Opinion: The rapid growth of Squid Game and the popularity of shows from different countries


Source: Netflix

Zainib Al-Jayashi, Co-Editor-in-Chief

It’s a Friday night – nothing sounds better than laying on your couch with a bowl of popcorn and watching a show on Netflix as a way to wind down from the busy week. You go on Netflix and the top ten shows of the week pop up on your screen, and the first show on that list is Squid Game. Appealed and confused by the name, you click on it and proceed to watch the first episode. To your surprise, it is not something you would have imagined. 

Netflix’s new survival, dystopian series called Squid Game has skyrocketed in popularity in under a month from its premier on Sept. 17, 2021. Netflix’s Co-CEO Ted Sarandos even said that the show “has a very good chance” of becoming the streaming platform’s biggest show yet.  

But, what makes this show so popular?

For starters, Squid Game is a South Korean Netflix original series that follows the main protagonist Seong Gi-hun (Lee Jung-jae), a man who digs himself into a large pit of unpayable debt through gambling. Gi-hun is divorced and has a daughter that he loves dearly, but cannot financially support her or himself. 

On one night after losing a significant amount of money from gambling on horses, he is approached by a put together man on a subway platform who offers him to play a game of chance – if he wins, he gets money; if he loses he gets slapped. As the game of chance reaches an end, the protagonist gets handed an invitation in the form of a business card to participate in more games to win larger amounts of money. 

Desperate, Gi-hun calls the number on the back of the card, and finds himself in an unknown location with 455 other participants. He and the others have all agreed to play six different children’s games – which are not fully disclosed – that rapidly turns into a bloody, violent nightmare as the losers from each game are killed. Whoever makes it out alive, and is the only person left, wins the 45.6 billion won (38 million USD) prize money. 

Squid Game offers psychological drama and thrill due to how the characters represent the cruelest, negative traits of people but also the caring and altruistic nature of human beings. The players actively show their agony and struggle with the violent unjust circumstances of the game, but they still choose to continue when their life is on the line. They have to weigh out their situation: going back to hiding from the real world away as a debtor or have a chance of winning the money to live a better, fulfilling life. 

This all comes down to show the reality of inequality in the financial system of society and ultimately capitalism. Each of the characters were in a financial struggle whether it be from betting all their life’s earnings or wanting money to help their family escape from North Korea. Contrastingly, the controllers of the game are wealthy individuals who created the entire nightmare out of boredom. The controllers irrelevantly claimed that they have lived boring lives and needed to be humored with watching and betting on the lives of innocent players. Since the global issue of capitalism affects people worldwide, Squid Game gathers audiences from everywhere, boosting its popularity. 

Although Squid Game holds the number one spot for the most popular show on the platform as of right now, shows such as The Crown, Sex Education, Money Heist, and Elite are other foreign shows that have held a spot on the top ten list Netflix showcases each week. 

The British coming-of-age drama/comedy Sex Education, released its third season on Sept. 17, 2021 as well. The show is popular amongst young-adults and has managed to gather around 40 million views within the first month of the season’s initial release. Likewise, the Spanish show Elite was watched in more than 20 million households worldwide in its first four weeks of release.  

All in all, Squid Game very much deserves the hype it is being flooded with. It has opened doors to normalcy of watching foreign shows by bringing people together to realize the issues within the modern world. While the controllers insisted that the game was built around the idea of financial equality, Squid Game showed how even in a quote-on-quote fair environment, it’s not always about the money. There will always be controllers and players winning, losing, or fighting for a spot at the top. Thus emerges a prime lesson for many: money is not the solution to all problems, but it’s rational to consider morality at all times.