The most watched show in the history of Netflix. Viewed by 142 Million households - 7-times more poplar than Game of Thrones. This Korean show, best watched with subtitles, took the world by surprise in spite of trigger warnings of violence, death, sex and gambling. So, why is this show a run-away hit?
If you Google reasons why #Squidgame became so popular, lots of sites point to social media. Word of mouth. The music. But I think there's much more. It's the inequality of the capitalism. It's rooting for the underdog. It's compassion. It's the luck of the draw. And it's survival.
I recently took a class on horror writing. We examined movies like Friday the 13th, The Shining, The Ring, etc, and discussed why certain people (like me) are drawn to these kinds of movies. Very often horror placates the mind's fear. There is a subliminal primitive belief that if we can "survive" the movie, we have the ability to survive in the real world. These type of shows allow us to be scared in a safe environment, to experience fear without being in danger, and in some ways better handle threats from the outside world.
Watching scary movies also allows us to problem solve. We ask what would we do in this situation? We judge actor's decisions and see how those decisions work - or don't, all along building our own arsenal of problem solving. And, it is no surprise that Squid Game's popularity emerged as the world turned terrifying. The pandemic arrived. Climate change worsened. Gun violence spiked. Politics turned ugly. And we were in the middle of it all.
People needed a way to survive the real world and Squid Game gave them that. We watched bad characters get what they deserve and we saw compassion rise only to be replaced with difficult, heart-wrenching survival decisions. There was injustice and justice. There was loss and gain. And even when it was hard to watch, we did, because we needed to survive. And survive we did, so much so that clamoring fans pushed Netflix into season two.
If you are a Disney or Hallmark channel aficionado, then Squid Game is not for you. But if you enjoy a thriller movie, a scary story, or anything Quinten Tarantino - you will love Squid Game. It reminds us that the underdog can come out ahead, that fear helps us survive, that compassion never goes out of style, and most of all, life always delivers surprises when we least expect it.