December 4, 2021

What is the Hype Around Squid Game?

Squid Game is taking the world by storm, but what is this latest pop culture phenomenon? Squid Game is a South Korean television drama series streaming on Netflix. Squid Game is the brainchild of writer-director Hwang Dong-hyuk; you might know his name from projects like The Fortress, or Silenced, but Squid Game is his international mega hit being number one most watched show in 90 countries.

But to fully understand Squid Game you must know the culture of Korean Dramas or K-Dramas. Wildly regarded as the first K-Drama, Death Row Prisoner came out in may 1956. The genre continued to rise in popularity during the 1950’s and 60’s with the growth of broadcasting companies. In the 1990’s and 2000’s the more soap-opera style became prominent and took over the genre, launching what is known as the Korean Wave. The larger global popularity of K-Dramas came during this period. This growth started in east, southeast, and south Asia, but quickly took hold of western countries due to the impact of “Gangnam Style” and Moon Embracing the Sun online. This gives a perfect opportunity for the show to become as huge as it is.

You can attribute the success of Squid Game partly to the mix of familiar yet fresh ideas to the global audience. The show revolves around a group of characters all in great debt, competing in children’s games for life changing money. Since the competition is a violent battle royale, it can be easy for viewers to see similarities between Squid Game and the Hunger Games. This makes the show familiar, but the concept of all the characters playing Korean children games makes it a refreshing and new experience. There is also the relatability of seeing every character experiencing some sort of financial problem in their life, something that can happen worldwide to anyone. All this with the incredibly high stakes of any character being susceptible to death at any moment captivated watchers.

Another large part of why its so is the passionate new fanbase. Audiences can’t help but be on the edge of their seats when the writers spent months on episodes. But a jaw dropping script isn’t anything without great acting; something accomplished very well by Lee Jung-jae as Seong Gi-hun, Yeong-su Oh as Oh Il-nam, HoYeon Jung as Kang Sae-byeok, Wi Ha-joon as Joon-Ho, Anupam Tripathi as Abdul Ali, and Park Hae Soo as Cho Sang-Woo. Fans showed their love of the actor performances by giving them millions of follows, support, and love. The cast even recently made an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. The fans have showed how much they care through memes online, on twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and more. One of the games in the show even became a trend online; many showed their participation in the honeycomb game or the dalgona game on apps like TikTok.

meme shared online by fans featuring Yeong-su Oh as Oh Il-nam

This all combines to an energetic watch which keeps viewers coming in. Netflix announces that over 130 million have tuned in to the show. It is estimated that the show will bring in $900 million in revenue for the company. This smart $500 million dollar investment played out very well for Netflix. With the ambiguity of the ending fans are ready for more; although the series creator hasn’t spoken about any plans for more Squid Game as of yet. The shows popularity can open up more doors for non-American media to grow and flourish.

(left to right) Lee Jung-jae as Seong Gi-hun and Park Hae Soo as Cho Sang-Woo