Squid Games

By Joanna Langfield

This very bingeable Korean horror drama may not be a feel good watch, but it sure does feel good to see how internationally popular it has become.

Bold, beautiful, and undeniable brutal, one might think this science fiction (or is it?) tale, where financially desperate players are lured into a potentially deadly series of children’s games, would only attract the same viewers as, say, movies like The Hunger Games or Maze Runner. But, in a matter of days, this series has been watched by more viewers than Netflix as ever had. And, according to numbers released by the company, those viewers are hanging in there, a majority watching all or nearly all episodes within a month of the series debut.

There’s no question, both the streaming service and the program have benefitted from the sad fact that, for myriad reasons, entertainment starved audiences are choosing, in large part, to stay home rather than venture out the way they may have used to. It’s not just the pandemic, this trend began before shutdowns did. But, knowing they can get an even bigger bang for their buck, feel safer and appreciating the convenience, ticket buyers are becoming streaming subscribers. And, bonus is, there’s some very good stuff happening on platforms you can watch right in your living room.

Squid Game is one of them. Yes, it is viciously violent. Yes, it does echo themes we’ve seen in previous dystopian big screen hits. But, like its brother K drama, the Oscar winning Parasite, there’s a lot of dagger sharp social commentary slit into a very consumable, also very commercial package. There may be horrific anti-Asian sentiment in the real world, but here, nobody cares. They’re happy to keep pressing play for 9 episodes that keep them on the edge of their seats. And I am happy to meet three terrific new actors, an impressive Park Hae-soo, compelling Lee Jung-jae and a dandy Jung Ho-Yeon, all of whom I hope to see more of in all sorts of international productions.

Are there fans totally ignorant of the lessons to be learned? Seems like. There are reports of young children playing their own Squid Games at school. And that’s on us, a society that ignores the morality, the life-or-death consequences of what they’re bingeing, and gets their kids in on the “fun”. And maybe that is the most important message this savvy series sends.