(This Post Contains Spoilers From Squid Game)
I feel like society has gotten to a point where dystopian movies don’t feel far removed from reality anymore. Or am I just being cynical? I enjoyed Squid Game for many reasons. The cinematography. The character development. It’s critique on capitalism.
Can it even be called a dystopian series? Besides the sadistic games they were forced to play, I think Squid Game got pretty real about classism in our society. It gets real in a way that mainstream American productions do not.
In this limited series, those living in poverty in South Korea are recruited to compete in a competition game for money. They are unaware of the rules of the game until they arrive. The rules are: if you lose the game, you will be killed. The last one alive will win the prize money. Besides the risk of being killed, this game is no different from popular American game shows like Jeopardy or Wipe out, right?
When the characters discover the sadistic rules of this game, they are given a chance to vote to end the game. Majority rules. The game has ended. But when many of the characters return back to their regular lives, they are reminded of the limited options they have.
Gi-Hun’s mother becomes sick and is now unable to work. He has to find a way to support the both of them and pay for her hospital bills.
Byeok’s mother is stuck in North Korea. Her brother is in an orphanage. The little money that she had saved was spent trying to find a way to smuggle her mother out of North Korea. She discovers that her money has been stolen by a con artist.
The main characters are stuck in dire situations with no money. They are now forced back into a game where they will have to backstab and kill each other for a chance to live and find a way out of poverty.
Poverty breeds desperation. There are people who will do anything to find a way out. Even if it means resorting to crime and harming each other. Does it make their actions right? No. But people will find a way to survive by any means necessary.
At the end of the series, the mastermind behind the game is revealed to be Il-Nam. Il-Nam is a wealthy man who admits to creating the game because he and his friends eventually became bored with their ridiculous amount of wealth.
Boredom with wealth led to the creation of a sadistic game where the rich find joy in watching those in poverty risk their lives for a way out.
We watch billionaires like Jeff Bezos invest in “interesting” projects just because they have the money to do so. Bezos has enough money to cure world hunger but has decided to invest in space travel instead.
I think that Squid Game also speaks on the lack of empathy capitalist societies create.
Throughout the series, we learned more about the characters, such as Sang Woo. There is a warrant out for his arrest after he stole money from his clients. He is untrustworthy and will do anything to win. Even if that means deceiving his friends and murdering other contestants.
When Il-Nam and Gi-Hun reunited once again, they make a bet. If the homeless man laying on the sidewalk in the freezing cold receives help before time runs out, Gi-Hun will kill Il-Nam. If the homeless man is left to freeze, Il-Nam will take all of Gi-Hun’s prize money. For most of this scene, people pass the man but no one stops to help. It isn’t until time has almost ran out where someone tries to get him out of the freezing cold.
I didn’t realize how much people lacked empathy until the pandemic. I watched how people. unmoved by the number of deaths, continued to make excuses for their reckless behavior that would affect the rest of the population. People would rather continue the spread of a deadly virus than miss out on a haircut or going to a concert.
Squid Game is a brilliant critique on capitalism. Is it dystopian art if it is an accurate portrayal of the society we live in? Or have we reached a dystopian society?