Squid Game: A global sensation highlighting social woes that hits too close to home

…addresses real-life economic issues

The new Netflix sensation, Squid Game, is a fascinating thriller series taking the world by storm and online to become one of the most streamed movies on record.
The series portrays a group of social ill-lucks put together on an unknown island to play a game of life and death for survival and riches.

Squid Game follows contestants who are down in debt to compete in classic South Korean children’s games like “green light red light” to win the grand prize of $38 million in cash.

The series highlights the social inequalities that see the lead protagonist beaten by the economic system, his mother whose urgent medical needs cannot be met due to insufficient funds, and vicious loan sharks demanding he pays his debt with his organs as alternative payment of his debt highlighting the social inequalities faced by the people living in Korea.

Speaking in an interview, Korean locals when asked about the social issues like social inequality portrayed in the series expressed how related the series was to the realities of many.

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A local viewer says “I think income inequality is a big problem in Korean society. Many people are disenfranchised and I don’t think our welfare system is equipped to deal with such large disparity as other countries can. When watching the movie the realistic element got me immersed in it”.

While Koreans argue that human right which has been improved was not reflected properly in the show, when asked if the issues portrayed were out-dated, one of the locals stated that though there could be unintentional discrimination going on, elders, women and other minority groups are treated better and they might be portrayed a bit too negatively in the series.

“If the script was too unrealistic a lot of people would have stopped watching since those social problems still exist. I think the drama can satirize the harsh reality we are facing,” he said.

The same can be said locally as the social structure sees a lot of Nigerians living in poverty.

According to World Bank statistics, 47.3 percent of Nigerians (almost 98 million people) live in multi-dimensional poverty.

Checks by BusinessDay shows that a lot of Nigerians, today find themselves in financial crisis from huge debt acquired from loan companies and may fall into depression, one of the reasons for the country’s increased scale of suicides.

This brings the question to mind-how many Nigerians who find themselves in a similar situation will play the Squid Game if given the invitation?

“It’s very relatable, people will participate, you’ve seen people try out money lottery and their story just change overnight. Even with the disadvantages people face by losing money to online betting sites, the companies have not gone bankrupt or closed down and it’s because the system is working. People are benefiting and they are also benefiting,” Olawore Sophia, Pharmacist and entrepreneur said.

An anonymous contributor agrees that social issues like income inequality and elderly poverty can be related in the series. She continued by saying that people find it hard to feed, talk more, save for retirement and most times face difficulties getting their pension.

When asked if Nigerians would take part in the game she said “Nigerians are not the type to take risks. We just got to the era of protest where more people are showing up but normally won’t take a risk that would involve loss of life.”

The Squid Game is, however, globally appreciated as it has become one of the most streamed movies on Netflix in over 90 countries and counting. The Netflix series which cost only $21.4m (€18.5m) to produce, about $2.4m per episode has been recently estimated to be worth almost $900million (€776m), according to Bloomberg.

The popularity of the show is yielding an immediate impact on social-cultural feelings as costume sales of masks and outfits worn on the show are making huge sales on sites like amazon. Vans reported that the slip-on similarly worn in the series have surged 7800 percent in sales.

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