Would you play a series of children’s games to win thousands upon thousands of dollars? Would you still play if the consequence of failing is being killed? In the critically acclaimed Korean television show “Squid Game,” 456 people desperate for capital are recruited by anonymous elites to participate in a series of games for a chance to win 45.6 billion Korean won (US$38 million) or lose their life trying.
The show has become a recent global phenomenon, with its premise and characters resonating greatly through social media. From intense color analysis to character edits to memes, the show received significant coverage and attention online, which attracted even more viewers. According to Deadline, “‘Squid Game’ drew 111 million viewers in its first month on the platform, per internal Netflix estimates, becoming the biggest launch in the streaming giant’s history.”
However, some pointed out that with all the success “Squid Game” was achieving, people began to miss the actual point of the series. The show itself is a critique on capitalism and the profiting off of the poor for the entertainment of the rich. In the series, the elites bribe the less fortunate with capital into fighting one another through a mockery of innocent children’s games. Yet this critique is almost swept under the rug as people turn their focus to the aesthetics and characters of the show.
The greatest criticism of this blatant overlook of the show’s deeper meaning has particularly resonated with the number of celebrities who have taken a liking to the show. Those we would consider as our real-life elites, have broadcast on social media their love of the show such as Chrissy Teigen hosting a “Squid Game”-themed party. According to People Magazine, Teigen had her servers dressed as the infamous red guards with black masks walking around as her fellow rich partygoers donned green jumpsuits like the poor contestants of the original show.
Most notably, content creator MrBeast, known for his philanthropic efforts, recently made the show a reality. For his YouTube video “$456,000 Squid Game In Real Life!”, he recreated the original sets and recruited 456 contestants, all of whom among his Youtube and TikTok subscribers. MrBeast promoted finding contestants by encouraging people to subscribe to his social media platforms for a chance to be selected. He went as far as releasing a limited edition shirt that, if purchased, gave the average viewer an extra name in the jar, if you will.
According to MrBeast, the cost of his final 25 minute video resulted in about $3.5 million for the sets built, the crew involved and the monetary prizes — the winner won $456,000 dollars. All those who failed were not killed (that absolutely would have not gotten through Youtube guidelines), but rather eliminated through safe burst packs within their green jumpsuits and left the game with at least $1,000 each. MrBeast made all of them play each game that appears in the show, though with his own interpretations. He was the one to call out “red light, green light” rather than a tall child-like doll like in the show, and instead of playing the Korean children’s game Squid Game as the final game, the finalists played musical chairs until one came out victorious.
The mock “Squid Game” video garnered over 139 million views and 11 million likes in the week of its release, a greater number of views in far less time than the show itself did. As impressive as that may be, people overlook the sheer irony of the recreation of “Squid Game” made to be a source of entertainment for all people rather than just elites, and the use of people who desperately want a chance to win money from a philanthropist who usually gives it away in all sorts of ways in his other videos. MrBeast has the wealth and the status of an elite who was able to pull off what the elites of the original show did, however the only difference between the recreation and the show was the consent of the contestants and the nonlethal way of eliminating people who failed.
I can’t help but keep wondering how this recreation reflects the lack of awareness of the true depth the show carried. I know of people who couldn’t continue on finishing the original show because it felt too real, where it is entirely probable that the impoverished could fall into so much financial trouble their only solution is to play pawn in a rich man’s game. The transition of shows and movies onto the internet always shines more light on them, which helps in their promotion. But people consistently lack the critical thinking skills to know the base of what the show or movie is about. This reflects more often in the rich and the famous. They also showed love to another capitalistic critique of themselves in 2019 with the Korean movie “Parasite.”
All in all, MrBeast’s “Squid Game” video represents an extreme irony that is only furthered by its massive success. The hit show “Squid Game” should have never fallen into the hands of the rich, who acknowledge its beautiful aesthetics but not its significance.