Squid Game (2021)

What the Popularity of ‘Squid Game’ Says About Social Commentary Enthusiasm

By: Domonique Salberg

Besides the hundreds of videos and articles talking about Netflix sensation Squid Game’s ending, hidden details, apparent social commentary, etcetera, I think one question we should be asking or discussing is why we like it. Placing viewers in the same position as the Front Man, we, too, enjoy watching the lives of the indebt and desperate play deadly games. Why? It possibly has something to do with catharsis. Buried deep down in our unconscious are the harsh truths we live with every day in modern society.

Although every era is evident of a class system and its corrupt and awful elements, the age of technology allows us to log on to the atrocities of people worldwide in seconds, 24/7. Squid Game’s realistic bottom line functions as another headline, though fiction—the struggles of the majority and their often-contentious relationship with the 1%.

And that is why the show’s popularity is so fascinating. The brutal class clash in Squid Game is so close to home for many viewers, yet they find it entertaining the same way the Squid Game operators and spectators do. Without the game aspect, the South Korean sensation is simply another drama and never would be on track to be Netflix’s biggest show ever. That says a lot about its shock value and the power of thrilling plots being an element of its success as well.

So, I guess the bigger question is, are the people watching Squid Game viewing it through the lens of fiction or a colorful reminder or cautionary tale. I would assume and hope the latter. As with most stories, they allow us to explore and, in some cases, better handle horrific realities without necessarily facing them. It is a passive catharsis and requires no resolve or effort from viewers, cleverly making us feel informed and as though we have “done our part.” It provokes audiences to discuss with friends and family or over social media how it’s a social commentary about the unjust systems of the world while feeling a weird, albeit innocent sense of righteousness.

It is not good or bad to feel this way, but simply observing the conversations often sparked with this type of content. However, stories such as Squid Game can ignite honest, crucial discussions in one of the most contentious times in history. The only possible issue is, will we as the viewer be content to discuss or instead be compelled to take action best we can by seeing the reality in the fiction.

I want to end by saying that if you watched Squid Game only for entertainment purposes, there is nothing wrong with that. It earned our attention. The shows clever writing, enigmatic game, impressive production and visuals, and superb main cast, who wouldn’t have a good time and be excitedly on the edge of their seat. Squid Game is excellent entertainment, but also much more.

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