We love an underdog story, and Squid Game is the king of underdog stories. Our protagonist, Seong Gi–Hun, is not particularly good at anything but still finds a way to get by, just as he has done seemingly all his life. There is always an underdog in all great stories, and this show is no exception. We root for them despite their flaws because we love to see them win.
The show is gripping and engaging, and the success it has enjoyed should not come as a surprise to anybody. There is so much value in good writing and storytelling.
What is the show about?
Squid Game is a crazily popular South Korean Netflix show that breaks down the social and economic problems present in South Korea that many are unaware of. The show is unapologetic in depicting poverty and the power that money can have over us; it teaches the audience life lessons at very regular intervals.
If you haven’t watched the show, you are missing out. Unlike many shows when you can sometimes guess what will happen in the end, Squid Game is continually throwing curve balls that you’d never expect. This unpredictability makes the show so gripping and binge-worthy; it is rare for a foreign language show to have such a broad appeal.
The Netflix show centers around our protagonist, who, along with more than 400 others, finds his way into an undisclosed location where he must compete with, or against, his fellow players to win a growing cash prize. What he and his fellow players have in common is that they have all hit rock bottom and all have major financial issues that are out of their control.
The twist in the show is that once you’re in, you’re in, with the contestants only able to stop playing when they die. Luckily, depending on your point of view, each game comes with a deadly twist that can end a player’s involvement in the blink of an eye. This risk in itself highlights just how desperate the contestants are to fix their financial issues.
What makes the show unique?
Despite being based in South Korea and featuring playground games that on a surface level might not be instantly recognizable, Squid Game is still relatable because we can empathize with the struggles of the characters and the nostalgia of playing games that we might not have played for a long time. This helps draw in viewers from countries all over the world.
This show shares many similarities with another hit South Korean piece of screen content, Parasite. This is interesting because they both highlight the wealth divide present in more developed nations and how desperation can make people act in ways that they would not otherwise. These shows have both enjoyed global appeal despite the language barrier.
While the show was relatable in more than one way, the thing that made the show so gripping was its nature. There are very few television shows with such high stakes that feature so many unpredictable twists and turns. The show is a masterpiece and a case study of what every drama TV show should strive to contain.
How popular is Squid Game?
The show enjoyed a lot of success in its native South Korea. Still, Netflix could never have foreseen the global appeal that would follow with the show quickly becoming Netflix’s most-watched show ever and giving them an estimated 20 fold return on their initial investment, leading them to commission a second season that will continue the story.
Many believe the show is so popular because viewers can relate, in one way or another, with the characters – many people see their living costs rising a lot faster than their wages and income. In a world where the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting relatively poorer, a show with this kind of widespread appeal should not be a surprise.
The show has been made more accessible because viewers can enjoy Squid Game with an English overlay which is excellent for people who struggle to read subtitles when watching foreign-language shows. For many, especially those who are neurodivergent, having to focus on the show and subtitles can be a major distraction and turn off.
The show, which is all over social media and YouTube at the moment, has been watched by an estimated 142 million households all over the globe, leaving even Netflix in a state of shock. This has resulted in the show enjoying the best debut of any show in Netflix history, beating even the popular period show Bridgerton, as well as plenty of other Netflix shows.
What can we learn from this?
Netflix has undoubtedly learned that they were right in investing close to half a billion dollars in South Korean entertainment. Such an amount might have raised eyebrows initially but this has proved to be a shrewd business venture. If they can replicate the broad appeal of Squid Game in future Netflix shows, it will prove to be money very well spent.
Netflix must also reward the show’s creator, Hwang Dong-hyuk, with a healthy bonus as a reward for the excellent show he created. Dong-hyuk reportedly sat on the idea for the best part of a decade trying to sell the rights before Netflix gave him a shot. If there is ever proof that persistence pays off, Squid Game is a prime example.
The show’s success has shown that Netflix does not need to rely on often controversial stars that seem to cause more trouble than they are worth. Squid Game is evidence that sometimes it is worth gambling on an idea that you believe in because the one thing people can appreciate is good television, regardless of its language.