Is squid game really that good?
Squid Game is the newest craze to sweep across the global media. It's a Netflix original series created by South Korean writer and director Hwang Dong-hyuk.
The first season has just been released and I think I can speak for myself and others when I say "I have definitely binged the nine hour-long episodes"! The series follows a group of desperate, in-debt individuals as they play a series of 'children's games' to win a huge pool of prize money.
What's it all about?
Of the 456 players, the story stars Lee Jung-jae who plays Seong Gi-hun (player 456). As a divorced impoverished gambler who struggles to get by, Seong Gi-hun's character presents endearing and kind hearted qualities while providing insights into the true human condition inside of us all. The series explores the challenges that every day people can face and an array of reasons that cause them to put their life on the line for the games. Among these issues, the series looks at neighbouring discrimination towards a North Korean character who fled with her brother, gang violence, health conditions, debt and financial hardship. While inside the 'game', the players soon realise and negotiate what they can get away with as alliances form and cruel behaviour emerges.
Is it just another piece of pop-culture?
There are probably hundreds of reasons why the series has taken off but in a nutshell, it is an attempt to tap into global audiences by Netflix and it is filled with numerous nail biting moments! I personally found the first episode to be slightly slow but after the second episode, I was engrossed in the characters and the high stakes scenarios of the games. Before watching the series, I was mindful of the fact that friends and family had told me it was really good. At first I questioned if that was the reason I was watching it. Was it just because 'pop culture' told me it was good? I think that in my search for individualism, I can often reject popular ideas or embrace them in an effort to shape my individuality and feel in control of it. Even if I am watching a series because all my friends and family are talking about it, there is something valuable in being able to engage in discussion about shared ideas and experiences.
Why I enjoyed the series!
Although I have heard about the series critical acclaim, especially for how it explores class and wealth inequality, I personally found this to be rather cliched and lacking nuance. What kept me glued to the screen wasn't a deconstruction of the wealth and class systems that oppress people (I often find this rather hypocritical coming from conglomerates like Hollywood and Netflix). It was the suspense and horribly intense scenarios that kept me coming back for more. Although I found the selling of the 'global elite' narrative to be framed for audiences to not think critically about the vast integrated and historical wealth systems that have and hold onto power in society, I loved talking to friends and family about the themes and ideas in the series and having some in-depth conversations.
Prior to watching Squid Game, I was aware of the violence and gore throughout the series. So, it wasn't exactly a shot when the countless deaths took place on screen. I usually can't stand media that is gory and stresses me out. I like programs that make me laugh and relax and act as very much an escape from the world. In the case of Squid Game, my heart was constantly beating faster and on this rare occasion I really liked it.