In 2012, “The Hunger Games” captured the eyes and minds of everyone, from middle schoolers to middle-aged couples in America.
In 2019, “Parasite” floated through every conversation among film enthusiasts with praise for its stark images, undersaturated color grading, and wide-angle shots capturing themes of greed, commentating on class, and highlighting the struggle for wealth.
Fast forward to September of 2021. Following a pandemic, chaotic elections, economic downturns, and social upheaval, “Squid Game” spotlights the issues of crushing debt, the pursuit of financial freedom, and the inhumane lengths that drive some to pursue wealth at all costs — with an added layer of twisted voyeurism for the mere sake of entertainment.
Less than a month after its release, the Netflix original has taken the world by storm. What has now become referred to as “The Hunger Games” and “Parasite” crossover, has spent multiple days trending on Twitter and sat at the top of pop culture, film, and media blogs within its short month on the streaming platform.
So what’s next? And what now?
While Twitter and Instagram continue to be flooded by memes — writers and producers are hard at work keeping up with the onslaught of rumors of a season two. The mention of a second season is a victory lap for writer and director Hwang Dong-hyuk, who was passed over by numerous studios over the last 10 years before Netflix took on the project and began production two years ago.
A decade later, the popularity of this once-rejected show would eventually lead a South Korean internet provider to sue Netflix for a surge in streaming, nearly causing the provider to crash. Netflix is also working to remove the phone number from the infamous invitation card that appears on-screen due to reports of viewers worldwide flooding the number asking to play.
“Together with the production company, we are working to resolve this matter, including editing scenes with phone numbers where necessary,” Netflix shared via Reuters. There is no denying this show has become a cultural touchstone that has infiltrated pop culture.
The show has pushed the production and entertainment giant Netflix to newer heights. Early 2021, Netflix announced a plan to invest $700 million into its Asian market content. The show has officially become Netflix’s most-watched show, hitting a total of 111 million views within a month of its debut, and helped Netflix stock hit record highs, closing out at $610.34 in September.
The show leaves no stone unturned within the world of culture and has even thrown the fashion world for a spin with a reported 7,800% spike in demand for the infamous all-white Vans slip-on to complete the “Squid Game” look. With the increase in sales and undeniable popularity of the show, there is no doubt that the iconic all-white shoe and tracksuit combo will be taking over this Halloween season. The show’s wardrobe has attracted praise — tapping into retro, oversized, monochromatic tracksuits that work effortlessly with the show’s boldly colored and ironically playful aesthetics. Much of the attention is also focused on the people in the tracksuits — the actors.
Viewer favorite, player #067, HoYeon Jung, just signed a major fashion partnership with Louis Vuitton, finished an appearance on “Korea’s Next Top Model” before the show’s airing, and has quickly used her influence on the screen to make strides within the fashion world.
Socially, the show has been at the root of conversation around our relationships with capitalism, consumerism, debt, and currency within different cultures and lifestyles. In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Netflix Asia’s top executive Minyoung Kim discussed how “the essence of the show is its commentary on social injustice — class divisions and financial inequality, or even gender-related issues. These social injustice issues aren’t only Korean — the whole world is struggling with them. These elements made the show resonate strongly outside of Korea as well.”
Award-winning social activist rapper Meek Mill has even spoken about the social commentary set in “Squid Game,” bringing attention to how the themes in the show translate to “hood poverty” in the U.S. Meek took to Twitter to express his thoughts sharing: “Squid games’ pay attention how fast people switch and kill each other to survive …now think about the ‘hood’ poverty …it’s the exact same thing …if you just help them with work/money they won’t be that way ‘just a common-sense message.’”
The hit show and cultural phenomenon have even impacted the music streaming industry, with Spotify reporting over 22,500 playlists inspired by the K-drama. The U.S. leads in numbers with the most generated playlist inspired by the show, with the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, and the Netherlands following closely behind.
The Korean Cultural Center in Abu Dhabi hosted a real-life version of the games where players tested their luck in less death-defying challenges. Would you be willing to play?