*Disclaimer: Spoilers ahead!

“Squid Game” – I’m sure you’ve heard about it by now. Either you watched it yourself, or you heard someone talk about it or seen it be talked about on social media. If you haven’t, I’ll tell you what it is and why it’s going viral. 

“Squid Game” is a Korean drama and a Netflix original series which was released September 17, 2021. The story focuses on individuals that are struggling financially with debt. A secret organization invites them to play children’s games to win money, but the untold twist: they are also playing for their survival.

At first, people were fearful and regretted their decision while others admired the cash incentive. Taking the risk, the players faced dangerous childhood games to potentially win the cash prize. As each player fell to their death, others were closer to the prize. These games changed people’s behaviors out of desperation for either their survival or money.

As the series continues, we’re exposed to the true meaning behind these dangerous games. They are ultimately subjects for a reality show specifically for the rich who fund the games. This organization or the viewers had no sympathy for these people but used them as a source of entertainment. Spoiler alert! In the end, the winner was unhappy with their life because they lost themselves in the greed that comes with wanting money for themselves. 

The show was quickly met with critical acclaim and international attention becoming Netflix’s most-watched series to date with 142 million viewers after 28 days. It’s a cultural phenomenon. Social media platforms are creating anything from games to challenges to filters based on the content in this show. Memes of the show have taken over social media. Businesses are selling merchandise based on the show.

Since “Squid Game” is constantly popping up on everyone’s feed, people are more enticed to see what the big hype is all about. With social media, content creators have established free marketing for the show because of their desire to post something new and relevant to get the most views or likes. It is interesting to me that viral content plays on our actions and ideals. Some people in society are influenced by popularized content they favor and replicate the jokes, voice, sayings, and movements to share with others.

Other than its extreme exposure, this show has many meanings and connections to our own society. A lot of us were raised on the belief that money is the true source of survival. It provides the basic human needs like food, shelter and even clean water. These things come with a price in our society leaving people to do whatever they can to make ends meet.

Within the show, the players turned to violence and selfishness to win the cash prize needed to pay their debts, which shines a light on money’s control over people’s lives and decisions. People commit crimes, harm others, lie, betray loved ones, ruin relationships because of money. The value placed on this piece of paper has become something we highly desire. We have given this object so much power over our lives when it is simply a piece of paper. I do not think that society identifies this as a source of control because it has been taught at a young age that money is a necessity. This desperation to survive is the reason why humans have the ability to lose themselves in the benefits of money. 

On the other hand, people in our society with an excess of riches are not always content with what they have. Sometimes when people already have the basic human necessities, they want and need to continuously feed their desires with something new. They expect more because they already have what they want and need.

In “Squid Game”, these powerful individuals thrived off the pleasure of watching real people suffer because it was rare entertainment. They even placed bets on who they believed would win.

It is crazy to imagine this happening within our society, but after watching this show, it seems as if this possibility shouldn’t be ignored. I mean, we enjoyed it, making predictions on who will win from the comfort of our own homes – does that make us VIPs? The power of money can make anything come to life as long as people are willing to sacrifice.

Alexis Zuniga (she/her/hers)

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