things we love.
The director Hwang Dong-Hyuk has continued to accept interviews to talk about his powerful creation, and in each interview, he makes clear what it is he wants people to get from this series. Besides the obvious call out of a capitalist society, he wants us to not forget the humanity within us. With that being said, this isn’t just another series you watch in one sitting and never talk about again, these are all real-life experiences that people like the creator of Squid Game have had to endure. Seriously, let’s keep it relevant.