Squid Game: Reflecting on the cruelty of modern society
Note: SPOILER ALERTS!!!
As we all know, ‘Squid Game’ uses an old story-approach that we’ve all seen before: A group of people are thrown into an ‘artificial’ arena where they must fight for their life. In the new Netflix series, the arena is a large, secret complex; the contest is a series of games for children; and these 456 people are in dire need of a bounty of 45.6 billion won ($39 million) more than the safety of their lives – which could also be lost if they go outside.
Some of the competitors, like the main character Ki-hoon (Lee Jung-jae), have become heavily indebted because of a gambling addiction and a loan shark is looking to collect debts. Others, like Sae-byeok (Jung Ho-yeon) – a defector from North Korea trying to help her parents escape to the south – need money to reunite with their family. All have been carefully selected by the game’s controller and a mysterious force behind.
‘Squid Game’ uses different storylines that intertwine, but there’s nothing wrong with that – especially since the story’s underlying implications continue to hold its own until the end. For at least the first two episodes, ‘Squid Game’ isn’t afraid to follow through on its premise by flaunting its brutal, bloody violence scenes to its inevitable, merciless conclusions. The contestants only realized the true horror of the game when they started a game called ‘Red Light, Green Light’ which took place in the blazing sun where the characters had nowhere to hide. Then we see the “creator” of the game dealing with corpses, burning them all regardless of who is dead or can be saved.
Obviously, watching the survival battles that players can die in easily, not all viewers feel comfortable and enjoy it. However, unlike most pointless survival movies, Squid Game’s violence and gore has a very clear origin and structure.
These characters don’t want to feed their families and neighbors like ‘Hunger Games‘ District 12 or find themselves trapped in the Game Station controlled by Dalek in ‘Doctor Who’. ‘Squid Game’ has a solid foundation in our real world, shown through different neighborhoods in Seoul, which makes it much more horrifying and its point of view much clearer. Yes, the game is horrible, but that horror is contextualized in reality. The things we see in the game can still happen in reality and that is something that ‘Squid Game’ never misses an opportunity to do.
In ‘Squid Game’, we experience a lot of characters’ emotions. Sometimes, the characters are forced to make difficult decisions between life and death. Maybe one moment they are ready to help a stranger, but another time they are ready to kill that person.
Revolving around the main and sub characters, we often see them being driven into the game and trying to live by the love they have for their family, and we really see that love portrayed when the movie switches scenes through these characters’ life outside of the competition.
This is not a story where good people have to die from inherent greed or selfishness, although such traits are certainly possible in real life. It’s a reality where people do desperate things because they’re in a desperate situation, and of course, there’s no such thing as ‘random’, this game organization can even make a profit from this killing job. Although the game makers don’t take human life seriously, it’s clear that each person in that story is not innocent either.
Unlike ‘Hunger Games’ or ‘Battle Royale’, opponents in this game can choose to continue playing or not. Everyone has the right to choose. In addition, in episode 2, the film also spends time narrating the lives of the characters, so that in the following episodes we can better evaluate and visualize their choices and decisions in each episode rather than condemning them.
The success of ‘Squid Game’ is that it strikes directly at the cruelty of society, between those who have too much and those who have nothing. What decisions will we make when we reach the end? Will we still be a good enough person then to act kind? That is probably not an easy question to answer. Because only himself or others in such a situation can realize it.
Squid Game is now available on Netflix.