Squid Game

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Squid Game: a Digestible Dystopia

Considering the recent success of Squid Game, what factors led to its popularity? The plot itself is one that – while unique, is perhaps not as haunting as less popular films and TV Shows. Is its more simplistic plot the cause of its international success?

  • I'd argue that, while the battle royale format is relatively simple, Squid Game is actually trying to make a fairly complex point about class and privilege. The contrast of simple surface/deeper content could be explored here. You can see online how often people misinterpret the point of the show (ex. "it's about having a go-getter mindset!"). Is it digestible because people are taking something from it without having to dig too deep? And are they taking the right thing? – SBee 3 weeks ago
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  • I agree with the above comment. Squid Game may seem simple, but it's underlying commentary on class and wealth cannot be overlooked. However, the gore, the bright colours, the flashiness of the game and the characters are attractive to viewers without having to dig too much deeper. – oliviatrenorden 3 weeks ago
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  • I agree with SeeB. I’d also like to see a consideration of how the national context also influences its popularity. There’s a transnational consumption of Korean culture as mainstream. I think there’s something there to explore. Is S Korea the canary in the coalmine? – ProfRichards 2 weeks ago
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Squid Game: Refreshing the Battle Royale Genre

As Squid Game becomes one of Netflix’s most-watched shows of all time and holds audiences attention far beyond the cultural scope of South Korea, it begs the question as to why this show resonated with people on an international scale? By no means is the concept of forcing individuals into a life-or-death game original, so what does Squid Game do differently?

In so many ways, Squid Game subverts the expectations of a typical Battle Royale story and refreshes a genre that had largely stagnated. In order to highlight these subversions, engagement with predecessors in the genre is a must; the original novel Battle Royale by Koushun Takami and its numerous adaptations (lending the death game genre the ‘Battle Royale’ namesake as a cultural phenomenon), the Hunger Games series by Susanne Collins, As the Gods Will by Takashi Miike, and other TV series like Liar Game and Alice in the Borderlands. The director takes inspiration from manga but the scope of intersectional engagement may become too wide if one crosses over mediums into manga, anime, and video games with death game narratives.

By comparing these predecessors with Squid Game, a number of distinct differences and focus can be found. These include but are not limited to: game structure and rules, consent and human rights, the role of debt and desperation, spectacle and dehumanization, and cultural specificity. While the director Hwang Dong-hyuk is cited as saying he wanted to create a series that was distinctly Korean, the international reception begs a closer look at what Squid Game is doing differently.