In a still from the Netflix drama "Squid Game," protagonist Lee Jung-jae stands in a line of other players wearing green track suits. Jung-jae is numbered 456 and looks ahead with his eyes wide.

Lee Jung-jae (No. 456) is a man in a deadly competition in the Netflix drama “Squid Game.” (Youngkyu Park / Netflix)

Arts and Entertainment

Review: Beyond the violence of ‘Squid Game’

I am, without a doubt, not a fan of violent, stomach-retching shows. However, in September, like millions of people around the world, a certain show on Netflix caught my attention. According to Forbes, 142 million people have watched “Squid Game,” the number one most watched show on Netflix in 94 countries, since the first month…
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/joliewng/" target="_self">Jolie Wang</a>

Jolie Wang

November 18, 2021

I am, without a doubt, not a fan of violent, stomach-retching shows. However, in September, like millions of people around the world, a certain show on Netflix caught my attention.

According to Forbes, 142 million people have watched “Squid Game,” the number one most watched show on Netflix in 94 countries, since the first month of its release. But what’s all the hype about? Naturally, I was curious and decided to watch the trailers.

After I finished the trailers, I was certain I wasn’t ever going to watch “Squid Game” because it seemed to contain really disturbing and graphic scenes of people dying gruesome deaths. But, my friend, who finished “Squid Game” on the day of its release, kept pushing me to watch the show. Since I was too scared to watch it on my own, my friend offered to watch the first episode with me at lunch, just to give me a glimpse of what the show was like.

After that, I went home, binge-watched the show, and finished it in two days.

A Korean drama produced by Netflix, “Squid Game” is about 456 people who are invited to play some children’s games to win a large sum of cash prize, but none of them knew that they had signed their lives away when they agreed to play. In “Squid Game,” you don’t win or lose. You survive or you die. That’s the thrill of the show.

The main character, Seong Gi-hun, is introduced to us as a gambling addict who is indebted to many people. We learn that he is a divorcé who lives with his mother and has a 10-year old daughter. Gi-hun has a crushing amount of debt, and his daughter is about to move to America, possibly out of his life forever, if he can’t find a way to financially support and take custody of her.

I didn’t expect to become attached to the characters in this nine episode series. Though I’ve never experienced being in their situation, I empathize with them. They all come from very different backgrounds, each with a unique story.

For instance, Seong Gi-hun is someone that comes off as an irresponsible father, son, and husband. He’s always gambling away his money and getting drunk. However, he also has a caring side, in which he feeds stray cats on the streets and treats his daughter to dinner. Viewers don’t really know what to think of Gi-hun. Is he a bad person or a good person?

Furthermore, another character with an unusual story is Gi-hun’s childhood friend, who is famous in his neighborhood for going to the #1 university in South Korea. Under the impression that he was rich and successful, Gi-hun is stunned to see his friend as a participant in the game. Turns out, he isn’t the golden child everyone thought he was, and he is in debt like the other participants of the game.

Most of us likely live a comfortable life, unlike the 456 people participating in “Squid Game.” So, it’s natural that we wouldn’t understand their actions or their thoughts. This show captures the realistic nature of people who live in debt. Some of the players chose to participate in the game because they have no purpose in life. They have nowhere to go in the real world, and this game is their only shot at winning more than enough money to survive.

There is little to no dramatic irony in “Squid Game.” Both the viewers and the players don’t know what to expect next. Every single minute of “Squid Game” is unpredictable.

Furthermore, the plot of “Squid Game” puts an emphasis on the wall that seems to separate the rich and the poor in the show. To the rich, watching the players die one by one is entertainment. However, to the desperate poor and indebted, who have staked everything on these games, participating puts them in a life or death situation. Just like in their lives outside of the game, they are fighting to survive. If they lose, they die; they don’t get any second chances.

Imagine riding a rollercoaster at the amusement park. After waiting in a long line, you’re finally able to get on the rollercoaster. When you’re approaching the highest part of the ride, your stomach is churning, and your heart is about to pump out of your chest. After the drop, the ride slowly comes to a stop, and your heart is still beating really fast.

That’s the feeling you get when you watch “Squid Game” — it’s an emotional rollercoaster. There are many ups and downs throughout the show. Even after the show is finished, you’ll find your heart is still racing.

I don’t like rollercoasters. Or violent, bloody shows. But I ride rollercoasters anyway, and I watched “Squid Game” anyways, because the exhilaration you get from both of these experiences wakes you up from the mundane and reminds you what it’s like to be alive and appreciate what you have. You should definitely give “Squid Game” a watch if you haven’t already.

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