Why Is ‘Squid Game’ So Popular?

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‘Squid Game’

Netflix’s recent original, ‘Squid Game’ has become a global sensation and Netflix’s biggest original series ever. Watched by over 140 million households, the hit show continues to gain popularity throughout social media with TikTok’s #SquidGame reaching over 23 billion views.

Squid Game is a South Korean dystopian drama that focuses on financially disadvantaged people forced to compete in a series of childrens’ games–made deadly–to win an excessive amount of money. 

In total, there were 456 “volunteers” in the games. These individuals come from different financial backgrounds caused by debt, addiction, disabilities, discrimination, and unlucky circumstances.

A reason for the popularity of the show was due to a common theme of the show, representing an anti-capitalist message, which fans praised.

The director of the hit show Hwang Dong-hyuk stated, “I wanted to write a story that was an allegory or fable about modern capitalist society, something that depicts an extreme competition, somewhat like the extreme competition of life.”

As Hwang Dong-hyuk develops it, the 456 players are a symbol of the working class, the soldiers in pink as law enforcement and the masked ‘VIPS’ as bourgeois elites. The wealthy and armed forces manipulate the working class into self destruction of itself, profiting off of each player’s death, while also getting laughs off of the characters’ developing traumas and betrayals. This comparison can be connected within reality, with the working class committing acts of violence against each other (or sometimes themselves) for a small sum of money.

The show also does a great job at capturing the exploitation of the working class, specifically immigrants. Abdul Ali is a player from Pakistan who traveled to South Korea Sg for work. He is seen excessively treating other players with great respect, which leads to Ali being used and manipulated, unfortunately meeting his demise.

Another reason for the show’s popularity are the comedic elements and characters themselves. The relationships of all the characters, whether betrayal or new beginnings, always seem to capture the viewers and fill them with anxiety or excitement. Squid Game also explores social issues like racism, sexism, and ableism–or rather, how they coincide with exploitation. In certain games, groups try to form teams of only strong men, specifically excluding women, elderly, and the disabled. 

Squid Game has also brought awareness to large worker strikes prominent in South Korea, the US, and several Latin American countries like Ecuador. Protesters in South Korea have dressed in Squid Game-based uniforms, took to the streets in large numbers, and made global headlines.

““As a creator, I’m so thrilled that my work has caught the hearts of people all around the world. It might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” says Hwang Dong-hyuk.