Why is everyone obsessed with Squid Game right now?
The gory South Korean thriller is about to become Netflix’s most popular series of all time.
Every so often, a Netflix production emerges from the media content mines to completely dominate popular discourse for a few days. First we had Stranger Things, then came Emily in Paris, soon followed by Bridgerton, and now we have Squid Game, a dystopian South Korean series taking the streaming platform by storm. Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos has even said that it has "a very good chance" of becoming their most popular show ever. But what’s all the fuss about?
Well, Squid Game’s premise is deceptively simple. With 45.6 billion South Korean won up for grabs (that’s £28,605,667.20 or $38,471,119.44 at the time of writing for the currency nerds among you), a group of 456 down-and-out contestants are selected to compete in a series of traditional children’s games with a bloodthirsty twist. A round of Red Light, Green Light (also known as Grandma’s Footsteps) ends with the fatal gunning down of those caught moving; another game, centred around a collection of small glass marbles, also ends with the defeated players being shot.
In Korea, the squid game — also just called “squid” or “ojingeo” — is a multiplayer children’s game that sets the stage for the show’s final episode. According to a piece in The Korea Times: “There are two main purposes, either for the attackers to achieve the purpose of the attack, or for the teams to annihilate each other.”
The show’s binge-worthiness, according to The Guardian’s Henry Wong, is rooted in its masterful cliffhangers and a collective cultural obsession with gameshows, as well as its immensely talented cast which includes Lee Jung-jae, Park Hae-soo and Wi Ha-joon.
Writing for GQ, journalist Tom Usher argues that the show’s appeal stems from its surprising emotional resonance. “There are moments when you take a step back and consider what you’re actually watching and think, ‘How come I’m crying over dudes playing marbles?’ But because of the life-and-death simplicity of the situation, you’re sitting there wishing there was some other way the game could play out, always knowing in your heart that there could never be another way.” Well, damn.