Ranking at #1 in Pakistan, Squid Game has the world enthralled. Do we like it because it is extreme, or do we simply find it to ring true?
You trust people not because you can – you trust people because you have to.”
Squid Game (SG) is garnering rave reviews internationally with its unapologetic portrayal of brutality and seamless, razor-sharp social commentary because at its heart it’s just humanity, yeah?
The heart-pumping, competitive nature of survival at the forefront of each episode is harrowing not just because of the white-knuckled action sequences cinematically erected in some dystopian future, but because it is relentlessly accurate of how our underserved and under-represented communities fare. Summary: SG records what would happen if the direst needs in our meager lives are offered a chance at financial comfort.
SG was going to lose this horror-thriller addict’s vote until I found myself in the chokehold of its layered narrative and recalled all the times some of my closest friends have wondered what wouldn’t they do if they can just pay rent and eat a decent meal that would get them through the day.
We’ve all been there –some of us more than others. But here we are – nauseated because even the tiniest bills are too immense to handle and we forego medical help, letting a small knee wound fester into threats of amputation, because bus passes are more important to take us to our next gig. And while we are trying to ignore how our knee smells like raw chicken that has been left out in a warm kitchen entirely too long, we live alongside the wealth of some that is squandered seemingly mindlessly by way of designer labels, extravagant wedding festivities and Instagram trips detailing the glitter of foreign destinations. In this well-divided class system, every time I get mugged and lose yet another IPhone, I usually wonder how the lives of my muggers have brought them here – risking it all for an outdated phone.
Which is why SG holds us mesmerized - where even if the games don’t end in the players dying, internal strife will have us killing each other - food and harvested human organs optional. And while we battle it out royally, foreign VIPs will gather to extract entertainment from the death games – a bit reminiscent of foreign VIPs ruthlessly hunting endangered game in Pakistan. What will they spend their monies on when we are out of Houbara Bustards? What lengths will their well-wishers go to keep that income locked? Shall we expect Squid Games in Pakistan?
It is no surprise that SG has been accused of plagiarism or at least plagiarized thought. Likened to the 2014 Takashi Miike film, As the Gods Will, The Hunger Games, Japanese manga Liar Game, and even my own leanings towards calling it a Battle Royale fangirl, SG has been in the works since 2008 according to director Hwang Dong-hyuk, and while some themes overlap incidentally, he has noted that his narrative is shaded with Battle Royale and Liar Game.
However, just because Will Shakes got his Romeo and Juliet out first in the English-speaking world doesn’t mean that stories of star-crossed lovers will never be told again. Stars get crossed every day and increasingly the narrative of Squid Game is but one of the voices that address the burgeoning class divide in a society – may it be in Oscar-winning Parasite or Manoj Kumar’s Roti Kapra aur Makaan (RKAM). Bharat in RKAM is not an individual, but an entire country trying to survive the capitalist disasters in a publically lauded socialist country. Squid Game is not just 456 players caught in a terrible choice – it is all of us.
It may seem like SG is commenting on capitalism as a failed concept, greed, erosion of humanity due to wealth, but to me it poses a simple question: when all life has taught us is to be suspicious of everyone else, how do we survive as a society? I guess all we have at our disposal is trust – in each other. Without trusting an alliance of all humanity, we might as well all fall to our ends, thanks to a game of tug of war.
“It may seem like Squid Game is commenting on capitalism as a failed concept, greed, erosion of humanity due to wealth, but to me it poses a simple question: when all life has taught us is to be suspicious of everyone else, how do we survive as a society?”