How A Squid Game Reality Show Misses The Point Of The Original Series

Netflix, I mean this as disrespectfully as possible: "You're killing me, Smalls."

The streaming giant announced today that it would be producing a reality television competition series based on its hit show "Squid Game," where 456 players would compete in games similar to the ones shown on the original survival horror series in the hopes of taking home $4.56 million. On the surface, this seems like a total no-brainer for Netflix. "Squid Game" is the most popular Netflix original series of all time, and any opportunity to capitalize off the show's popularity seems like a surefire success for the struggling streamer. However, when actually thinking about the context of "Squid Game" and why the titular competition even exists in the first place, "Squid Game: The Challenge" as it will be called, is a bleak reflection of our current existence.

"Squid Game" is known for its requirement that players engage in children's playground games with life or death stakes, but the reason the show was so successful was due in large part to the way the titular game reflected the desperate lengths people will go as a means to escape poverty and be able to survive. The 456 players of "Squid Game" weren't showing up for the fun of it or like the Career Tributes in "The Hunger Games" who train their whole lives to compete; they're playing a life or death game because their financial situation has gotten so bad, putting their lives on the line is a worthwhile risk. That's a point Netflix has apparently missed.

Netflix becomes the VIPs

In the "Squid Game" series, the violent games are the result of boredom from Oh Il-nam (O Yeong-su), an unfathomably rich man who created the game as a means for him and his ultra-rich comrades to have a more entertaining way to use their obscene wealth. "Do you know what someone with no money has in common with someone with too much money?" he asks eventual Squid Game winner Seong Gi-hun. "Living is no fun for them. If you have too much money, no matter what you buy, eat, and drink, everything gets boring in the end." As is rightfully pointed out, this is an absolutely ridiculous comparison and someone needs to call up Gong Yoo's recruiter character to slap some damn sense into him.

Rich people who want for nothing may not enjoy life because it's "boring," but poor people don't enjoy life because it's not sustainable. Living is no fun (I'm speaking as a filthy American here) when you're poor because you're too stressed out worrying about how you're going to pay rent, feed your kids, get to work on time, and survive medical problems that the average person cannot afford. By Netflix serving as host of this game show version, it has inadvertently taken on the position of the billionaires who think watching poor people fight to the death for money is a quality form of entertainment. Even worse, it's hosting the game as a way to keep subscribers on the platform, thereby profiting off of the players' desperate attempts to win the game.

Apparently Netflix has gimmicky prize money, but not employee money

Most infuriatingly, Netflix is boasting about the show's record-setting participation number and eventual prize money to be given away, while simultaneously gutting their company's employee roster. In just the last six months alone, Netflix completely decimated their animation division and eviscerated the writing staff over at its in-house publication Tudum, leaving employees from predominantly marginalized backgrounds without jobs. It's beyond parody for Netflix to announce this project in the wake of rampant firings made in the name of "budget restructuring." In fact, this is such a bad idea, I'm surprised a show hasn't already been made about why forcing people to compete in humiliating games in the hopes of profit in front of watchful eyes is actually bad. OH WAIT. THEY DID. IT'S CALLED "SQUID GAME." It's almost impressive how Netflix walked right up to the point and completely biffed it because their vision was clouded by what I can only assume are cartoon dollar signs in place of pupils.

"Squid Game: The Challenge" also reeks of white-washing and cultural appropriation. "Squid Game" was intentionally made to comment on the broken class divide in South Korea, so of course, a bunch of white people got their hands on it and screamed, "HOW DO I MILK THIS FOR PROFIT?!" And just like all those cursed recipes featuring entire blocks of cream cheese and zero seasoning, the heart and soul of what made "Squid Game" so brilliant has been sucked out and replaced by gutless greed. Not to mention, there's a requirement for contestants to speak English, when "Squid Game" was filmed in Korean. Sounds about white.

We already went through this with MrBeast and Chrissy Teigen

Popular YouTuber MrBeast (real name Jimmy Donaldson) has made a name for himself through his series of videos showing average people competing for huge prizes to perform menial tasks. He's the guy who offered $70,000 to the winner of a game of extreme hide-and-seek, and the same guy behind the viral recreation of "Squid Game" which awarded the winner $456,000. He spent $2 million to practically (as in, no CGI) recreate a nearly screen-accurate depiction of the game's sets, provided all players $2,000 just for showing up, offered $4,000 to 22 people for leaving, and gave the second place player $10,000, rounding up the total prize money of the replica "Squid Game" to a staggering $1.4 million.

Almost immediately, people came out in droves to criticize MrBeast's stunt, noting that by recreating the game, he was completely missing the point of the show's criticism of the way the rich consistently exploit those most in need. "Squid Game" is a show that denounces capitalism and flaunting excessive wealth, which is precisely what the millionaire MrBeast was doing by pulling this stunt. It's no different than when Chrissy Teigen hosted a "Squid Game"-themed party, in which she and other rich celebrities had the opportunity to cosplay as poor people willing to die if it meant pulling their families out of poverty. LOL SO CUTE, RIGHT? It's one thing when a 23-year-old YouTuber completely misses the point of a TV series to make content. It's another when the very company that produced "Squid Game" makes the same mistake.

(Credit where it's due: MrBeast is very philanthropic and does a hell of a lot of charitable donating.)

The games did not make Squid Game

By Netflix focusing solely on the actual games of "Squid Game" and not the story, it's shown that the folks in charge don't actually understand why the series was such a huge success. If watching people compete in childlike games for a cash prize was all it took to be the most successful show on the platform, "Floor is Lava" would have taken the crown years ago. But it didn't. And it won't. Because the popularity of "Squid Game" is defined by the humanity of the characters. It's hard to believe given the *gestures wildly* everything in the world around us, but by and large, people care about people.

I'm sure "Squid Game: The Challenge" will feature little confessional vignettes where people will pour their hearts out with stories about ill family members or growing up in a broken home the same way shows like "American Idol" love to exploit a tragic backstory, but quite honestly, that makes it even worse. Then again, why am I surprised? This is the same company that continues to platform hateful transphobes like Dave Chappelle and Ricky Gervais while hiding under the nothingburger defense of "artistic expression." I've spent the last 15 minutes trying to figure out how to close this article and so far all I can muster is a combination of "I HATE THIS!" and the nervous laughter of Julia Louis-Dreyfus' saying "What the f***?" from that one episode of "Veep." 

In lieu of an actual closing statement, close your eyes and scream at the top of your lungs. I think that gets my point across.