Admittedly when Netflix announced that they were making a Squid Game reality TV series, I was excited at first. The show was an absolute banger that resonated with millions of viewers and opened the door for many to experience Korean dramas. But it only took me about a minute and a half to realize that a reality show based on the exploitation of the poor isn’t fun, cute, or whatever Netflix is trying to sell it as. And if anything, Squid Game: The Challenge makes Netflix a little more like those masked men who were watching people suffer for their entertainment in season 1 of Squid Game.
Now Netflix has released the first official trailer for Squid Game: The Challenge and the point I previously made still stands. This reality series is out of touch and does not understand what made the show so popular aka Gi-hun triumphing and choosing to come for the rich. Originally Squid Game showed the desperation and humiliation some less fortunate would go through to win money that would change their lives. It also showcased how rich people choose to use their money to make the poor prance around like their horses in a race instead of actually investing in programs and opportunities that could help those poor people get out of the desperate situations that they’re in. So Netflix making this reality series makes them seem like the rich out-of-touch men everyone hated.
While we’re talking about why Squid Game: The Challenge is problematic, let’s not forget about the cruel conditions that these players were allegedly put through. According to Vice, Variety, and The Sun, players reported harsh conditions that ended with some needing medical attention and walking away in tears because there was a lot of money on the line but it was just too much. Someone even told The Sun that it was like a war zone. According to Variety, contestants “were told the actual game would take roughly two hours to play and shoot, but instead that turned into an almost seven-hour ordeal for some contenders.” It was also reported that people collapsed and had to be taken away on stretchers.
Then there’s the current shake-up in Hollywood.
With everything that happened with the Writers Guild of America strike and what is still continuing to happen with the SAG-AFTRA strike, I can’t help but be even more bothered by this reality TV show. Instead of Netflix investing in their writers and actors, they choose to make shows that make them look like the ignorant fools they showcased on the original Squid Game show behind the glass and cameras. Furthermore, it makes you think about the OG creator, writer, and director Hwang Dong-hyuk told The Guardian in 2021 that he wasn’t rich after making the show with Netflix but, “I do have enough. I have enough to put food on the table. And it’s not like Netflix is paying me a bonus. Netflix paid me according to the original contract.”
Just let that sink in.
Squid Game reportedly increased the value of Netflix by $1 billion dollars and the creator, writer, and director were only paid a flat fee for the show with no residuals. Simply put, it’s bullshit. Oh but wait! There’s more! Hwang had been trying to sell his story, his creation based on real-life events that he and his family went through during a financial crisis, for 10 years. And when he signed the contract with Netflix he forfeited all intellectual property rights. Combine that with him not getting residuals, Hwang is probably getting exposure (?) for Squid Game: The Challenge.
This is why I don’t think I’m going to watch Squid Game: The Challenge. And in the grand scheme of things, it’s a small thing in a world where billionaires are making money no matter what I do. But I have to be able to sleep at night and watch this reality series, while knowing that it misses the entire point of the show and that the OG creator is getting nothing, is nasty. It’s tomfoolery at its highest and I’m not about that life. This is my line in the sand. Netflix will continue to do tomfoolery like this. You know it, I know it, and the movie/TV business in South Korea knows it. But here’s hoping they also give Netflix pushback in the way that the WGA and SAG-AFTRA have done. Let me know if you need a picket sign too. I got you.