[*includes some spoilers*]
The trailer had me judge the series too soon. Seeing masked men in red and a bunch of people wearing green tracksuits just didn’t strike me as interesting. In fact, movies like Hunger Games, Battle Royal, The Purge, Hostel, Would You Rather, and other stuff went through my head, and I didn’t have the nerve to watch something causing mass hysteria.
(Until I realised that people were looking at the completely wrong signposts.)
My second thoughts would have kicked in sooner if I had noticed The Squid Game’s themes. Besides, Koreans are terrific storytellers—ever since Old Boy, you knew they had more original stories up their sleeves. I decided to give The Squid Game a chance.
The themes of debt, despair and deadly demeanours were daunting and kind of represent the state of our broken society, if not the relationship between North and South Korea.
The games—referred to as what boomers used to play as children—reflect the childishness of the “technical” cold war between North and South Korea. History is a tough cookie that I don’t like to bite into. Nobody does, which is why they’re preoccupied with playing the games instead. I admire these people who see the fun side of things. All they want to do is re-enact the games and have a good time.
I can’t help but look deeper. People are complicated, and Asians even more so. On whatever nation the Soviets have laid their hands, that nation is tainted for life. They make communism appear like a mental disease. You can’t help but feel shivers down the spine when looking at these two opposing political systems.
Contestant #67, a North Korean defector, went to the South for a better life, which was ironic.
My least favourite episode was “The VIPs.” Never mind the gory details in the series overall; the fat VIPs were the most disgusting characters. Wearing shiny gold-plated masks, spread out on fancy divan sofas, and indulging in decadence. Their inhumane attitude towards the contestants made me physically sick.
The ultimate question is: What has capitalism done? And what will it continue to do? There was never a balance between the rich and the poor. If the rich invest money in something, they’ll want something in return, such as entertainment. That’s why movies like The Purge or Would You Rather are so disturbing.
However, the old man, contestant #1, is right. After all, the tracksuiters all chose to return to the game. If you sign a waiver, you’ll sign away your life.
The old man’s yearning for the past reflects what Gen X and Y people are experiencing these days. As a “xennial,” I can feel that I’m getting older, becoming nostalgic, hinging on past good times, and then distracted by the poor choices I’ve made in life.
If you look at the overall contestants’ ages in the series, you’ll see they’re primarily Gen X’ers and Y’ers with a few millennials here and there.
What does that say about Gen X and Y? –That we haven’t recovered from the 2008 recession. Many of us just graduated from college during the recession. We graduated into a world that didn’t need our artistic and creative values. So we ended up working meaningless jobs that didn’t define us. And we got stuck there.
Gen X and Y have, for many years, blamed the boomers for the 2008 recession, hence contestant #456 expressing his anger towards the old man.
When the economy started to pick up again, the last batch of millennials and Gen Z people had a way brighter future ahead of them. Advanced technology and software gave the young the means to learn more about digital possibilities.
(Having hunted for a WFH job for over a year, I can tell you that a high number of digital business founders aren’t even 30 yet.)
Most Gen Z people in Hollywood movies have a pool in their backyard. Compare this to the few Gen Z people that you see in The Squid Game. Gen X and Y are trying to catch up with you Z’s.
One of the red men that took off his mask was just a young fella. Despite being shot, he was still more superior to the contestants wearing tracksuits.
Here’s a link to my essay: What does it mean to be young in an ageing world?