Note: While this piece avoids the specific spoilers of the “Squid Game” storyline, it does provide a general overview of the story and its themes that could still be considered spoilers.
The Korean survival drama that’s set to become Netflix’s most-watched series of all time has spread its tentacles into sneaker and tracksuit sales, WallStreetBets memes culture, crochet patterns on Etsy ETSY,
and South Korean politics.
If you haven’t tuned in yet, the series sees hundreds of men and women on the verge of financial ruin face off in a deadly battle royale for around $ 38 million in cash. It’s dark. It’s annoying. And people can’t get enough of it. About 95% of “Squid Game” viewers watched the show from outside of South Korea, Netflix NFLX,
said, and the series was captioned in 31 languages and dubbed in 13.
The show actually broke the internet in South Korea, with leading internet service provider SK Broadband suing Netflix for the surge in traffic resulting from “Squid Game,” calling on Netflix to pay the costs of the increased network traffic and maintenance work.
Google notes that research interest in converting Korean won to US dollars has reached an all-time high in the US, as US viewers researched the dollar equivalents of won amounts shared on the show to better understand. challenges.
“Squid Game” is Google’s most searched Halloween costume for 2021, with viewers also flocking to Amazon and Etsy looking for pieces to recreate the teal green tracksuits worn by gamers or the hot pink guard uniforms. White Vans slip-on sneakers similar to the ones players wear on the show have seen a 7,800% increase in sales since the show premiered on September 22, according to the exclusive supplier.
And a sweet honeycomb caramel known as dalgona featured on the show has become a worldwide craze, reports Reuters. Seoul dalgona The manufacturer who concocted the treat for “Squid Game” distributed less than 200 coins before the show. Now he serves over 500 dalgona one day. And Google reports that the search for Honeycomb Caramel (dalgona candy) hit a record this month in the United States
What’s odd is that all of those colorful Halloween costumes, TikTok challenges, shopping trends, and fun memes are inspired by one of the most distasteful shows of the year.
So why is everyone obsessed with “Squid Game” when it’s such a hard show to watch? Here are some key reasons.
He taps into the financial pain of the world right now
“Squid Game” sees men and women struggling with student loans and medical debts, owing money to loan sharks, or being exploited by their employers, who become so desperate that the lure of earning an estimated $ 38 million. overnight dollars outweighs the risk of personal injury or even death. The show also condemns capitalism and wealth inequality – the wealthy VIPs are the ones who fund games and watch human beings kill each other for sport.
Some are a little too much real, especially for the home audience. South Korea is in the throes of a debt crisis, and South Korean politicians have tried to capitalize on the buzz around the show to criticize each other or to supplement their stump speeches. In fact, “Squid Game” creator Hwang Dong-hyuk was so broke writing the script that he had to sell his laptop at one point for $ 675.
“In a way, ‘Squid Game’ can be seen as a microcosm of our society,” Areum Jeong, assistant professor of humanities at the Sichuan University-Institute in Pittsburgh, told MarketWatch. “Young people today feel discouraged and pessimistic about the unemployment rate and working conditions. While the older generation has been recognized and rewarded for their hard work, today’s younger generation tend to believe that your background and heritage (rather than hard work) is more important to being successful.
And as economies around the world grapple with the fallout from pandemic lockdowns and the pandemic’s toll on human lives, the get-rich-quick fantasy is more enticing than ever. “In the age of social media influencers and YouTubers, it seems like the conventional idea of work (going to work 9-5) is devaluing, and more and more people are looking for ways (easier and faster) to earn money, “Jeong said.” In Korea, more and more people are becoming obsessed with the stock market and even Korean students are buying stocks nowadays.
The visuals and costumes are striking
Teal green tracksuits with white numbers sewn to the front. Bright pink hooded uniforms with black fencing masks stamped with triangles, circles and squares. An oversized robot doll with a warning glint in her eyes. The imagery of “Squid Game” is worth a thousand words, which is useful when the audience does not speak the same language.
“This show is full of easily recognizable images and symbols that are quite simple to reproduce, such as the square / circle / triangle shapes on the mysterious recruiting card, the show logo, player tracksuits, and masks and bright red the jumpsuit uniform the staff wear, “Pop Insider editor-in-chief Madeleine Buckley told MarketWatch.” This makes ‘Squid Game’ perfect fodder for fan tributes, social media challenges, cosplay and the goods. ”
Indeed, a quick search for “Squid Game” on Etsy retrieves nearly 8,000 listings, including t-shirts, tumblers, crochet patterns, stickers, jewelry, masks, and business cards inspired by ” Squid Game “. An Amazon AMZN,
research retrieves dozens of “Squid Game” Halloween costumes.
While most “Squid Game” products appearing on Amazon and Etsy are unlicensed, Netflix’s online store offers official “Squid Game” merchandise, including t-shirts and hoodies for $ 35. at $ 50.
And of course, there are the memes and gifs, as well as the TikTok challenges where people try to participate in some of the games featured on the show at home.
“Besides word of mouth, I’m sure a lot of people were interested in watching the show because of these catchy memes and the TikTok challenges posted by the ‘Squid Game’ marketing team and early viewers. “Jeong agreed. “And after these curious spectators watch the show, the striking costumes, objects and symbols all become references that they now fully understand and can appreciate on social media.”
He’s riding the K-Pop / Korean wave
“Squid Game” is a hit as Korean culture dominates the world. More than 20 words of Korean origin were added to the Oxford English Dictionary in September, including hallyu describing the increased international interest in South Korean entertainment and culture, aka the “Korean Wave”.
“The rise of Korean pop culture over the past decade, especially with K-pop groups like BTS, Korean movies like ‘Parasite’, and Korean TV series on Netflix, has really helped global audiences to take an interest in ‘Squid Game’. Jeong said. “And many recent Korean works that have been enjoyed by audiences worldwide (‘Parasite’, ‘Train to Busan’, Netflix’s ‘Sweet Home’, etc.) share a common theme in questioning what is humanity, especially how human dignity can be executed or preserved in dystopian contexts. A theme that viewers could resonate with, especially during the pandemic. ”
‘Squid Game’ is fresh, although it is another survival competition
Fictitious and deadly reality competitions have already been staged, from Stephen King’s “Running Man” films to “Battle Royale” and “Hunger Games” films. But “Squid Game” brings its own twists and turns. “Yes, we’ve seen other media where desperate people have to compete for resources (hello, ‘Hunger Games’), but the sheer brutality of this show coupled with the jarring and incongruous fact that these players are putting their lives on the line. in schoolyard games really draws you in, ”Buckley said.“ On top of that, the series presents so many mysteries and unknowns, which gives fans so much room to speculate and theorize while they’re watching.”
Indeed, the TikTok and YouTube videos confusing the clues and Easter eggs hidden in the early “Squid Game” videos encourage repeat viewing.
Plus – and another spoiler alert – players compete against each other in playground games familiar to many viewers and simple enough for a child to understand. “The childhood games featured in ‘Squid Game’ are not complex at all. Even if you are not Korean and have not played [some of] these games before, the rules are simple and very easy to understand, ”Jeong said. “The familiarity and simplicity of ‘Squid Game’ makes it easy for international viewers from different backgrounds to understand and enjoy the show, and participate in sharing popular memes or TikTok challenges.”
Buckley added that the universal appeal of “Squid Game” also stems from the questions it asks about what makes us human and what we would do to survive. “It appeals to some of the most overarching and universal themes of human beings: the desperation of wanting a better life, of being ready for anything for those you love, and of grappling with the moral implications of choices you make in the most difficult times. circumstances, ”she said. “No matter what language we speak, all of these factors make the show accessible and engaging for viewers around the world.”