As someone with a deep interest in the entertainment industry and someone who speaks Korean fluently, I feel somewhat obligated to talk about Squid Game. I'm sure if you have an internet connection and are between the ages of 0 and 100, you probably have heard the Netflix show with the title of this post. If you have somehow avoided hearing about this show or have no idea what I'm talking about - props to you for being more immersed in the "real world" or go outside and make friends because something may be wrong with your social circle (jokes).
Two bigger picture notes -
I'm not surprised whatsoever by the hype that this show has carried out - while it's widely known that this script has been in the works for awhile, I think there's so many attributes Squid Game holds that makes it perfect for "online hype." As a whole, I think many show and movie lovers, especially professional critiques, would agree that this isn't some perfect work of art. The show has a long list of cliches, plenty of plot holes and certain artistic choices (outside from its "pop" and simple color scheme) that can be criticized. Simply put, I think the show is an excellent example of how if going viral is your motive, riding the wave of free advertisement through the masses' social media practices, making a meme-able show is what you should aim for. A TV show about survival that leads to a lucky winner that wins a pot of gold, chained together through a series of child games and funky looking costumes, all nicely wrapped in an East Asian country (that most people in pop culture have now heard of through K-Pop and Parasite) is a formula yelling success. Could they have failed? Of course. But I do think it's important to note that Korea has been a highly efficient factory for churning out content for decades, waiting for that catalyst that an entity like Netflix can provide - which is a simple juxtaposition of distribution and funding. It's no surprise that in the four countries (as of this blog post) that Squid Game is not #1 in, 3 of them have another Korean show as number 1. I'll make a bold claim now that Korean Netflix shows will continue to dominate the streaming content sphere, it was only a matter of time.
People have (I actually find this very amusing) asked me whether or not it bothers me that everyone is all of a sudden immersed into the Korean culture and acting like they've cared about Korean entertainment all this time and whether or not my peers asking me about "whether the subtitles are accurate or not" is annoying. Being the ambassador of a certain identity in the United States is something we're all used to - whether you're a racial minority, the only boy or girl in the room, or from Alaska - so I'm not bothered nor do I think I have a right to be bothered. In fact, as mentioned above, I genuinely think Korea's content domination is inevitable and I find this a very valuable part of my existence and distinct competency in today's market. I'm very explicit in my big picture intentions of using this to the best of my ability and I firmly believe that the essence that I hold in being able to be both completely Korean and American at the same time is a priceless resume line that will come in very handy as the world continues to globalize. Do I cringe when Jimmy Fallon is interviewing the cast and acting like everything they say is so interesting and he's holding back from saying things like "wow your English is so good!" Sure, but that's not because this is Squid Game nor do I think it's Jimmy's fault. If you're itching to ask me questions about the show but you're scared it's going to be "racist," please don't hold back and hit up my DM's.
As I'm sure you've seen hundreds of analysis videos by now, let me try to discuss an interesting insight that I came across while trying to see this entire thing in the shoes of someone who doesn't understand Korean or Korean culture. Of course the language barrier is much more pressing than the cultural one (as the entire show is semi-"exploiting" the Korean culture anyways so it doesn't really matter, you can just view it as a game or a "Saw" esque show). It got me thinking about how that may be one of the "pleasures" of life that actually can never be fully embraced by outsiders, no matter the effort they put in. The same way that I can never seem to enjoy watching a football game, probably due to my upbringing as well as my lack of athletic ability, both attributes directly contributing to who I am today and my lack of interest in watching sports as a whole, there's an indescribable filter that non-Koreans (probably) can't get over as they watch something like Squid Game. I'd compare it to someone who has perfect pitch enjoying a music concert or food critique with genetically enhanced taste buds enjoying a Michelin restaurant - there are aspects of the show that I felt to a deeper degree that I couldn't even explain to those that don't have that background. This led me to wonder if there are aspects about American shows and movies, and to take a step further the American life as a whole that I will never be able to understand or fully feel because of my background. I'm definitely overthinking at this point, and even if my claims were true, by definition these are hurdles that can never be jumped as I am who I am. It is weird to think that there will be certain "highs" that we'll never be able to feel because of the way that we've been brought up, and as much as you feel good from viewing something or experiencing something, there's probably someone out there who come from a different environment that is feeling things beyond your capacity simply because they come from somewhere else. I've decided to take this as a blessing and further embrace the fact that I'm able to have these "highs" through my mother tongue as well as my adopted one.
Squid Game season 2 please cast me.