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The Lasting Impact of “Squid Game” on Pop Culture

By Duane Cruz, Staff Writer

The Netflix drama “Squid Game,” which has proven to be one of the most popular releases of 2021, has been pushed off the number one spot in Netflix’s Top Ten for Non- English TV, dropping down into third behind season two of “Queen of Flow” and season one of “Hellbound,” respectively in first and second.

While it seems that “Squid Game” might now be declining in terms of popularity, it has been featured on the aforementioned chart for the past 11 consecutive weeks; nearly three months after the initial airing of the show.

“Squid Game has officially reached 111 million fans – making it our biggest series launch ever!” read a tweet by Netflix on Oct. 12, 2021.

The story-driven show written by Hwang Dong-hyuk surrounds the idea of a set of games that gives hundreds of in-debt Korean citizens the opportunity to win a fortune 45.6 million won, or die trying. Each consecutive game played acts as a trial in which more and more people are eliminated. In the feature of nine episodes, the season develops as viewers follow lead character Seong Gi-hun through the cinematic and deadly games featured in the show.

The acclaimed tv series has succeeded in being Netflix’s highest watched tv shows of the year, gaining 571,760,000 hours viewed in just its third week of airing. In total, Squid Game has amassed more than 1.6 billion views. It reached number one on Netflix’s top charts in all 94 of the countries that Netflix streams in.

“I thought it was really good up until the end, I didn’t like the acting portrayed by the animal mask wearers, they weren’t very good. All up to that point, I was like, this is awesome,” junior musical theatre major Cameron Stanick said.

Other viewers had slightly different reactions.

“It was my favorite movie this year for sure. I thought the plot and story was really well done, the cinematics of the show were great. It was a really good movie,” sophomore computer science major Nathaniel Pyram said.

This new wave of success of Korean culture in countries such as the U.S. and the United Kingdom has been a rising trend over the past decade, and shows such as “Squid Game” have been highly influential in contributing to this trend; so much so that it has captured the interests of people who don’t regularly indulge in K-dramas.

 “I really enjoyed the movie even though it’s very different from what I usually watch, I don’t watch Korean dramas regularly. I watch teenage girls’ shows, stuff like that,” freshman health sciences major Gianna Pavese said.

Along with “Squid Game,” movies such as “Parasite,” a Korean based film featured on Hulu,  have further fueled this wave of cultural movement. 

“Parasite,” a blockbuster hit on its own, was raved over in the reviews, obtaining a 98 percent on rotten tomatoes, and an audience score of 90 percent.

“After the movie Parasite came out, I think Korean films started to pop up more. I like the way Korean films are shot, which is different from American films. I love the vibe of the movies, as well as the music,” bio-med Grad Student Sabri Abu Salim said.

The streaming company plans to release more Korean films, now having established two production facilities in the country. Over a five year time span from from 2015 to 2020, Netflix produced over 80 shows in Korea and has invested over 700 million USD into Korean movies.

In parallel with these critically acclaimed movies, k-pop, as well as other forms of asian pop, like j-pop, have carved a major listenership into the modern American audience.

Korean pop, or K-pop, is a genre of music that is characterized by Korean artists singing over pop instrumentals. Young influential k-pop groups such as BTS and Blackpink have made a name for themselves on the American stage, even overachieving the success of Justin Beiber. 

In 2017, BTS won the award for Billboard’s Top Social Artist, putting an end to Beibers 6-year long run. That same year, the group became the first Korean group to be featured on the Billboard’s Top Ten.

“I am not surprised that k- pop is big in the U.S. now, I’ve had a lot of friends who had been big into k-pop since I was a freshman in high school, at least 4 years ago, My girl has always been a big BTS fan, and they had been doing more shows in New York in the past years before covid happened,” Pyram said.

That being said, the social influence of “Squid Game” on the U.S. has created a huge impact on the community. For instance, the show has inspired a real life replication of the game itself by a Youtube collaborative, under the Youtube channel named MrBeast.

“I saw MrBeast’s version and thought it mirrored that Netflix version really well, and there was a lot of money on the line which gave it actual stakes,” Pyram said. 

The replication features all of the same details of the movie; 456 people starting out, competing for 456,000 USD (instead of won), with only one winner.

The YouTube video has amounted to over 142,123,000 views in the less than two weeks it has been uploaded.

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