Netflix’s ‘Squid Game’ Violent, Captivating Korean Drama Explores Choices and Consequences

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(LR) Park Hae-soo, Lee Jung-jae in ‘Squid Game’ / Netflix

Squid game is about to pass Bridgerton as Netflix’s most popular series. But, while the sexual antics of Shonda Rhimes Regency did not interest me, Squid game got me pretty quickly.

In the nine-episode series, which ended in mid-September, various underprivileged people in South Korea are tempted to play games in the hopes of winning a huge cash prize. But losing at these games costs you everything.

Who created Squid game?

Well-written, sleek and captivating, it’s the creation of South Korean writer-director Hwang Dong-hyuk, who says he first came up with the idea in 2008 when he himself was in dire financial straits. . He lived in internet cafes, read Japanese manga (comics and graphic novels). He is also a fan of Japanese anime.

Some of these works feature people involved in deadly games, but Hwang’s innovation was to use simple children’s games (more on those here).

In an interview with Variety, he said:

“I wanted to write a story that is an allegory or a fable about modern capitalist society, something that portrays extreme competition, much like the extreme competition of life. But I wanted him to use the kind of characters we’ve all encountered in real life, ”Hwang said. “As a survival game, it’s entertainment and human drama. The games described are extremely simple and easy to understand. This allows viewers to focus on the characters, rather than being distracted trying to interpret the rules.

East Squid game Just about greed and exploitation?

Some critics agree with Hwang that Squid game (available either dubbed in English with Korean subtitles, or the original Korean version with English subtitles) is a critique of capitalism and the exploitation of the poor by the rich.

It’s not really subtle that the money the characters play for falls into a giant piggy bank above their heads, to the sound of chiptone chirpy music.

But it is not that simple.

No matter how serious the circumstances, each character has the freedom to make choices. The fact that many of them made bad choices that brought them into this circumstance doesn’t mean that there weren’t, or still are, options.

In the struggle for survival, some act nobly, some with cowardice, and others with outright wickedness – and some are not what they seem at first.

The game also claims to give every player a fair and equal chance – a good reminder that while we’re being honest with ourselves, we really don’t want life to be fair and each of us to get what we truly deserve.

What is happening in Squid game?

Squid game focuses on Seong Gi-hun (Lee Jung-jae), 47. After being fired from his job in an automobile company during a violent strike, he lost his wife and daughter to another man. Now, deeply in debt to the gangsters, he plays with the money he steals from his sick mother, with whom he lives.

At a train station, Gi-hun meets a well-dressed stranger who strikes up a conversation. At first, Gi-hun pushes him away, thinking he is a Christian evangelist and claiming that he comes from a long line of Buddhists.

But, the stranger seems to know Gi-hun’s problems and offers to play with him. When Gi-hun finally wins, the offer comes later to join the bigger games.

Gi-hun and the other 455 players are gassed unconscious, only to wake up in green tracksuits, bearing numbers, in a stripped dormitory. Money issues and desperation got them there, whether it was a hijacked graduate (Park Hae-soo) from a prestigious university, or a North Korean refugee (Jung Ho-yeon) trying to get her brother out of an orphanage and her mother out of the north.

When classical music plays, they are ushered into vast settings designed to play seemingly simple games, which feed off their fears, their hopes, their best angels, and their worst impulses. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, an infiltrator and a lucrative ploy threaten to expose the entire operation.

Just so you know Squid game is bloody and violent. There is sexual content and a brief female upper body nudity, as well as some foul language (not sure how accurate the English translation is).

Also, in the dubbed version, the effort to match the mouths ends with a few odd lines of English dialogue which I’m sure are best played in the original language.

Christianity in Squid game

Squid game also has an ambiguous relationship with Christianity.

About 29 percent of Koreans are Christians, with about three-quarters Protestant and one-quarter Catholic. After Gi-hun confuses the man who approached him as a preacher, there is also a Christian player, Number 244, who frequently refers to God and faith and returns to prayer.

This earned her the contempt of a young player (Lee Yoo-mi), from an abusive Christian background. Ultimately, however, she understands the concept of sacrifice better than most other players.

Additionally, a pivotal moment in the series takes place on Christmas Eve, and you can interpret that choice however you like.

Although there are deep moral questions raised in Squid game, it can be hard to watch, and it’s definitely not for the whole family. All episodes are currently available on Netflix.

Image: Netflix, photo credit: YOUNGKYU PARK

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