Stacey Addo | Arts and Entertainment Editor
Photo via Netflix Instagram / 2023
The Korean drama series Squid Games premiered on Netflix in 2021 breaking records and becoming the most-watched Netflix series at the time. The season followed Seog Gi-hun, a divorced father and gambling addict who lives with his elderly mother. He is invited to participate in a competition to play a series of children's games entitled the Squid Games. When he accepts the offer, he finds himself among 455 other players who are all competing to help themselves out of their financial struggles. The prize is 45.6 billion dollars but, what Gi-hun comes to learn, is that the game is being controlled by a group of elites using their struggles for entertainment and that losing a game, results in their death. Despite the child-like sets and thrilling episodes, the show was an overall commentary on capitalism, socialism, and economic disparity. Hence, it became a surprise to many to find out that Netflix would be conducting a reality show entitled Squid Games: The Challenge based on the games in the original show.
The reality show will pit 456 people against each other in a series of games inspired by the show for a cash prize of $4.56 million, the largest cash prize in TV history. Some fans were disappointed by the announcement hoping for more information about season 2 of the show, other fans were just excited for more content from Squid Games no matter what form it comes in.
For me, something about the idea of a reality show following the format of Squid Games almost feels dystopian(?). The entire premise of the show was to critique social class and the elites in power who are using the lower class for entertainment and a way to make money with each other. A comment under the official teaser from @Just_Some_Guy_with_a_Mustache asked, “So if we watch and enjoy this, are we the people in the room with the animal masks,” referring to the elites on the show who would watch the Squid Games and bet on what players they thought would win. Netflix, a multibillion-dollar company, spending 45.6 million dollars on just the cash prize itself and using everyday people for entertainment knowing that 455 of those people will go home with nothing but probably feeling humiliated on TV, feels shady when you think about the context of what the show was supposed to be about. Meanwhile, Netflix has been known to cancel popular shows that their users have loved and has been a part of the media organizations under fire for refusing to pay their actors and writers a fair wage and give them a better contract. It’s almost comical how tone-deaf it feels.
I'm not surprised or necessarily upset with Netflix for choosing to create this show. After the show was released back in 2021, “Squid Game Challenges” absolutely flooded social media, so it was only a matter of time before they tried to profit off their past success. It just would’ve been nice to see the platform simply allow the creator Hwang Dong-hyuk to use his show to speak on his beliefs rather than turning it into the exact thing he was critiquing.