“Squid Game” was filmed in Daejeon, South Korea. Courtesy Netflix

“Squid Game” warrants all the praise

The highly popular Korean drama, “Squid Game,” contains biting social commentary and enticing content.

If you’ve been on any form of social media within the last week, then I’m sure you’ve seen memes or even scenes from Netflix’s highly popular Korean drama, “Squid Game.” The television show follows a man named Seong Gi-hun who is invited to play children’s games in order to win a large cash prize that would clear his massive debts. He must compete against 455 other individuals who are in the same financial situation as him. However, as the games begin, what at first sounded like easy money, becomes not only a competition for the prize but also for their lives.

Viewed by 111 million people, “Squid Game” has officially taken the title of the biggest series launch ever, which was previously held by “Bridgerton.” As of Oct. 14, “Squid Game” stands at the #1 spot on Netflix’s charts in 94 countries.

Though it seems like “Squid Game” blew up overnight, it’s been a long time coming as director/writer Hwang Dong-hyuk has spent 13 years of his life working on this show, writing it and trying to get a production company to greenlight it.

It looks as if most online discourse comes from a discrepancy in the subtitles. For example, it seems that key scenes in the series have a completely different meaning due to the translation choices made. According to Youngmi Mayer, whose post about the translations has now gone viral, a character makes the comment in Korean that she’s smart, but never had the chance to go to school. In the English closed caption, she says, “I’m not a genius but I still got it worked out,” which completely changes the meaning of her statement, because she was not able to go to school due to her economic situation. The television show itself provides strong commentary on the economic inequality rampant in South Korea, meaning that an entire layer supporting the critique of economic disparity is missing.

That said, the fault does not lie with the translators. Keisha Karina, an Indonesian translator for Netflix, tweeted that the inconsistency between the actual dialogue and the subtitles occurs due to “the reading speed limit一in which [translators] can only use a certain amount of characters to translate a dialogue.” The reading speed limit forces translators to paraphrase, rather than providing a close translation.Though this show is made for South Korean audiences, it’s important for all viewers to receive the same message because the seemingly slight discrepancy changes the entire characterization of her person. Following online criticism of captioning discrepancies, Netflix has gone back and corrected some of the inconsistencies in the subtitles, though not all of them.

“Squid Game” depicts horrifyingly graphic scenes, yet chooses not to glorify the violence or rely on it as shock value一each and every gut-wrenching moment condemns the violence itself. The show is supposed to make viewers feel uncomfortable, driving home the question: how much value do we as a society put on a human life? Without spoiling it, there is one scene in particular from Episode seven that was quite literally nauseating for me to watch. It comes as no surprise that this show is not for the faint of heart. “Squid Game” can be potentially triggering to some viewers as defined by Netflix it contains “gory murders,” “attempted sexual assault” and “suicide.” Though it hasn’t really been mentioned anywhere, it’s important to note that in Episode four, there is a prolonged scene with flashing lights that could potentially trigger epilepsy.

Beyond the content, Hwang Dong-hyuk’s writing for this show is unmatched. He skillfully manages to allow viewers to gain emotional attachments to multiple characters with very limited screen time. In addition to this, he creates three-dimensional characters who all have shortcomings, some more than others, and yet never demonizes them for their choices. Each and every one of these characters received a bad hand in life, and the writer understands that sometimes the only choice that someone can make is a bad one.

I would be remiss to fail mentioning the superb actors that bring these emotionally charged scenes to life. Lee Jung-jae plays Seong Gi-hun, the protagonist of the series. His character’s scenes with Oh Il-nam (played by O Yeong-su) are some of the most heart-wrenching scenes in the entire show as Seong Gi-hun tries to take care of the game’s oldest participant Oh Il-nam, who happens to have a brain tumor.

Another breathtaking performance comes from Jung Ho-yeon who plays Kang Sae-byeok, a North Korean defector who is playing in the games in order to get her mother out of North Korea. Believe it or not, this is Jung Ho-yeon’s first acting role, which makes her powerful performance all the more impressive.

Honestly, each and every actor in “Squid Game” brings something special to the show; their performances breathe life into this story, allowing the brutal moments to have the needed emotional resonance within viewers.

“Squid Game” is one of the most well-written and well-acted television shows that has come out in a long time, so if you’re looking for a new show to binge, then look no further. “Squid Game” is now streaming on Netflix.

Post Author: Madison Walters