Netflix’s Squid Game Breaks Not Only Records but Barriers

Janiyah Smith

Netflix’s new smash-hit show Squid Game premiered on Sept. 17 and it is not hyperbole to say the show has quickly taken over the world. In its first 23 days, an estimated 132 million people have watched at least two minutes of the show. It crushes Netflix’s previous record held by the show Bridgerton which received roughly 63 million views in the first 28 days. 

The show has been turned into thousands of viral memes and videos on the internet, created into games you can play on your phone, and it is expected to be one of the #1 Halloween costumes this year. The hashtag Squid Game has been viewed more than 22.8 billion times on the viral social media platform Tik Tok. 

The Korean smash hit focuses on main character Seong Gi-Hun, played by Lee Jung-Jae, who participates in a series of children’s games with the hopes of winning 45.6 billion Won, this translates to 38,122,800 million U.S dollars, however, there are deadly consequences for losing.

In America, most people who enjoy Asian entertainment watch anime. But, shows like Squid Game and one of 2019’s biggest movies, Parasite, have allowed international viewers to see that Asian markets can be more diverse than just animated characters. 

Squid Game has been dubbed in 13 languages and subtitled into 31. Unless you speak Korean, the majority of people who watched Squid Game watched it with subtitles. Most people won’t watch TV shows in other languages because they don’t like to read subtitles while watching. This is why Squid Game’s success was shocking for many. For many Americans, one of Netflix’s biggest markets, Squid Game, has opened their minds that if you can get past reading subtitles, you can discover lots of new and exciting shows. 

For director and creator Hwang Dong-hyuk, who has enjoyed lots of success in the South Korean entertainment market, watching this show become such a global sensation has been a dumbfounding experience. 

 After initially creating Squid Game in 2009 and having it turned down by multiple South Korean production companies, Dong-hyuk had to move on with his career. He had a family to support and didn’t have time to waste trying to kick start one project. Once Netflix finally gave him the green light in 2018, he could finally make an almost 10-year dream appear on the screen. 

 In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter Dong-hyuk gave lots of insight into many aspects of Squid Game. 

Dong-hyuk said the initial inspiration for Squid Game came from him reading in comic book cafes. He would read about characters playing life or death games and sometimes getting paid for reward. 

Dong-hyuk, who was broke at the time, said he would’ve done anything to play in one of those games and get out of his financial situation. 

One of the reasons Dong-hyuk accredits Squid Game to be such a big success is that he used his own life to develop the characters and story. He has confirmed that all the characters in the show are named directly after people he knows personally. Also, the idea wasn’t created by a multi-millionaire or company, but by someone poor. The characters’ personalities aren’t made up but are directly rooted in real-life people. 

Another reason Dong-hyuk says Squid Game has been such a smash hit is that the children’s games the characters play can make viewers feel nostalgic. Also, the games are simple and basic enough to transcend easily across multiple cultures, so viewers don’t have to spend so much time analyzing and understanding the rules and instead focus on the dynamic of the characters and how they grow. 

Dong-hyuk has also said that another reason for the show’s success is how many people can, at some level, emphasize or relate to the characters. Primarily because of the pandemic, many people are out of work or fell on hard times. Struggling financially and being willing to do just about anything to change is a feeling many can relate to. 

Dong-hyuk agrees that if viewers get past reading subtitles, their eyes will open to even more excellent films and shows. He said he is proud that his project can be one of the leading fronts for people exploring South Korean entertainment.