Netflix’s ‘Squid Game’ Is the Dystopian Hit No One Wanted—Until Everyone Did
In a world where the state is in control of all media, Squid Game tells us that this may not be such a great idea. The movie stars an improbably popular squid named Bob, who has been plucked from his ocean home and dragged into a government-run amusement park called “Aquopolis!”
“Dystopian movies on Netflix” is a phrase that has been used to describe the dystopian films like “The Hunger Games” and “1984.”. These films are often times very popular, but not until they’re released in streaming format do they really take off. The film “Squid Game,” which was released on Netflix earlier this month, is one of these cases. It’s currently ranked as the number 1 movie in its category, and it’s also the most watched film in Netflix history.
SEOUL— The dystopian drama “Squid Game” from South Korea may become Netflix Inc.’s NFLX 0.46 percent greatest success ever. However, local studios rejected the fictitious show’s proposal for a decade because it was too ugly and unrealistic.
On a remote island, a group of financially strapped adults perform traditional Korean children’s activities. The losers will perish. A cash reward of about $40 million is awarded to a single winner.
Now, “Squid Game,” which debuted on September 17, has become a worldwide sensation. TikTok videos of adults imitating the children’s games have gone viral, and Halloween costumes for the “Squid Game” are flying off the shelves. The program has topped the charts in over 90 countries, including the United States, surprising even Netflix officials.
According to Minyoung Kim, who oversees Netflix’s creative activities in the Asia-Pacific region except for India, the Korean survival drama is on track to surpass the current record holders—”Bridgerton” and “Lupin”—in total volume of hours watched and number of subscribers who have tuned in for at least two minutes.
Ms. Kim said, “It’s still going up.” “Nothing has ever grown as quickly or as aggressively as ‘Squid Game.’”
Despite its unexpected success, Netflix’s multiyear investment on South Korean programming has paid off with “Squid Game.” According to the business, Netflix spent $700 million on Korean films and television programs between 2015 and 2020. Netflix intends to invest half a billion dollars this year alone.
This contrasts to the about $400 million set aside for India content in 2019 and 2020, as well as the nearly $17 billion Netflix is spending on content globally this year.
The success of “Squid Game” comes as Netflix confronts unprecedented competition, with competing streaming services vying for original blockbusters that may draw in viewers from all over the world.
Hwang Dong-hyuk, the creator of “Squid Game,” came up with the concept for the program while living with his mother and grandmother more than a decade ago. He had to put the script on hold at one point because he had to sell his $675 laptop for cash.
With the possibility of a language barrier, Netflix put a premium on aesthetics in the costumes and settings of ‘Squid Game.’
Image courtesy of Netflix
The violent murders and implausibility of people competing to the death for money enraged prospective funders and performers at the time. Netflix, on the other hand, felt the socioeconomic conflicts shown in “Squid Game” were relevant two years ago.
When the Covid-19 epidemic struck the world economy, it worsened the wealth gap, according to Mr. Hwang, who is 50 years old. Even vaccination rollouts differ significantly depending on a country’s affluence, he added.
Mr. Hwang said, “The world has changed.” “When contrasted to a decade ago, all of these elements made the narrative extremely relatable for people.”
The buzz grew fast. The Netflix trailer for “Squid Game” has already received over 14 million views on YouTube, which is more than twice that of “Bridgerton” or “Lupin.”
The milestone of “Squid Game” being the country’s first program to reach Netflix’s top position in the United States and internationally has been hailed by South Koreans. Local media have dubbed it the sequel to the Oscar-winning film “Parasite.” The program has also made an appearance in South Korea’s presidential election, with some politicians creating spoof posters or competing in “Squid Game”-style contests.
“I was shocked to hear the program performed so well outside of Korea, and I assumed it was because of the popularity of K-pop,” said Kwon Se-un, a café worker, who is 27 years old. “The ruthless murders grabbed my attention, and the variety of personalities kept it interesting.”
“Squid Game” underwent considerable refinement before becoming a worldwide smash success. With the possibility of a language barrier, Netflix emphasized aesthetics, donning contestants in green tracksuits and erecting bright sets that resembled children’s playgrounds. The rules of several traditional Korean games have been simplified or changed.
Many Americans also prefer to watch foreign programs with English dubbing rather than subtitles, which Netflix’s algorithms may choose for them based on their previous viewing habits.
Korean dramas have long had a huge fan following in Asia, and have been shown on various streaming sites such as Viki Inc. and the now-defunct DramaFever Corp. throughout Europe, Latin America, and the United States. Those competitors, on the other hand, didn’t create nearly as much big-budget original content or have the same streaming reach as Netflix, which started operations in South Korea in 2016.
Netflix has added around 80 Korean films and series since then, and U.S. viewership of K-dramas has increased in the last two years, according to Netflix.
According to Netflix’s Minyoung Kim, “Squid Game” has global appeal because it asks a basic moral question: “Who are we?”
Image courtesy of Netflix
Previous Korean blockbusters, which can be seen on Netflix and elsewhere, either revolve on boy-meets-girl love stories or Cinderella-esque tales of the wicked elites—and often combine the two. Some of Netflix’s previous K-drama hits, such as “Crash Landing on You,” a 2019 program in which a South Korean heiress arrives in North Korea after a paragliding accident, followed that formula.
However, more recent programs have begun to break the pattern, attracting viewers other than K-drama aficionados. For example, last year’s apocalyptic thriller series “Sweet Home” debuted at No. 3 on Netflix in the United States.
The majority of “Squid Game” viewers are from countries other than South Korea. According to Netflix, it has been subtitled in 31 languages and dubbed in 13.
According to Netflix’s Ms. Kim, the program, although extremely Korean, has a broader appeal since it asks a basic moral question: “Who are we?”
She said, “We are not horses; we are all people.” “That is the actual question the program wants to ask you.”
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Brittany Chang, a 22-year-old university student in Singapore, had never seen a Korean drama before, but after being persuaded by friends—and Netflix’s recommendations—she viewed the teaser and was puzzled as to why the desperate competitors turned on one other. “The Hunger Games,” another horrific survival story, reminded her of “Squid Game.”
She stated, “I watched the whole series in one sitting.”
According to Suk-Young Kim, head of theater and performance studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, “Squid Game” is a tale about underdogs that connects with younger audiences, much to how the K-pop band BTS established a voice for millennials.
Prof. Kim, who has authored a book on South Korea’s music business, stated, “Korea is no longer an exotic place where only a particular devoted fanbase culture exists.” “It’s a significant cultural center that’s gaining traction in Hollywood and on the Billboard charts.”
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Frequently Asked Questions
Is Squid game based on a true story?
A: No, Squid is not based on a true story. Its made up entirely.
How much money did Netflix make from squid game?
A: Netflix was not the one who made squid game. They only sponsored it, so I have no idea how much money they made from it.
Who created squid game?
A: Squids were originally designed by the Nintendo Research and Development 1, R&D1. This is a division inside of Nintendo that has been in existence since 1983.