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 years ago
  • 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 years ago
  • 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 3 years ago
  • This is a very interesting question indeed. I would say that the suspense also played a role in its success. Plus, there is an interesting presentation of the characters who are different in their intentions in the game. You get to see those who make you feel uncomfortable or angry and those who make you feel like there is still hope in humanity. The emotional responses these characters have on the audience is what I believe made the show an international success. – Malak Cherif 2 years ago
  • Could also consider that the translation into English was far from perfect, apparently lots of the nuance was lost. However, it managed to be wildly successful in both forms. – JDWatts 2 years ago
  • I really just think people in the western world made it seem more popular than it was intended to become. I've seen this plot before in anime I've seen but it's more of a niche sub-genre. It took the average Netflix viewer by surprise because it's not something they watch, the survival game type of vibe. – jeet 2 years ago
  • It'd be interesting to discuss the cultural differences underwriting the themes. Western culture and entertainment are becoming more desperate for innovative content and turning to other languages and cultures to find them. Does this mean that Western content creation has been tapped out in terms of innovation and will be limited to endless remakes of the same stories, over and over? – PeterRogers 2 years ago

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.