A ‘Squid Game’ Themed Reality Show Misses the Message

quid game

Netflix has announced a new competition reality show based on Squid Game. This makes me think they didn’t actually watch Squid Game. Or, at the very least, they didn’t understand the message.

The sudden popularity of Squid Game was an amazing thing to experience. It blended a terrifying premise – people trapped in a game where losing means death – with social commentary about wealth inequality and class warfare. The social commentary wasn’t exactly subtle, but it was done in an entertaining format and was ultimately worth a watch. Poor people were forced to fight to the death for money as rich people looked on. It was very clear and its popularity was very well-earned.

Now, however, Netflix is making it an actual reality show competition. It’ll have 465 contestants and a $4.65 million payout. I assume these contestants won’t actually have to fight to the death, but it certainly sounds like they’ll be fighting hard for some money for entertainment. Really, Netflix? Is that the message you took away from the show? That we want to watch poor people suffer for money?

Brandon Riegg, Netflix VP of unscripted and documentary series, said the following:

“We’re grateful for his support as we turn the fictional world into reality in this massive competition and social experiment. Fans of the drama series are in for a fascinating and unpredictable journey as our 456 real world contestants navigate the biggest competition series ever, full of tension and twists, with the biggest-ever cash prize at the end.”

In addition to Netflix obviously thinking this is a great idea, a lot of mainstream journalists seem to be excited about it too. The Variety article linked in this piece says it’s a ‘no-brainer.’ To me that implies they think it’s a good idea. Also, this was done previously on a smaller scale, and the creator of Squid Game, Hwang Dong-Hyuk, seemed on board with it at that time. At the moment I can’t find any quotes from him about Netflix’s version of the show, but I would be incredibly curious about it.

Despite all of this, I am looking forward to the actual second season of the series. Exploring these themes and watching fictional people fight for their lives for money is vastly different than watching real people struggle. I’m not entirely sure that Netflix has understood that what we enjoyed about the show was the ability to explore these themes without anyone actually coming to harm, though. They seemed to think it was watching people struggle that piqued our interest.

In fact, I don’t think they even understand the themes. They think we enjoyed watching people suffer, perhaps. But, uh, that wasn’t it. We weren’t identifying with the VIPs here. We were identifying with the players and their struggles. We hate the VIPs. We don’t want to be them!

Despite the problematic nature of those who gave this show a greenlight and all the journalists hyping it up, it seems like some people see the problem with this. Thankfully.

 

It’ll be interesting to see this develop if only to see if this is the last big thing Netflix ever does. Let’s not forget, Netflix is suffering right now. Perhaps the reality show will end with the contestants rebelling and taking all of Netflix’s money or something. I’d be down to watch that. But this? I think I’ll pass.

Author: Angel Wilson

Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.


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