Warning: “Squid Game” is rated TV-MA and contains graphic violence, sexual content and mature themes.
By now you’ve likely heard of “Squid Game,” the new Netflix show in which contestants compete in childhood games in order to score a big cash prize. The show has become a viral sensation, as Netflix shows often do, with memes, viral TikToks and so much social media discussion that it’s hard to ignore.
Your curiosity might pique about the show. It’s everywhere. It seems to be the show of the moment. But let me tell you — “Squid Game” is a deep dive into the darkest parts of the human psyche, involving a competition with deadly consequences for the loser.
What is ‘Squid Game’?
“Squid Game” is basically another version of “Battle Royale,” “Lord of the Flies” or “The Hunger Games.” It’s a survival-style show where contestants need to win the day in order to avoid being murdered.
Creator Hwang Dong-hyuk said he came up with the idea after reading manga and manhwa (which are Japanese and Korean comics, respectively) with themes like those you see in “Battle Royale,” according to Variety.
The main character of the series is Seong Gi-hun (Lee Jung-jae), a chauffeur who is addicted to gambling and will do anything to survive. The opening episode shows his gambling on full display, which leads him into serious trouble. So begins his journey into the Squid Games.
Each character competing in the games has a problem at home. Some are in serious debt and some have challenges that makes their lives difficult.
The first episode offers all the lessons you need. If you’ve watched “Battle Royale,” “Lord of the Flies” or “The Hunger Games,” you’ll get the idea. Gambling can lead you into debt. Major debt can put you in the wrong crowds. The wrong crowds can get you murdered. So it’s probably best not to steal money from your mother so you can go gamble on horse race as Seong Gi-hun does in the first episode.
Is ‘Squid Game’ popular?
“Squid Game” has become the most popular Korean drama in Netflix’s history, according to Vox. And it is currently on pace to beat out “Bridgerton” as the most popular show in Netflix history. Seriously.
That means people of all ages are seeing this show. For example, Roblox, a video game often played by children, has a number of “Squid Game” knockoffs, according to Polygon. Specifically, there are knockoffs for games such as “Squid Game” (a unique game included in the show) and “Red Light Green Light” (that old-school game you’ll probably remember, which is also featured in “Squid Game”).
So yeah, it’s more than just a Netflix show. “Squid Game” is a viral sensation that is showing up everywhere across the internet, and it will only continue to spread with more awareness.
What is the ‘Squid Game’ message?
Clearly, the show wants you to see its message that capitalism and debt can lead to major problems. One of the characters is a graduate student buried in debt. Another is trying to salvage enough money to rescue her brother. There are so many people buried under debt.
“Squid Game” wants you to understand that debt is a major issue in our lives. And indeed, it is one of the biggest problems people face today. According to 2018 data from the Federal Reserve, Americans have more than $1 trillion in credit card debt combined. And Americans have more than $2.8 trillion in nonrevolving debt (like loans).
Viewers can witness the problems associated with debt from the first episode. You can see the problems of gambling, betting, stealing and murder. After the first and second episodes, which show the lives of the characters and the problems they face, you’re left with nothing but a dark competition show where people die. You might as well watch “The Hunger Games” for the same messages.
The memes of “Squid Game” are fun to see. The first few episodes give you enough understanding so that the internet jokes make sense. But the show itself is nothing but a macabre look into the psyche of what humans will do to survive and what they will do to get themselves out of debt. It’s an even darker show because there are plenty of characters who would rather see people around them die so they can get out of the holes they’ve dug themselves into.