Netflix’s latest original series “Squid Game” has captivated a global audience earning the number one spot on Netflix’s global charts.
“Squid Game” tells the story of game show contestants who play children’s games against each other — to the death. These contestants, carefully picked by the gamemaster, are people whose quality of life is at stake due to massive debt and financial issues.
What on the surface seems to be a typical survival show is actually a think piece on the common person and the disparities of wealth. Each character in the show represents a real-life dilemma that may affect any person within a society.
The protagonist, Seong Gi-hun, is a deadbeat father and a gambler who spends his mother’s money on betting. Although not an upstanding citizen, he’s not an altogether bad person, and is even one of the kinder contestants in the game.
Kang Sae-Byeok, a fan favorite, is a North Korean defector whose brother is in an orphanage and whose remaining family members are still trapped in the North. Cho Sang-Woo is a protege turned fugitive after stealing money from his clients at a security firm.
Another important mention is Abdul Ali, an immigrant worker from Pakistan on the run after trying to get back money stolen from him by his employer. His biggest motivation is providing for his family, making for greater empathy between him and the viewer.
The series comprises nine episodes, each about an hour long in length. As the show progresses, the tension and the complexity of the characters increase. The audience is left shocked as “Squid Game” holds nothing back, showing how the gamemaster and his workers don’t hesitate to abuse the players both physically and emotionally.
There is a parallel in which viewers see how the privileged use the underprivileged for their own entertainment, and how that plays out in the real world. We witness how these players voluntarily partake in a game where they are likely to not survive, because, to quote one of them, “out in the real world, life is more tormenting.”
Not only does the show touch upon universal themes, it also depicts the very true fears that exist among South Koreans. In a study published by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, it indicated that those with a low socio-economic status and those going through financial crisis during economic downturns are more likely to commit suicide.
Additionally, an article by Pulse News states that “young adults are pushed to rely on secondary or third-tier lenders or loan sharks to pay for schooling, living or starting business because they are often denied from banks due to the poor credit score and lack of economic activities.”
Knowing that this age group is vulnerable, loan sharks will target students who are in desperate need for money, similar to how the gamemaster in the show targets those who are pushed into a corner.
With that perspective in mind, “Squid Game” paints a horrible picture for the viewer, not simply through its more gory scenes, but through its seamless ability to take the worries of the audience and place them on the screen for the entirety of the world to see.