netflix encountered a bit of a backlash after deciding to create an ambitious reality show based on his hit fiction series squid game. The premise of the new show is quite simple. Squid Game: The Challenge will be the biggest reality TV show ever produced, with 456 participants. They’ll complete tasks, play games, and form alliances along the way. This is all in pursuit of a cash prize of $4.56 million.
Anyone who has seen squid game can probably begin to see why this sounds a little backward. squid game inherently and openly criticizes capitalism and the way it drives people to do insane things for money out of sheer desperation. The people who participate in the challenge are not putting their lives on the line because they are greedy, but because there is no other option. Most of the characters on the show come from poverty or, at the very least, weren’t raised in luxury. They are only competing in the mortal game for the chance of a better life.
Could it not be argued that reality TV is then exactly the same as the plot of the original series? Of course, the stakes are a little lower because there’s no real death involved, so this may be a cursory read. What if some of the candidates are about to become homeless or need expensive surgery? The motivations behind competing on the show could be endless. Maybe the reality show is really only one small step away from the art it fakes.
Now that this existential economic dissection of the factors at play is complete, let’s look at what the creator of squid game had to say about the reality show. Hwang Dong-hyuk seems to have a much more lax view of it all than a lot of people. Variety reported a statement he did behind the scenes at the 2022 Emmys, which are as follows:
I think even though our show carries a pretty heavy message – and I know there are concerns about taking that message and turning it into a reality show with a cash prize, however, I feel like that when you take things too seriously, it’s really not the best way forward for the entertainment industry. It doesn’t really set a big precedent.
What Hwang Dong-hyuk said is true, and it really can’t be disputed. These kinds of conversations about the media we consume, their level of ethics and their impact on the people involved in their production are not the most fun. It’s not entertaining. But in the end, it matters.
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