4 Reasons “Squid Game” is so Successful

Squid Game

Being the first Korean drama to rank number one on Netflix, the South Korean survival game show, Squid Game, has taken the world by storm. Once Squid Game was released globally on Netflix, it quickly ascended to one of the Top 10 spots on the chart. Now, the record-breaking series has claimed “the most popular Netflix series” throne in over 20 regions. According to The Korea Times, Squid Game is now ranked number one overall on the global Netflix chart.

So, how do we account for the show’s instant popularity and success?

*Spoiler Alert: I’ve restrained myself from not spoiling too much. But if you are the kind of person who prefers not knowing anything before watching something, watch the series first then come back!

About Squid Game…

The nine-episode thriller, Squid Game, is written and directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk. It stars Lee Jung-jae (Seong Gi-hun), Park Hae-soo (Cho Sang-woo), Wi Ha-joon (Hwang Jun-ho), and HoYeon Jung (Kang Sae-byeok) as the main characters. All episodes of Squid Game were released at once on September 17, 2021.

Squid Game: Survival V.S Humanity

Are you willing to risk your life for 45.6 billion dollars?

Taking place in modern-day South Korea, the story begins by introducing us to the gambling addict lead Gi-hun. Out of desperation, he agrees to participate in a mysterious game.

At the beginning, he has no idea what traumatizing torment is waiting ahead for him. After getting kidnapped and waking up in a room with 456 other people, who were also lured into the game, he (and we) soon find out that this supposedly fun “game” is actually a life-or-death competition – like the Hunger Games.

Being in destitute, they are driven into a corner. These people have no choice but to continue being in this brutal game for the money prize of USD $39 million. Winner takes all.

1. Intriguing Premise

“45.6 Billion is Child’s Play.”

Tagline of Squid Game

Right off the bat, the tagline of Squid Game already piques our interest. The entire show is based on the premise that a childhood game – something so innocent and representative of a happy memory – is turned into a killing “game” for money and freedom. A large group of society’s outcasts being thrown into a battleground willingly.

Kick starting the whole series is a black and white shot of some kids playing the “squid game” in a squid-shaped playground while the adult man’s voice-over is explaining the rules of this kid’s game. After seeing the Squid Game poster of a dead man being dragged across the squid, and now the opening scene, it’s confusing. These two contrasting images being meshed together is very disturbing and distorted, but also weirdly refreshing. The premise and opening alone are enough to draw us in.

2. Alluring Aesthetics

Image Source: Netflix

The next step in creating a successful show is to keep us hooked. The outlook of a film or a show is the first thing we notice and the first thing that attracts us. I got to say, Dong-hyuk and the crews in charge of the visual/aural aspects of Squid Game deserve a standing ovation. The overall aesthetic of this series is very out there. Everything is bright and childlike – out of place with the dark storyline. They have also done a brilliant job in putting all of the visual and aural elements together.

Gory and Graphic Scenes

Visual violence, aka some gore, goes hand-in-hand with the chilling storyline. Fair warning: this series is violent and, for some scenes, blood and guts are shown. The players are eliminated in an almost animated way. Some movies and shows would intentionally (but unnecessarily) overdo the goriness of their work to attract more viewers. But the violence added eventually loses its meaning and purpose.

However, Squid Game achieves the perfect balance. The balance of presenting gory scenes that effectively create an even scarier visceral experience. But not on a make-us-throw-up level. For example, having blood sprayed across a bright and colorful room designed for kids, as the masked staff mercilessly shoot the failed players, is almost poetic rather than disgusting.

Also, they sprinkle the perfect amount of close-ups of the victims throughout the show. Most of the time, the elimination process happens super quickly. Or we only hear the gunshot sound or even just the events leading up to the gruesome death. In that case, we could imagine their death, and I think that’s even more appalling.

A good thriller and horror film never needs over-the-top grisly scenes to send chills down their audience’s spine and leave an impression.

Out of place Music

Weird song but I don’t why I loved it. It is one of the OSTs in Squid Game. If you’ve watched the series already, the background music probably stood out. There’s something about horror movies and shows with calming or quirky music.It intensifies the whole scary vibes.

The background music played at the beginning (when the kids are playing the squid game), is similar to the music used when the adults are playing the games – but just a bit deadlier. It is like a psychopath is torturing their victim while listening to Butter by BTS but on a larger extent (just as a side note, feel free to check out our blog about Butter!) Therefore, I would say another reason for Squid Game‘s success is the genius combination of the top-notch graphics with contradicting music.

Together, we get a terrifying viewing experience.

3. Mind-Blowing Plot

Only having a fantastic aesthetic is not enough for a show to reach the top. You also need an outstanding and bold story to make an impression. There are too many good thrillers out there, so you really need something special for yours to stand out. Squid Game obviously has done something right.

Tense and Twisted Storyline

I’m not lying when I say watching the games had me on the edge of my bed the whole time (I was even late to class once because I was so incredibly invested in the show). Who would have thought a childhood game could actually cost you your life? And who would have thought such a simple game could turn into a sadistic, tortuous nightmare? You don’t get a second “life” (chance) in this game. The minute you fail, you are eliminated, no negotiation and no exception. Each game is more messed up than the previous one, forcing the players to make cut-throat decisions in limited time.

Pulls on Your Heartstrings

The writer sure knows which button to push to make our hearts ache. The sickest part of the show does not lie in the games themselves, but in the players’ behaviors. What would you do to survive? Apparently, these participants would do literally everything to get through the games and bring home the cash.

Sometimes, the bloody scenes are not as painful to watch than the heartbreaking ones. We see the nicest and kindest people become monsters. So, the game creator is essentially putting over 450 starving beasts in a cage, and the fittest might just be the last man standing.

However, we also can’t help but sympathize or empathize with these characters as we get to know their stories. Since every player is a marginalized member of society, they are at the bottom-tier of the hierarchy. They seem to be stuck at perpetual suffering just because they have no money. We get to see how their own lives push them over the edge. Because joining the squid game is honestly no different than committing suicide.

We also see relationships and connections being forged during the contest. Yet, also, quickly ruined and destroyed in the process.

4. A Grim but Dead-on Social Satire 

The last and most significant component in making a masterpiece is the impact it has on us, the audience. In other words, did the show make us think? Did the show make us reflect on our lives? Did it open up a new perspective on the society we live in? Squid Game is hands down the bleakest show I’ve ever seen. It gives a dead-on take of our society and unveils human nature, almost like the award-winning Korean movie Parasite (2019) – feel free to check out our blog about Parasite’s director, Bong Joon-Ho!

“Out there, I don’t stand a chance. But I do in here.”

Squid Game Season 1 Episode 2

Unlike the other survival movies and series, the players are all thrown into the arena voluntarily in Squid Game – that’s the saddest part. They chose to be there, risking their own lives along with the others’. Because, believe it or not, being in the diabolical hunger games is not as bad as being out in the dog-eat-dog capitalist society where dreams are crushed.

Squid Game
Image Source: Netflix

“Equality. Everyone is equal while they play this game. Here, the players get to play a fair game under the same conditions. Those people suffered from inequality and discrimination out in the world, and we’re giving them the last chance to fight fair and win.”

Squid Game Season 1 Episode 5

Quoted from the “Front Man,” who seems to be the person in charge of the game, as he shot the staff that “breaks the rules.” Society is full of injustice and inequality. But the game creator makes sure this game is played fairly so all the players can have an equal shot at winning. Ironically, this suicide game is better than the real world.

 Humanity is seen at its fullest on Squid Game. It’s disturbing to see what human beings are capable of doing in  times of crisis. As the cash prize increases when more people get eliminated, we get to witness how ugly things could get.

Is Squid Game Worth Watching?

Yes. With zero hesitation. It’s such a thought-provoking show with a lot of hidden meanings. There is only one winner in this game. But are they truly a winner? Having all that money after indirectly murdering and witnessing the tragic death of 455 other people, is it worth it? All that wealth symbolizes the countless deaths and will forever act as an excruciating reminder.

The question for you now is: if you were crowned the winner of this squid game, would you be able to enjoy the blood money you’ve won? It seems to be a great opportunity for these marginalized people to fight in a fair game, but I think their lives are already over the minute they stepped into the arena. 

Watch it now on Netflix!

Watch Squid Game Right Now!

It’s approaching Halloween, if you want a horror-themed movie marathon after finishing Squid Game, definitely go check out the other blog post we have – Top 6 Korean Horror Movies that Guarantee You Nightmares!. But if you are interested in knowing more about Korean movies and dramas in general, feel free to head to our drama or movie blog page !




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