the westminster news
Published by the students of Westminster School
By Alice Tao ‘24
Seemingly out of nowhere, “Squid Game” has risen to prominence and became a worldwide sensation quickly after its debut on Sept. 17, 2021. The Netflix show tallied 111 million views as of Oct. 12. Ted Sarandos, Netflix co-chief executive, claimed that “It is going to be our biggest show ever.” So, how exactly did this hyper-violent and even bizarre South Korean series become Netflix’s biggest hit?
The show’s storyline touched on the gap between rich and poor, which is believed to identify with much of the audience. The main character, Seong Gi-hun, a divorced chauffeur and gambling addict who struggles to support his family financially, decided to participate in the game to settle his many debts. However, he was not the only one. This series closely revolved around 456 players who were in deep financial debt, risking their lives in the game for the chance to win a 45.6 billion Won prize, which is worth $39 million U.S. dollars. With only one winner in the competition, viewers know that almost everyone will die. The evidently impossible mission to come on top with a 1/456 probability unexpectedly kept the players going. It is important that viewers recognize the mindset each of the players had throughout the course of the contest and how these are the people who only think about money.
The show used traditional Korean games to unfold the story. With over half of the players slaughtered in the first game, many survivors demanded the game’s cancellation. Using the game’s third clause, the game was successfully canceled, and all players were sent back to reality. The pause of the game meant the safety of the rest of the players. Seong Gi-hun returned back to Seoul and his real-life predicaments piled onto him including his mother who needed surgery. With desperation, Seong Gi-hun and many others decided to return to the game after the invitation. This decision vividly reflects that the importance of money outweighs a high risk of death for these players. They were fully aware of the situation they got themselves into and the danger the game potentially holds, yet they still chose money over life. It might be difficult for many viewers to understand such an unthorough choice; however, for these players, reality is more brutal and haunting than deadly survival games.
Another significant aspect of “Squid Game” is the portrayal of human immorality. The cold and unaccountable deaths imply to the players that the only way to survive is to be the last person standing, thus necessitating the deaths of others. While the violence is prominent and intense, the raw and emotional response of the characters in their desire to survive makes this series powerful. Audiences witnessed countless betrayals including “friends” that murdered each other and evil plots against teammates. In Episode 6, authentic human nature came into action when players had to choose between betraying their partner or negotiating a friend’s death. The emotional turmoil during the course of the contest, especially in this game, runs high when given no other options. It is at that peak of desperation when the pitfalls of humanity are revealed, and that people will turn to immoral behaviors.
From watching this heartfelt series, the viewers gained a different viewpoint on the world and the brutal realities some people face. Although life is what one should value the most, in the midst of desperation, money is what some may choose to have a chance at survival, even if it is 1 in 456.