“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players”
– William Shakespeare
When we come across the above words by William Shakespeare, we might have not given it much thought but the new Korean thriller drama, Squid Game is here to materialize the very concept of it. This piece will serve as major spoilers of the series. Read with caution!
The 9-episode satire explores all the aspects of human life that will give us something to dwell upon: Whether the drama simply explores the story of those characters involved or is it exactly the future we are heading to after we have murdered sanity and empathy?
Netflix’s Jackpot: Squid Game
A few years back, you would have been the face of ridicule if you proclaimed you were into South Korean dramas or series. The Korean Wave had not touched the shores of many minds, yet and people’s mindset was regressive and edgy. But, what is so different about this South Korean drama?
The Netflix-produced Squid Game was created by Hwang Dong-hyuk in 2008 and the script ended up being rejected before Netflix finally decided to give it a go.
This dystopian drama made its premiere on September 17 and fans or anti-fans, across the world are blown away by its clever variations of “The Hunger Games,” “Black Mirror” and “Parasite”; morphed into one dark series.
The show’s premise explores the tragic lives of 456 players who are buried deep in debts or had faced a similarly violent fate that forced them to venture into unusual paths to make money by playing deadly versions of traditional children’s games.
Creator Hwang Dong-hyuk used the years of knowledge that he gathered from reading manga and manhwa (Japanese and Korean comics, respectively) that explored similar themes where the characters battled against each other to survive, a concept also touched in the influential Battle Royale.
The winner walks away with 45.6 billion and that amount of money is enough to demean human lives and drive people to kill each other like animals in cold-blooded purges.
What is so intriguing about Squid Game that surpasses borders and languages?
The series showcases the unfair world we live in. The rich get richer while the poor are left to live off scraps. It explores socio-economic divides and the everyday exploitation of the poor by the rich. It also talks about the financially destitute class of laid-off workers through two of its characters, Seong Gi-hun and Abdul Ali.
This allegorical series represents not only its host country’s plight but of every country.
Seong Gi-hun, one of its lead characters and player no. 456 lost his wife and daughter to a terrible divorce who made his livelihood with a chauffeur’s job. With gullible and lazy upfront, his character stays put till the end of the game who was never willing to sacrifice someone else for his gain.
His character stands for the good of what is left in this cut-throat game or to be precise, this world!
Likewise, the character, Ali who easily trusts people, lost his life at the hands of his trusted “brother”. An immigrant from Pakistan, his life before the game was not a pleasant one either.
Working in an unorganized sector, he barely got a glimpse of his salary for six months until he made a run with the blood-soaked money from his workplace. He was an example of another innocent person sacrificed at the altar of corruption and poverty.
Another character, Cho-Sang Woo, the business prodigy who graduated from Seoul University made huge investments in an unpredictable future and ended up a beggar. Was he a prodigy or a fool or a rather selfish man, the series shall tell you.
He is a classic lesson of ‘Live at the moment’ and the futility of the rat race of getting into a reputed college or university that will add nothing to your personality.
We are all selfish and are devoid of compassion and the mass killings portrayed on the show are just a mere representation of hundreds of years of genocide, bombings, and violations of natural and human rights.
We treat each other as a competitor in a dog-eat-dog world and we can not care less who we trample on the way.
After a rapid marathon of the episodes, may we think about the society we are heading towards to become?
A child’s play? I think not!
All the games that the players competed in are popular children’s games and we have a diverse set of variations of these particular games in other cultures as well.
For example, the ‘red light, green light’, tug of war, the marble game, and such. Perhaps, this is why the viewers connected easily with a nostalgic grip and the games were transcendental to people of all places and generations.
The show has touched one of the sensitive mental issues, the unprecedented growth of depression among the youth which is best portrayed by Ji-Yeong who came from a broken but highly religious family, given that her father was a pastor and also a murderer.
At a very young age with a traumatic childhood, she despaired that her life was over as she had nothing to look forward to.
The ‘Capitalist’ Celebration
In a profit-driven capitalist society, the elites of the world or the masked VIPs in the series, make a mockery of the death of the players or any dire situations associated with them. They gathered around to bet and cheer on the deaths of the desperate people.
Ironically, is it not the exact treatment meted out to daily-labourers working in an unorganized sector or anyone who seemed financially inferior to the elite class of the society? With no guaranteed protection, the downtrodden are always left at their wit’s ends to pay for medical bills and debts through signing off their physical rights which also gives rise to the rising racket of organ business.
The old man’s character is at best the most paradoxical one. The most nostalgic among the VIPs, he involved himself in the game without bringing himself in harm’s way.
He is someone who was at the pit of capitalist exploitation who only enjoyed the game at the expense of other people’s miseries and lives. He was, particularly, amused after exploiting Gi-hun’s sympathy who ends up as the ultimate winner of the Squid Game.
The series presented the diabolical nature of human beings in the best possible way. Good and evil co-exist within each person and as we get on with our life, we get a closer look at our inner sides and on our several facets.
Depending on motivation such as money for the players, life manages to wake up everyone’s primal instincts of survival and paying off debts.
Human beings, at large, act in an unethical manner when faced with severe dangers to life, pushing their kins and friends to death if it means ‘I survive’. After all, it is the survival of the fittest.