(There may be minor spoilers in this article!)
142 million households. That’s the number of families engrossed in Squid Game’s bold and thrilling storyline. In this K-drama, 456 contestants voluntarily join a competition consisting of 6 Korean children’s games with a brutal twist, to win a grand prize of 45.6 billion won. But why has this show become so popular in the first place? Many different elements come together to create the captivating k-drama that has captured the attention of so many people.
The first thing that comes to mind when talking about Squid Game is its violent nature. With hundreds of brutal killings and close-up shots of bodies, calling this show graphic seems to be a major understatement. However, putting the characters’ lives on the line during these games is part of what makes the show so thrilling. Knowing that a single mistake could cost a character their life has the audience rooting for favorites and crying over unjust deaths.
Given the various types of characters in Squid Game, it is hard not to connect with at least one of them on a personal level. The show goes into each character’s backstory, allowing the audience to build an attachment to them. Nearly all the characters are in distressful situations, having lost most, if not all of their money in the real world. The players have nothing to lose except their own lives. Squid Game does an excellent job of creating empathy towards its characters by focusing on the development of their personalities and their choices.
More than any other factor, the show’s themes resonated the most with the audiences. Squid Game is a dramatisation of a problem that is omnipresent in our society: the poor, who crave a good quality of living, are manipulated by the rich in a neverending cycle. The characters have either made poor financial choices or are stuck in a cycle of poverty, and get crushed under evergrowing debt. These are all difficulties many throughout the world face today. They are unable to provide for themselves, and most importantly, for their loved ones. It was critical for these characters to get money, so when the opportunity presented itself, many decided to put their life on the line to obtain it.
Squid Game was made in Korea, but will its success have an effect on the reach of other foreign television shows? The more likely explanation is that, yes, it will. Netflix, and even other streaming companies, have already started to invest in foreign film, such as Lupin, a show made in France, which is tied for fourth in Netflix’s most watched shows. During the lock-down, both anime and K-dramas have increased in popularity in the U.S. as well. The lack of production of new shows caused by the Coronavirus has prompted Americans to turn to films and shows from other countries to feed the desire for new content. Squid Game’s success only proves how incredible foriegn films can be when given the chance to shine in the spotlight.
Graphic: Tarun Kalyanaraman