When Hwang Dong-hyuk faced several rejections for his story and had to stop writing and subsequently sell his laptop to get over a financial crisis, little did he know that almost a decade later, his story would become the most-watched show on a streaming platform that has viewership all over the world (except mainland China, Syria, North Korea, and Crimea).
Within a month of its release, South Korea’s Squid Game has become Netflix’s most-watched original, breaking the record of Bridgerton. According to Netflix’s estimates, after 17 days of its release, it had drawn over 111 million viewers worldwide, surpassing the record held by Bridgerton (82 million viewers). By the 23rd day, about 132 million people had watched at least 2 minutes of the show, according to a report in Bloomberg based on a document shared by Netflix.
The streaming giant has around 209 million subscribers as of July 2021.
The report also states that the survival drama is estimated to be worth almost $900 million. Ever since its release on September 17, it topped innumerable charts in the blink of an eye. The series became the first Korean drama to grab the top spot on Netflix USA, top Netflix’s top ten weekly most-watched TV shows charts globally, and reached number one in almost 94 countries.
The dystopian series is somewhat a commentary on the economic condition and struggles of the people of South Korea. 456 people from different walks of life, who are crushed with crippling debt and have no way to get back on their feet are approached by a mysterious salesman, who offers them a chance to participate in a game whose winning prize is 45.6 billion South Korean Won.
They are taken to a mysterious place, guarded by masked strangers and led by a masked man. They are asked to play simplistic children’s games, at the end of which participants failing to complete it would be eliminated. However, one crucial detail is left out which the participants figure out while playing the game. Here, elimination means death. On the other hand, a police officer working in Seoul ends up at the mysterious place while looking for his missing brother who had a link to this game.
The show’s popularity was fueled by word of mouth and social media trends. Now, people all over Instagram are making dalgona candies, selling Squid Game themed costumes for Halloween and holding real-life Squid Games (minus the murders, of course!)
Moreover, Netflix launched Squid Game Profile icons for its users.
Squid Game stars an ensemble cast of Lee Jung-Jae, Park Hae-soo, Jung Ho-Yeon, O Yeong-Su, Anupam Tripathi, Gong Yoo Wi Ha-Joon among others.
The dystopian show works with several themes and real-life issues like economic crisis, class divide, capitalism, the hustle culture, and most importantly- thinking of one’s survival above anything or anyone. With the game designed in a way to eliminate participants in every stage, it becomes a kill or die situation for them. That brings out the unthinkable in the characters who go to any extent, from manipulating to pushing someone to their death.
It also shows how the entitled elites of the society have no remorse controlling the lives of other people and take pleasure in watching them kill each other. A line in the show says, “You bet on horses. It’s the same here, but we bet on people."