*This review contains spoilers.*
Monopoly – One of the most lovable board games out there. As complicated as the rules can get, all you really must know is that you play to emerge as the richest and strategize to trample on the poor. I know it’s a grim take on a world favorite, but then again, we’re talking about Monopoly in the Squid Game. And grim doesn’t even begin to describe the problems we have right now.
What’s the Catch?
For all the beginners out there, Squid Game has become one of the world’s biggest streaming series ever. With a plotline that kills (quite literally), the story encircles 456 players who enter a series of children’s games, hosted by the world’s 1 percent, in order to get out of their debt-stricken lives. As they progress through each fatal game, the stack of money they can win at the end increases.
So, why the comparison to Monopoly? Well, it’s one of the most well-known children’s games out there. And almost like a collective illusion, we just choose to ignore the fact that the game is based on strapping the rest of the players of their cash and building your own monopoly until they break into so much debt that they literally have no money. Doesn’t sound at all like childish fun when I put it like that, does it? As you play, it becomes painfully apparent who seems to be earning more and who seems to be falling to the grip of those bank loans. It couldn’t be clearer. It’s a war to win, but one you can win ONLY if you rise to the ranks of the rich.
Just Some Class Rules
Random strangers in black masks and pink overalls shooting them in the face seemed better to them than going back to the poverty-stricken life they led outside.
Now, unlike the game where everyone starts off with a standard amount of money, Squid Game depicts a much more realistic portrait of our world. Debt-ridden individuals, barely keeping it together, are brought in with the promise of winning millions of Won (Korean currency). And note that these very members, after the very gruesome ‘Red Light, Green Light’ game, had quit and left the games by passing a majority vote. They came back though, because the reality was that random strangers in black masks and pink overalls shooting them in the face seemed better to them than going back to the poverty-stricken life they led outside.
It’s pretty obvious when I say that people in the elite classes live more than comfortably than, well, those who aren’t. They may also look down on those below them socially and financially. There’s a whole bunch of issues related to this; exploitation, classism, marginalization, you name it. Squid Game, however, takes this discrimination a level further, as it shows the world’s one percent organizing these games for their own enjoyment. And why? Simply because they’re bored. The games are, and let me break it down for you, composed of: killing, murder, bloodshed, betrayal, gang fights, helplessness, and despair. And here we were thinking that the weird games shrouded in children’s playgrounds and creepy kid dolls were as messed up as it got.
Now, Squid Game isn’t commenting on the upper class in general, but rather on the few who use that power to get away with a lot of bad things just because they can. And those who are penniless have no choice but to succumb, as not only do they lack the finances, the power, the support, and the authority; they lack the will to do anything about it. How could they not? You could be as strong as Ali, as smart as Sang-Woo, as badass as Ji-Yeong, and as gangster as Deok-Su. It still wouldn’t match the power of money, or more aptly, the lack thereof.
Power to the
There is also a very interesting plot point in the show as we find out that the cop’s missing brother actually won the games in the past and took over as the Front Man. The question really is – why would he stay? Maybe the series strived to show the control of the games, as even after players won, they couldn’t fully go back to living a normal life or a better one considering how much they won. This is just as apparent when Gi-Hun, after his very gruesome finale in the games, can’t spend any of his prize money in real life. Be it the guilt of Sang-Woo’s sacrifice or just the sheer gut-wrenching truth of how he earned that blood-stained money. The way to the top stripped Gi-Hun of his ability to actually leave it all behind – the debt, the misery, the pain of losing his daughter. But as he went through the games, the question really became whether he wanted to move forward and use the money he won, built on the bodies of countless innocents.
No matter what your social status or financial ability, the division of our society will cost us.
Someone once said, money divides. And it’s not an exaggeration. The show aimed to portray just what the real world does, albeit in a much more hyperbolic way. Was it just for the fun of it? Or was it to incite an awareness we all have been conveniently letting go of? Probably the latter. Because if we’re here and talking about it, a lot of the battle has already been won. Taking this show to start conversations and bring people to understand the bleak reality of the inequality in our world is important. And starting these conversations is something we should take seriously. No matter what your social status or financial ability, the division of our society will cost us. And mind you, one fateful day, the parts of civil society that we lose to classism and financial discrimination will stop being things we can replace with money.
Bonus: Here’s a clip from what started this whole mess in the first place. The Ddakji game.
Cover: Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash
Edited by: Laurent Hebette