Squid Game on Netflix is the latest binge-worthy show that the popular streaming channel has offered its viewers. Currently sitting at number two in South Africa under the ‘Top 10’ category, the South Korean-born show is all about playing children’s games with lethal ramifications — all in the name of winning cold, hard cash.
In for the game or not, people are proving to be in for the series.
Netflix has unveiled a list of the most watched series and movies on their platform and there aren’t many surprises. Extraction reached nearly 100 million accounts in the first 28 days of release while Bridgerton was beamed into 82 million homes in the same time frame.
However, Netflix co-CEO and Chief Content Officer, Ted Sarandos, has revealed that Squid Game is on track to top the lot.
In an appearance at Vox Media’s Code Conference at the Beverly Hilton, he noted that the show is number one in the world at the moment and “was on pace to be the most popular Netflix show ever,” according to Variety.
So, what’s all the hype about?
Debt-ridden players are probed to sign up and compete in six games for a cash prize of ₩45.6 billion. Imagine this: you’re a South African, riddled with debt, and you have a chance at playing children’s games to win over R575 million. The only catch is that if you don’t win or pass the round, you die.
The first game entails a nightmare version of ‘Red Light, Green Light.’
In the game, players have to make it to a finish line in a set amount of time. To get there, you have to sprint and freeze according to the sound of a siren. So, the siren sounds; run! When it goes off again, freeze!
If you don’t freeze, fall over or flinch, you’re out. The only difference being that players get disqualified from life if any movement is detected by a giant, extremely creepy machine gun disguised as a animatronic doll.
After round one, bodies are left piled high as the shell-shocked winners proceed to round two. It’s blood-splattered child’s play and the world is hooked on watching.
If you can stomach the events of the first episode, what follows is a tightly written horror-thriller engorged with a subplot of underworld organ trade, allies and backstabbing, and a dog-eat-dog kind of savagery that exposes social, political and new-world dilemmas, including the immorality of late capitalism and the question of human nature.
Important to mention here is that players are offered the opportunity to leave the game. Who returns to compete is a ‘choice’ made after the horrors of the first game is showcased. This is a show that leaks beyond the traditional confinements of pure edge-of-your-seat entertainment. It’s critical commentary with a twisted twist.
Meanwhile, the series has started trending on TikTok with the hashtag #squidgame, amassing a staggering 11.1 billion views, reports Insider. App users are using the ‘Red Light, Green Light’ sound track from the first game to recreate imagined scenarios.
@adriandanosaurMy next few posts are gonna about the swuid game BECAUSE IT WAS SUCH A GOOD SHOW ##squidgame ##squidgamenetflix♬ Squid Game – Green Light Red Light – Yovinca Prafika
The second game played, whereby players have to cut a shape out of dalgona candy (or honeycomb toffee), which is a popular South Korean street food is also trending. In fact, some Korean vendors will give customers a free piece if they can stencil the shape out of the candy without breaking it, as done in the Netflix series.
@k.aza.fReply to @nobodyatgmail.com Goodbye 😬 I know, You hate this trend, but sorry, not sorry 😂 ##fyp ##squidgame ##squidgamecandy♬ Squid Game – Green Light Red Light – Yovinca Prafika
As with TikTok, gameshows, like Squid Game, call on spectatorship. Another critical comment the series forces us to acknowledge — one which is linked closely to the illusion of choice in a capitalist world. The contestants are offered a choice to return to the game, but also, not really.
Think of it like this: when we watch a boxing match, we automatically assume that the violence screened before us is acceptable based on the assumption that these fighters have made the choice to participate.
As Squid Game emphasises, this way of thinking fails to take context into consideration, and how we as viewers can so easily separate ourselves from reality, hide behind screens and masks.
Squid Game is so much more than a game show. It’s forcing viewers to take responsibility for participation as spectators, it throws capitalism under the bus (questioning the illusion of choice) and calls human nature into question.
The show is riveting and brilliantly complex. A must watch for those who aren’t afraid of blood and the hard truth. As for the TikTokkers? Perhaps they missed the point whilst participating in another game.