Binge Watching…Squid Game

The topic for my ZOOM class last night was to be “Clothing”. Yet, somehow, we got onto the topic of a South Korean television series called Squid Game. While it seemed that all of the Russian students were quite familiar with the Netflix hit, the majority of the teachers were not (one from Hungary, one from Mauritius and myself). I had HEARD of the show only as a headline in one of my news feeds a week or so ago which explained that traffic authorities (in Japan, I believe) were trying to calm citizens who thought that a particular traffic sign referred to Squid Game.

The teacher from Russia compared the public interest in the series with that for Game of Thrones and even made it an assignment to watch at least one episode so that that we could discuss it during the next class. I was even more intrigued by the Wikipedia entry:

The series revolves around a contest in which 456 players, all drawn from different walks of life but each deeply in debt, play a series of children’s games with deadly penalties if they lose for the chance to win a ₩45.6 billion prize…. Squid Game received critical acclaim and attracted international attention. Within a week of its release, it became one of Netflix’s most-watched programs in several regional markets; at launch, it attracted more than 111 million viewers, surpassing Bridgerton as the network’s most-watched series to date.The players soon discover that losing a game results in their death, with each death adding ₩100 million to the potential ₩45.6 billion grand prize. Gi-hun allies with other players, including his childhood friend Cho Sang-woo, to try to survive the physical and psychological twists of the games.

Always seeking something new to watch or listen to, I downloaded the first episode. Even before the hour-long program finished, I was already downloading the remaining eight shows of Season 1. It is intriguing and sometimes the visuals onscreen made me squirm in my seat. There isn’t all that much gore as compared with shows like Game of Thrones. The discomfort came much more from the disturbing juxtaposition between the candy-colored sets and nostalgia-filled games with folks being “eliminated” with very little warning.

To quote a review on IGN, “…throughout all the violence and the multiple poignant, thoughtful moments, there’s one central thread: the juxtaposition of the innocence of childhood against the harsh world we’re all forced to endure. There are also questions upon questions that arise at every corner. For instance, who are these mysterious masked captors, and how does it benefit them to offer such a large payout for people who are down on their luck? Why not find a less sadistic way to be altruistic?”

I ended up staying up all night watching the roughly hour-long episodes before finally succumbing to sleep around 7:00 this morning midway through #5 (titled “A Fair World / Pyeongdeung Sesang 평등한 세상”). I will re-watch that one later today and probably the remainder of the season by the time I go to bed tonight. I don’t remember enjoying a series this much since the finale of Game of Thrones back in May 2019 (pre-pandemic times!). And to be clear, I am NOT a fan of horror or violence or gore on-screen…

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