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‘Squid Game’ owes its popularity to modern life anxieties

Published : 09 Oct 2021 07:58 PM | Updated : 11 Oct 2021 10:21 PM

Squid Game’, a Netflix series made in Korea by Hwang Dong-hyuk, was released on 17 September and within 10 days was the platform’s highest ranking show in 90 countries. It’s the first time a Korean drama has ever been at the top of the US charts; 95% of the viewers are outside Korea, capsizing the idea that the younger generation won’t read subtitles. I managed to kid myself the other day that my 12-year-old daughter had watched so many episodes in a single session she was effectively reading a book.

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The premise: 456 people are catastrophically in debt, and they’re competing for untold riches in a series of feats that are sometimes whimsical, sometimes terrifying, usually both. They might have to carve round a honeycomb shape with a pin, or stay stock still while a giant robot shouts “red light” at them. Two downsides – if you lose, you get shot in the head. And there can be only one winner.

It has generated an insatiable fascination that has led to a cosplay site selling out of the villain costume, Parisian teenagers having fistfights outside a ‘Squid Game’ pop-up shop in Paris, and thousands of words of behind-the-scenes revelation, in which actors recollect the “dreamlike terror” of shooting it, and technicians describe their awe at the sinister, cartoonish sets.

There’s only one season of nine hourlong episodes; you can binge it in two days, but when the kids finish it, they go back to the start and watch it again. Or they play the ‘Squid Game’ world on the digital game platform Roblox. In my household, we’re all on a different episode, and nobody is allowed to discuss it – not even a spoiler risk. I think the worry is more that adult interest taints it – but someone always does discuss it, and then we have a fight. We’re trapped in a mini domestic ‘Squid Game’.    -The Guardian

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