Why is everyone talking about Netflix’s ‘Squid Game’?
With the rocket-launching pace of success & stardom for bands like BTS and BLACKPINK, and the trailblazing award-winning efforts of movies like Parasite (Academy Award-winning) and Minari (film festival favorite), American audiences are finally starting to wake up to the treasure trove that is South Korean culture.
With American audiences, remakes of foreign films with famous English-speaking actors had always been the preferred method for getting foreign cultures ingrained into American cinemas. From True Lies (a French remake) and Insomnia (Norwegian) to The Ring (Japanese) and The Departed (Hong Kongese), American filmmakers were all too happy to dip into the well of foreign ideas.
Then came Train to Busan, a 2016 zombie movie that was so good American zombie movie fans decided that subtitles were a reasonable price to pay. What followed was a slew of foreign action and drama films that culminated in 2019’s Parasite, becoming the first foreign-language film to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Now, there is a new craze taking the streaming service by storm. The Netflix hit Squid Game.
What’s Squid Game about?
What would you do if you were offered a way to pay off all of your debts? You could leave the mundane world behind you and live a life of luxury, never worrying about money again. What would you risk for that opportunity? How far would you go?
This is the question behind the premise of the new Netflix hit, Squid Game. Many unsuspecting people with lifelong debts and money problems have been brought together and given a choice: play the game or be eliminated.
What follows is a myriad of kids’ games like Red Light, Green Light, and Tug-of-War, with deadly turns. The losers of these games lose more than the competition – they lose their lives. Is the risk of a gruesome death worth the $40-million prize at the finish line?
Squid Game is the first foreign language series to reach number one on the Netflix Top Ten. With all of the foreign language series available in all of the different streaming services, it is something of an accomplishment to see one of them reach the top of the American audience’s attention.
Like Parasite before it, it had to rise above the rest of the foreign language series list and then had to overcome American’s impatience with subtitles. And it did so with gruesome violence and shock value of a bloody kind.
It is a new entry into the “Deadly Game” sub-genre of thrillers in the vein of Escape Room, Cube, and in some ways, Saw. It takes the evils of spectatorship and puts it directly in your face. Can we all nod at the irony that a commentary on the evils of spectatorship is number one on the most significant streaming service in the world?
“Although it was hard to keep up with bad acting, the storyline was good until about halfway through. It then started (getting) cheesy and predictable,” one Rotten Tomato audience review said.
Rebecca Onion of Slate said, “Netflix’s No. 1 show will make you feel gross, but you should watch it anyway.” While the Korean hit has garnered a 100% Average Score and a 86% Audience Score, it has since run into some accusations of its originality.
In 2014, As The Gods Will exploded in popularity as a survival game entry in a Japanese film. It was pointed out on social media with side-by-side comparisons of the opening game of Red Light, Green Light in Squid Game are almost identical to the 2014 Japanese hit.
In response, filmmakers asserted that they had been working on the script as early as 2008, six years before the Japanese movie was released. They stood behind their work, saying: “If I had to say it, I would say I did it first.”
Squid Game debuted on September 17th and remains one of the most-watched series on Netflix.