Squid Game reality show is a hit, making us ask: are we the Capitol?

It hit 20.1 million views despite concerns over the treatment of contestants and controversy about the irony of a cash-grab.

Squid Game: The Challenge is the highly-anticipated reality show spin-off of the survival horror show from 2021. Following The Challenge’s debut on November 22, 2023, Netflix reported that it reached the top of the English TV List with 20.1 million views.

The original Squid Game show is set in South Korea and follows people desperate for money who agree to compete in children’s games. There’s a huge sum waiting at the end: ₩45.6 billion (roughly $47.1 million CAD). The sinister part is that losing one of the games means you’ll lose your life, too.

It’s unsurprising that Netflix would want to cash in on the success of the show, despite the irony. Squid Game’s debut was (and remains) Netflix’s biggest-ever series launch, with 111 million viewers. In 2021, the franchise was estimated to be worth $900 million USD (roughly $1.1 billion CAD).

Still, the choice to make a reality show based on Squid Game has been criticized by experts, journalists, and viewers alike for its irony and ruthlessness.

Dr. Pamela B. Rutledge, writing for Psychology Today, called it “ethically questionable.”

“Even if the effect size of media portrayals that reward antisocial behavior is small, any amount is too much right now,” Dr. Rutledge said. “Society is more divided than ever in the U.S. and globally. There are groups of people for whom violence is seen as an acceptable response to discontent with the institutional processes. There is no accountability for inflammatory misinformation from public officials. Squid Game: The Challenge turns the original series, where violence was a call to action against inequality, into a vehicle that promotes the opposite: a “game” among “real people,” where ruthlessness and lack of empathy are essential to a big payout.”

To underline the point, reports emerged early this year that the contestants on the Squid Game: The Challenge found the working conditions “cruel” and thought the system was “rigged.” Some who spoke anonymously to Rolling Stone said that their health, safety, and comfort were not prioritized. Reportedly, one game was held in an airplane hanger, where shooting lasted nine hours, and it felt as cold as -10 degrees Celsius. Producers allege that filming only took two hours.

It feels doubly ironic that the latest Hunger Games movie, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, was released less than a week earlier. The Hunger Games, for those who aren’t familiar, is a franchise focusing on an annual fight to the death, where 24 children are pitted against each other until one victor remains. The only people exempt from this brutal sacrifice are those living in the Capitol, who gleefully watch the violence as if it were a sporting match. When you can readily compare viewers of a Netflix reality show to people living in the Capitol, it definitely gives you pause.

Header image credit: Netflix

Source: Netflix Via: Gizmodo

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