“Squid Game”: the reasons for success

Posted on Oct 14, 2021, 5:59 PM

There are phenomena that we do not see coming. South Korean dystopian drama, “Squid Game” not only surprised but reshuffled the back-to-school television. While the giant Netflix was betting instead on the earthy fiction “Sex Education”, season three, to catch the eye of its young viewers, this new creation from Asia has been seen by 111 million subscribed households! At the top of the rankings in more than 80 countries, attracting a very large audience, “Squid Game” is certainly not lacking in assets. Overview of the keys to global success.

Survival games, a winning bet

Intrigue removed and behind closed doors blood, “Squid Game” has something to hold in suspense the amateurs of cold sweats. If his scenario is so appealing, it is because it draws from a universe specific to dramaturgy, suspense, and twists: that of survival games. Throughout the nine episodes, hundreds of characters, from the most marginalized fringes of South Korea, participate in a strange competition on an island tinged with mystery, whose name no one knows or how to escape.

The big winner, the only survivor of the competition, wins 45.6 million won (33 million euros) while each loser is sometimes shot and sometimes thrown into the void by hot-blooded jailers. Murderous and appalling, the fiction is above all a parable of the rise in inequalities in South Korea, between social allegory and extreme violence. But beyond this more political and social aspect, the series fits – and this is the key to its international popularity – in a lighter framework: that of a tribute to pop culture.

Tribute to pop culture

This is how his scenario, dystopian at will, draws its inspiration from the cult Japanese game “Battle Royale”, by the emeritus Kinji Fukasaku, himself inspired by a film of the same name. In this bloody tale, high school students face off in a fight to the death, in the form of a deadly arena.

A success such as this concept has since given life to a video game genre – “Apex Legends”, “Fortnite” or even “Call of Duty Warzone” – using the same codes of killing and closed-circle competition. In the cinema, the “Hunger Games” saga – where participants clash in a hostile environment, during a national televised event – but also the horror films “Saw” testify, through their box office results, a major craze.

A very lucrative market therefore, on which “Squid Game” rushes with panache, playing labyrinthine alleys, where each guard tracks the candidates with a weapon in hand. On the masks of the latter are moreover drawn circles or squares – a nod to the graphics of the consoles. A universe that naturally invites to be declined: the series could soon become a video game license, according to the words of Minyoung Kim, head of Netflix content in Asia.

A playful aesthetic

Especially since all the salt of the series comes from this clever mix between a very violent and sharp side, but also a playful and childish atmosphere, perfectly revisited over the chapters. From “1,2,3 soleil” to marbles competitions, through tug of war, the deadly events are inspired by games known to all, a collective imagination which brings a welcome lightness in an increasingly context. heavy.

Like the “Casa de Papel”, “Squid Game” thus plays on a very identifiable and easily memorable sartorial bias: that of costumes. A playful aesthetic, easy to reproduce and with very strong visuals, a significant asset in the age of social networks.


So here are the guardians of the game in bright red jumpsuits, tapping into the visual legacy of heist movies, while that of horror movies is never far away. Behind her orange dress and her quilts, the murderous doll, which kills unhappy competitors with her eyes, is reminiscent of the “Chucky” films. So many transgenerational costumes and tributes that are part of the global craze, all the more on the eve of Halloween. Thus, sales of white Vans, worn by candidates, have exploded by 7,800% in the last few days. A godsend for these shoes hitherto forgotten in many locker rooms.

The boom in South Korean culture

Proof, if needed, of the ever-growing expansion of the South Korean cultural scene abroad. Two examples attest to this: the first is obviously the success of the group BTS, the most popular boy band in the world, new stone in the very solid building of K-Pop. A runaway orchestrated by the entertainment company Big Hit, whose listing last year had panicked the Seoul Stock Exchange. Instrument of “soft power”, this musical genre has found a new face with Lisa, a former member of the band Blackpink, whose track “Lalisa” became the most watched track in one day, surpassing the record held on YouTube by Taylor Swift. .

The second South Korean triumph is none other than the film “Parasite”, Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1919 and the first non-English-speaking work to win the Oscar for best film last year. It is therefore natural that Netflix announced, last February, an investment plan of 500 million dollars (432 million euros) in series and films produced in South Korea, for this year alone. “Squid Game” obviously proved them right.

We would like to say thanks to the author of this short article for this remarkable content

“Squid Game”: the reasons for success

Hank Gilbert