Squid Game: It’s Impact Explained

By Julia Klimek ‘22 and Vanessa Zevallos ‘22

Have you been invited to watch Squid Game?

Kids play all sorts of games, such as Red Light Green Light and Tug of War with the objective to have fun and pass time with friends. But what if you were able to play these games for money? Squid Game, a Korean fictional drama, introduces this idea. Four hundred fifty six people of various backgrounds are gathered together in order to play a series of children’s games for a promised 45.6 billion Korean won. However, they each have one thing in common: Extremely high debt. These contestants aren’t aware of what is coming their way after they willingly sign away their rights to participate in these extreme games.

For some there may be no turning back as the losers in these games get killed. 

Over the past few months Squid Game has drastically grown in popularity on Netflix. It’s now labeled the No. 1 show in dozens of countries. People around the globe are talking about the new viral show with their friends and family as well as on social media.

Could this Korean drama possibly have helped the U.S. population step out of its American film comfort zone? Has there been an increased interest in foreign-language films/shows due to the popularity of Squid Game? And, why did Squid Game have such an impact on the human population? 

Victoria Modelski, a college student majoring in psychology, recently joined the bandwagon in watching foreign-language films. Before Squid Game’s global rise in popularity, Modelski had minor interest in foreign-language films. 

“At first, a big bias for me was indolence and just not being able to focus on both the movie and subtitles at the same time. People would just tell you to watch the show/film with dubbing, but it defeats the purpose of the show in general,” said Modelski. 

Unfortunately, most people have fallen prey to not-so-good American films, just because the original filming of it is in English. To some, watching media dubbed in English is a more convenient option because it saves them time and it requires less focus.

After watching Squid Game, Modelski became eager to watch more foreign-language films. Every episode brought her a vast amount of curiosity and left her on the edge of her seat. The incorporation of innocent children’s games with malignant, gruesome gamification of survival in the show reflect themes that depict real life issues such as exploitation of the lower class, inequality throughout the social classes and betrayal.

Estefani Lopez, an instrumental major at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (FSSA), expressed how watching Squid Game influenced her.

“Even just watching Squid Game the first time I felt like hearing it in another language made it feel different, more interesting even. After watching it I have noticed that I’ve started watching more foreign films,” she said.

Korean Dramas (K-Dramas) such as Put Your Head on My Shoulder and Accidentally In Love are shows that Estefani took a liking to after discovering her love for foreign films/TV shows. Compared to American dramas, K-Dramas exhibit different perspectives, ones that tend to be more thrilling and unique. 

Squid Game attracted a global audience because of its accessibility. Because the show is a Netflix Original series, viewers are able to watch it in their own language instead of being restricted to the show’s original language: Korean. Netflix has subtitles in 37 different languages and dubs in 34 different languages (dubs are recordings of translations that replace the original audio). 

Another reason why Squid Game has grown in popularity is because it “is a wholly unique property not based on any existing idea or concept, which could have hamstrung its popularity as both a new and a foreign property with no fan base,” according to the article Netflix’s ‘Squid Game’ is a Sensation. Here’s Why It’s So Popular by NBC News. People want to see new content. Unique concepts will circulate on social media platforms and become trends as we’ve seen happen many times in the past. It gives people something to talk about with their friends and family.    

However, not everyone thinks so positively of Squid Game. George Makris, an FSSA senior film major, became eager to watch Squid Game after he saw how popular it was getting. He claimed that he was skeptical at first because he tends to refrain from watching foreign films/shows.   

“I don’t like it when it’s in another language. I don’t care much for subtitles, they’re not the right fit for me. It’s difficult for me to read subtitles. I have a hard time focusing,” George said. 

Subtitles are one of the main reasons why many people have stayed in the American film comfort zone. It’s easier to watch something in your own language rather than having to read the translations on the screen.

Another reason why Squid Game may be viewed negatively is because of the amount of violence happening throughout the entire show. The vivid, bloody scenes can make viewers uncomfortable and challenge their emotional capacity. According to The Washington Post’s article How to Watch ‘Squid Game’ if You Hate Violence it can take some people up to a week to recover after watching the first episode of Squid Game. This can be very overwhelming, especially for people who tend to avoid shows that provoke an emotional reaction in them. 

Squid Game has provoked a mix of reactions in its viewers. Some would agree that the show has helped the population step out of their American film comfort zone and increased interest in foreign films/TV shows. Others would say that Squid Game has not impacted interest in foreign films.