“Squid Game”: Does money really buy happiness?

The new Netflix series creatively critiques capitalism.



Contestants in the Squid Game compete for financial security.

Jevon McKinnon, Staff Writer

It is widely believed that money can solve all your problems. If only someone could pay off all of their debt with endless amounts of money. They could afford to feed their family, lively safely without the worry of losing their home. These are the realities facing the characters in Netflix’s new South Korean Drama “Squid Game.” 

Written by Hwang Dong-hyuk, “Squid Game” is an action-thriller about a deadbeat father with a gambling addiction who is slumped in massive amounts of debt. Every day, Seong Gi-hun seems to have a new excuse as to why he either has no money or why he wasted what little money he had. From stealing his mother’s credit card to betting his money away on horse racing, he can never get himself together to be the father his daughter needs. 

While waiting for the train so he can just go home, Seong meets a man who makes a wager with him off of an old children’s game. When you’re at rock bottom, every opportunity seems like a way up and Seong just wants to beat this man once. When Seong does, he remembers the wager and gets the money he was promised as well as a card with a phone number — and an offer to participate in a series of games to make some money. 

Seong eventually calls the number and is taken to an unknown location along with 455 other people to play a classic game of “Red Light, Green Light.” If the players were to complete every game they were presented with, they would win nearly $40 million in U.S. dollars. What nobody knew before the game started was that if you were to lose, you would be eliminated on sight. And when they say eliminated, they mean it. Players who lose are killed.

One of the most unique things about “Squid Game” is that none of the players are actually forced to play. If a majority of them vote to end all of the games, they will be sent home without a penny of the prize money. 

But they use the word “forced” loosely. If they were to go back to their normal lives, what do they have to look forward to? They have no money, no food, and many of them are losing their homes. And this brings up the point of the story, that while both the games and their lives are terrible, they at least have the chance to turn everything around if they win.

What I love most about this show is its underlying messages and themes. One of the most prominent things critiqued is capitalism’s “sink-or-swim” mentality. In the society that our players live in, no one is offered any sort of help by those who are supposed to protect them or by those around them. The “sink-or-swim” mentality is also something you see frequently because the players have been immersed in that kind of system for their entire lives. 

But the biggest question of the show is whether that mentality actually works. Does money solve all of our problems? Or does it only create more? The only way to find out is to watch Netflix’s new sensation, “Squid Game.”