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I Finally Watched Squid Game
Only a month after everyone stopped talking about it.
Spoilers ahead. But let’s be honest, you’ve already seen it.
You’ve probably had this exact conversation in your own home:
“Honey, have you heard about Netflix show?”
“Ugh, we have to watch it, don’t we?”
“If we want to be one of the cool kids.”
Well, maybe not exactly that, but you get the idea. After all, that’s how you ended up watching a show about roadside zoos, over seven hours of chess, and now…
I managed to never give in to the Bridgerton or Wandavision hype, but Squid Game really piqued my interest. Especially when it became the talk of my middle schoolers and the object of their worksheet doodles, I knew it was time to join the rest of the world.
I did start off a bit hesitant. After all, I felt like I had seen the fight-to-the-death competition/game show time and time again. And let’s be honest, we have…
I first read The Most Dangerous Game, a short story of big game hunters killing other humans for sport, when it was assigned in a middle school English class. It would have been right around the same time that the Hunger Games novels were really exploding and the movies were in the pipeline, so perhaps my teacher was trying to ride those coattails, (or maybe she just wanted to spook us. This is the same teacher that had us read Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Lottery’ in the sixth grade.)
When those movies eventually did come out, many criticized them for their similarities to Battle Royale, a Japanese novel and 2000 film with a similar premise.
The past decade has also given us rich people killing for fun with Ready or Not, The Purge franchise, and the most obvious Most Dangerous Game inspired film, The Hunt.
You get the idea. I’ve seen this before, right?
And once again, it’s an allegory for the dangers of capitalism? Aren’t they all?
The Purge took that commentary from parable to in-your-face in the matter of about two movies. And you can’t miss the lesson to be learned when Katniss overthrows The Capital.
And if the only other piece of Korean media you’ve consumed is the international mega-hit Parasite, you’ll recognize those themes there as well.
So isn’t this kinda been there, done that?
If we’ve seen all of these things play about before, then why were we so captivated by Squid Game?
Well, for starters, we love a competition show. Whether it’s a reality show or entirely fiction. I mean come on, Survivor is currently in its 41st season. Big Brother just wrapped season 23. And as for shows with a similar premise, how many different singing shows are there? American Idol, The Voice, The Masked Singer, I Can See Your Voice, America’s Got Talent, The Singing Bee.
The point is: We don’t care if it’s the same premise we’ve already seen — we love a good competition.
Same thing applies to Squid Game. We’ve seen The Hunger Games, but we want to see how this plays out anyway.
And we eat up a good, “What are you going to do with the money?” story. I’ve written before about my love for Netflix’s The Circle and those conversations are such a big part of that show’s finale. I’m going to buy a house. I’m going to pay off my student loans. I’m going to do something for my mother who did so much for me. And for the fictional contestants of Squid Game, winning means about $38 million in a brand new bank account. That makes The Circle’s 100K look like chump change. And when winning means 38 mil and losing means death, those stakes couldn’t be any higher.
Don’t get me wrong — Squid Game is still totally unique. From the distinct production design to the instantly iconic clothing (If it had come out just a few weeks earlier, every other trick-or-treater would have been in green tracksuits), you know Squid Game when you see it. I mean come on, all they did was take a circle, a triangle, and a square (which are less shapes and more letters — they are OJM, the romanized initials of Ojing-eo Geim, the Korean translation of Squid Game) and reinterpret some classic playground games. The genius is in the simplicity — which instantly created the iconography. That’s not an easy feat.
And the story that they delivered was full of twists and turns. Maybe I wanted a little bit more from the undercover cop subplot, a little less predictability of outcome, a little more from the female characters, a lotta bit less of that twist ending. And when it comes to the ending, I couldn’t help but agree with LeBron James of all people when he said “Yeah, I didn’t like the ending though. I know they start it off with a Season 2, but, like, get on the f — — flight and go see your daughter, bro. Like, what are you doing?” (Creator Hwang Dong-hyuk responded, “Have you seen ‘Space Jam 2?”)
But you can’t deny how successful the show was (it created $891 million in impact value for Netflix) or how well made it was. And LeBron’s right — we’re going to get a Season 2, no doubt. I had a fun time watching it and so did everyone else. I’ll be looking forward to that Season 2 when it inevitably comes. Until then, at least we have Tiger King 2 coming soon…