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Why Squid Game resonates with Black viewers

  • "It took less than a month for Squid Game, the South Korean survival series about systemic inequality and capitalism, to become the most-watched show in Netflix history," says David Dennis Jr. "The show, in which an international elite coerces downtrodden people to play childhood games to the death with the hope of winning generational wealth, has had such a global appeal because of its universal themes of inequality, greed and oppression. But when I watched the show, I saw something that related directly to the Black experience: a rigged system of fear, intimidation and rationed goods enforced by a network of state-sanctioned armed violence with the promise that somehow we’ll achieve a piece of the same currency used to oppress us. That certainly feels like being Black in America to me. One of the major themes in the show is the facade of choice — the notion perpetuated by the powerful that those without means can make personal decisions to break themselves out of their straitened circumstances. The rulers of the game give the players the option to leave and return of their own 'free will.' They allow this false choice, understanding that societal wrongs will beat the players down, making a return the only real choice they have. The people in charge of the Squid Game are obsessed with the idea of 'fairness,' even killing other guards and supposed rule enforcers for tainting a game they believe had an even playing field. But fairness never existed in the society the contestants came from, nor did it exist in the game itself. Sexism, classism, ageism and outside influence determined who lived or died. The preoccupation with 'fairness' and 'choice' and the perversion of those ideas to blame the marginalized for their living conditions is a central tenet of Americana. My entire life I’ve heard phrases such as 'pull yourself up by your bootstraps' or 'Black on Black crime,' claims that hip-hop or buying sneakers is the reason that Black folks haven’t overcome economic despair, that we’re under the thumb of anti-Black legislation because we don’t participate in supposedly fair elections and not because of concerted efforts to suppress our votes. We’re inundated with the idea that separated families and full jails are results of personal choice, and not the consequence of a game that’s as rigged as 'Red Light, Green Light.'" Dennis adds: "I’m not the only one connecting these dots. Meek Mill took to Twitter to speak to how he saw himself in that island compound of death and manipulation." “Squid games," the rapper tweeted, ‘pay attention how fast people switch and kill each other to survive …now think about the ‘hood’ poverty … it’s the exact same thing … if you just help them with work/money they won’t be that way ‘just a common sense message.’ ”


    • Seong Gi-hun English voice dubber responds to Squid Game's dubbing controversy: "I work on a good number of Korean shows, but my actual Korean is still fairly basic and not really of much use when it comes to the more nuanced aspects of the language," says Los Angeles-based voice actor Greg Chun, who spent 40 to 50 hours dubbing Gi-hun. "But I can imagine whoever is doing the translation has got a crazy difficult job. I mean, there are words in Korean, and any language for that matter, for which there isn’t really a direct translation into English. And I would think that trying to come up with a translation for that word that somehow has the same number of syllables and a similar vowel shape when spoken so that it somehow matches up with the on-camera actor’s performance is damn near impossible." Was there any moment that was particularly difficult? "I mean, live-action dubbing is hard. It’s really, really hard," he says. "Anime is a little bit more forgiving because the detail of the mouth movements and the facial expressions are not really much of an issue. When you’re trying to actually provide a voice for a real, living, breathing person, that you can see every little tick of their eyebrow, every kind of, you know, slight grin, frown, grimace, and you’re trying to match all of that vocally, there’s a lot to do and pay attention to. You’re doing your vocal performance while watching the actor’s performance."
    • Squid Game Halloween costumes are missing the point of the show: Costumes based on the Netflix Korean hit were "inevitable," but "it's still a little weird," says Gita Jackson, adding: "Squid Game's strong art direction and fanciful sets and costumes are part of its appeal and do make for great Halloween fodder. It's almost too easy to be one of the many anonymous guards of Squid Game, who wear pink jumpsuits and masks, for Halloween. While Party City doesn't sell that costume specifically, if you look at the items frequently bought with this red jumpsuit for their Among Us costume you'll see that people often pair it with a black mask and gloves, like the guards in Squid Game. On the one hand, this makes sense: I don't blame anyone for wanting to dress up like a character in a show they like, because that's basically the point of Halloween. It's disturbing, though, exactly how rapidly a show that is an explicit critique of capitalism becomes commodified by it. Amazon and Walmart's website are both selling dozens of unofficial Squid Game costumes through third-party sellers, a practice that Amazon mostly uses to line its own profits. These companies may (like Netflix) be the targets of Squid Game's criticism, but that ultimately doesn't matter. Hate away; Jeff Bezos will still make a buck, and mow you down if he gets a chance."
    • Han Mi-nyeo, who played Squid Game's Player No. 212, went from 400 Instagram followers to more than 2 million: “I still can't fathom what is going on. haha," she says. "There are many international fans who follow me. They send me messages of support in so many different languages. I want to reply to each one but I feel apologetic because I can't."
    • Some schools are banning Squid Game Halloween costumes for its "violent message"
    • Beware of the Squid Game app infecting devices with malware
    • A Squid Game fan has turned his house into a "Red Light, Green Light" game
    • Squid Game ads are almost as dystopian as the show itself 

    TOPICS: Squid Game, Netflix, Han Mi-nyeo, Dubbing