SquidGame Nails the COVID Zeitgeist

Jeremy Britton
3 min readOct 4, 2021
Composite image from Netflix series “The Squid Game”

Other dystopian movies showed us what could possibly happen in the future; “The Squid Game” shows us what could actually be happening right now.

NO SPOILERS AHEAD

It seems that ten years ago, nobody in the west could name a single export from South Korea. Then the pivotal “Gangnam Style” from PSY dropped in 2012, and temporarily broke the internet, garnering over 4 Billion views on Youtube. In the years that followed, the west has discovered “K-Pop” (now the sixth-largest music genre in the world), we have supported a plethora of Korean boy bands, and watched the Korean movie “Parasite”, which won numerous awards in the west, including four Oscars.

In 2021, the Koreans have done it again, capturing the zeitgeist of our COVID world in an amazingly well-written tale of modern-day gladiators, fighting for a prize, and for the amusement of the rich and powerful.

The major difference between similar dystopian movies such as “Mad Max”, “The Walking Dead”, “1984” and others, is that “The Squid Game” does NOT take place in the post-apocalyptic future; it is occurring right here, right now, in the present world. That fact makes it all the more chilling.

There are many issues that are touched on in “The Squid Game”, including the wealth gap, seemingly fickle authoritarianism, corrupt government control, the difference between those who lend money and those who borrow money, those living in quiet desperation and the wealthy amoral few who are bored with normal life.

“The Squid Game” starts with childhood innocence, children playing outdoors who are oblivious to jobs, mortgages and bills. It then quickly shows us the harsh reality of failed relationships, income inequality, and the seemingly unfair modern world of capitalism.

The arena of the “Squid Game” itself is merely a game within a game; a caricature of what is seen in the world outside. Players work to get cash, just as they do outside. Some players team up, some are competitive cut-throats, some are kind yet flawed humans who enjoy some success but seem ultimately doomed to fail. In the Squid Game arena, as in the outer world, it seems that there can be no loyal friends in pure capitalism.

The soldiers of the “Squid Game” are primarily faceless automatons, echoing scenes seen around the world during COVID lockdowns, where protesters seeking food or freedom are assailed by masked police or military forces. With the occasional exception, the soldiers blindly obey orders from a faceless authority, but is it truly the “Frontman” who is pulling the strings? In the outer world, we think politicians make decisions, without realising that they are often puppets to a wealthy anonymous elite that pay for the politicians’ campaign funding.

Sure, “The Squid Game” seems like fun escapist entertainment, but why does a creation birthed from inscrutable Korean culture ring so true in the west? What psychological bells does it ring inside the head of everyone who has endured seemingly random lockdowns, a battered economy that tries to stagger to its feet, furloughs, foreclosures, business failures and personal relationships strained, betrayed or wishes unfulfilled?

Yes, the gladiatorial Squid Game is brutal: you can make a fortune or you can die trying, but as one of the players points out: “Life is harder on the outside”.

Who will win the Squid Game, when the rules are often changed, and sometimes even the leaders do not know what is going on? What tactics will succeed, in a game that seems to randomly or alternately reward skill, strength, cunning, compassion or brutality?

Will the ultimate winner actually be happy, or will the winner find, just as the elite spectators did, that accumulation of vast wealth can be mind-numbing, soul-destroying and even boring? What if the ultimate reward is not how much you get, but what you choose to do with it?

Other dystopian movies showed us what could possibly happen in the future; “The Squid Game” shows us what could actually be happening right now.

Watch the Squid Game on Netflix. If you’re squeamish, hide your eyes during the gory parts. If you’re up for the ultimate game, try to count how many parallels there are between the fictitious arena and the real world outside.

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Jeremy Britton

24HourWealthCoach, balancing business and lifestyle. Health, Relationships, Happiness, and a bag of gold (or puppies) :)