By Kathy Fallert
There’s been a whole lot of chatter recently about the new Netflix series Squid Game. Squid Game (the name of an actual Korean children’s game) is a South Korean survival drama created by Hwang Dong-hyuk. Netflix is calling the show their most popular series ever, and it is the number one program in almost 100 countries according to The Wall Street Journal. Students as young as elementary age through middle school have been exposed to the series and college-aged students are having watch parties in dorm rooms across the country.
The show revolves around a series of children’s games in which hundreds of adult players are drawn in to play with the allure of winning a multi-million dollar cash prize. Contestants are hand selected by an unknown wealthy benefactor based on their desperate financial situations and extensive personal debt. To win, contestants simply have to play a series of six children’s games and be one of the winners at the end of each game. What’s the catch? If you lose a game, you lose your life.
In the first episode, the contestants play a round of Red Light, Green Light. Anyone who doesn’t stay completely still when “Red Light” is called is shot on the spot by a large robotic doll. Then those who don’t make it to the finish line in the time allotment are all shot by masked game employees. Once the surviving contestants get through the first game and realize their lives are at stake, many demand to be released, while others wish to stay and continue play. In the interest of “fairness,” the decision is put to a democratic vote of the players.
The characters seem to rationalize that the minuscule odds of winning the game may be better than what they feel is zero odds of surviving in society. The kill or be killed mentality seems to take over.
Meanwhile, the mysterious “front man” voyeuristically watches the games on video. From there, the plot thickens and many more nefarious intentions are gradually revealed.
The suspenseful writing and its cultural popularity lend to a desire to continue watching the show, despite its callous approach to the violence. Each of its nine episodes builds on the previous one, and contestants form alliances, strategies and teams to help with their survivability. Lord of the Flies meets Survivor meets The Hunger Games meets The Purge.
According to Netflix ratings, Squid Game is TV-MA, indicating that it is “For mature audiences and may not be suitable for ages 17 and under.”