Our take: Squid game and global capitalism

Have you watched Squid Game yet? If not, someone you know definitely has. Netflix introduced the South Korean series in mid-September and audiences across the world are gripped. It has attracted 111m views on Netflix, overtaking even the breakout hit Bridgerton, according to Bloomberg. It’s a dystopian fictional series about debt-laden Koreans who play a deadly version of a childhood game to win a massive cash prize. If they fail during the game, they die. 😵 

But the series is not JUST about a game, or about squids. It’s about capitalism and commodification as we experience it in our modern world. The Economist reports: “The brutality of the competition has also rung true for ordinary South Koreans struggling with unaffordable housing and a sluggish labour market.” 

Hilariously, actual South Koreans are a bit mystified by the show’s popularity, saying they found it rather clichéd. They probably have high standards! After all, similar themes were explored in Parasite, the incredible South Korean film that was named best picture at the 2020 Oscars, becoming the first non-English language film to take the top prize.

Both Parasite and Squid Game are examples of popular culture sparking important conversations in the world – and in their case, bringing discussions about the harmful effects of predatory capitalism, especially against the backdrop of global crises like climate change and Covid-19 – into the mainstream. Here’s hoping those discussions might lead to us all doing more than just settling down for another Netflix binge: instead, let’s recommit to rebuilding a kinder, more sustainable world in the coming years. 🙌🏽

This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 14 October 2021. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.