Squid Game’s Real Message about Capitalism, Explained

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Korean thriller Squid Game is a massive overnight hit, potentially Netflix’s biggest show of all time! Squid Game comes in the wake of a number of movies and TV shows that use potent, gripping metaphors to dissect capitalism. Popular examples include the upstairs/downstairs dynamics of Bong Joon-Ho’s Snowpiercer and Parasite, the work-as-slavery plot in Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You, and the death game blockbuster The Hunger Games. But like most big-budget media properties that try to critique the systems they exist in, Squid Game ends with a fundamental ambivalence — one that flinches from its own critique at the last minute with a “fantasy” ending that undercuts its own key message.

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140 Comments

  1. 12:00
    Huh? He won out of luck. That's what the writer wanted to show. He was a gambler with no unique abilities and just got lucky and won.

  2. i'm sorry, but you are just finding meaning in something that has none. it's like when an english teacher asks you to describe the smell of a color in a book…there is none

  3. I agree with some of the other comments that say that this specific video misses the point at the end.

  4. Capitalism brought us Movies, Gaming and professional criticism!

  5. I don't think the contestants are a 1:1 representation of participants in capitalism. The guards, VIPs, and game creator all represent participants of capitalism. The contestants represent the losers of capitalism, the down and out, the disenfranchised, etc.

    So, i disagree with this video, the protagonist, Seong Gi-hun, winning isn't telling us with moral cleverness, human compassion, and human connections you can win the game of capitalism. They have already lost that game.

    It is true, the positive traits of the protagonist could help you to rise out of dregs of society. Kindness, cleverness, and connections can definitely help you, for example, get off the streets and into a bed at night. It "can" help. It might not. But, it can. It'll definitely do better than being a dumb ahole who doesnt know anyone. So, the writer is telling us these traits are useful for escaping economic disaster, not for thriving under capitalism.

    But, most important in getting out of abject poverty is luck. That's why the money is in a giant lottery ball. It'll take a lotto winner's luck to win the squid game. The first game and tug o' war, in particular, depended on great luck.

  6. Yep, tell about bad capitalism to people who survived communism. You can easily change the word capitalism to every known system and your video still will be correct. It's like someone criticizing any food while famine nearby. I'm referencing the original story of South and North Korea. It's impossible to compare those two sides, but still. I'm from a country that survived through Holodomor, communism, repressions, deportations, labor camps, and all that, and we know when someone talks about capitalism in that way, it's a red flag, that the person wants all this back how it was. It's part of marxism philosophy and their opinion caused by powerful anti-western propaganda, but it's strange to hear the same narrative from someone who was born in capitalistic societies, like don't you have a choice where to work, what to do, where to travel? What are you talking about? It would be more understandable if you suggested a better system or ways to improve current, but you don't. And it's creating the misleading feeling like capitalism itself causes all unequal standards and social problems in the world. I like your videos about different topics I want to understand more, but I'm disappointed by this shallow analysis. Still, your channel is great and I've learned a lot from other videos on other topics.

  7. I don't see that serie as a critic of capitalism at all, but against tiranny of some elites that only exist with corrupted government.

  8. Is it a critique of capitalism? Were the poor really that much better or were they unable to cause as much damage due to their powerlessness but still did awful things at a lower scale. They lied, cheated, killed, and hurt those near them.

  9. I loved how some people were like, I wouldn't play Squid Game for 38 million dollars that's too low. I'm sorry but y'all just have 38 million dollars laying around. Either way that is a lot of money, and that's the point even if it isn't a lot people are down on money. And that's why the game picks on those who would be most desperate to win that money.

  10. wow just blown away by the depth take on the movie, so much could be missed in midst of violence. Most important thing is we get the underlying message. An outstanding analysis of the movie/connection to capitalistic ways & human response to it. In end, i'd say a bit of every character a person needs to survive in our crooked world but yes most importantly the Hero's good heart & trust in humanity & valueing relaitonships/life over money lets us know what we should we be more like to win this game of life. I thank you & look forward to other TAKES, ART is beautiful, a picture is worth a 1000 words (subscribed!)

  11. I love your analysis.
    I can listen to you for hours.
    Thanks

  12. Lie about capitalism hurt more humanity than anything else. This is a critique of fascism, not capitalism.

  13. Well they could always move to North Korea…

  14. I remember seeing a channel called Kay and Skittles make a video also critiquing the series and looking at how the series presents the theoretical end game of capitalism.

    Compared to that video, which, while having a very distinct bias, offered a very unique, detailed and fact-based argument, one true to the author's intent, and the events that likely inspired this series, this one is a middle school essay some lackadaisical English student threw together in about 2 hours with the thesis statement CAPITALISM IS BAAAAAAD, one that any teacher worth their salt would give a failing grade, and demand they rewrite

    Makes me want to rewatch Kay and Skittles' video on the topic to wash the taste of this piece of garbage out of my mouth

  15. I'll tell you what my dad thinks squid games about capitalism:
    If you don't get on board, you'll have a hard time.

  16. So we are just going to skip over Gi-Hun’s self righteous behaviour masked as as humanity and having morals? He stood up to the problems presented by the game but didn’t stop playing and while criticising others, he himself never took a stance and hid with a smile behind the intelligence and real kindness of others. He plays the victim the entire series, never once acknowledging his own incompetence or the notion that he outwardly made bad choices and treated the ones he loved badly.

  17. No no no, it's random, so it's efficient

  18. Capitalism is an utter failure. It's a predatory, exploitative system that only continues to consolidate power and wealth into the hands of the very rich. Even with a metaphor as blatant as Squid Game people still miss it. I'm glad this video exists to at least wake up a couple of people… maybe.

  19. what a poor take. you westerner understands nothing about Asian series. Go look at Asian's commentary, how they compare this series to communism. You westerner has zero clues about.

  20. I actually don't think this show focus too much on criticizing capitalism at all, or the metaphor is not strong enough. Most of the characters didn't find themselves in this unfortunate position because of an unfair society, but because of their bad decisions and their desire of getting the things they want using shortcuts. I think the game represents the ultimate shortcut and, at an extreme, the consequences of taking this path in life.
    Only 2 of the characters in the show are not part of this mold:
    1-Ali, who I think is the one real comment on Capitalism since he is a person in a vulnerable position who is being exploded by his boss and other people for his innocent personality. And …
    2-Kang Sae-byeok who, as North Korean defector, has few options for helping herself and her family. I will not comment on this part since I think the issues they are talking about are much more complex.

  21. He was not a good person he just refuses to believe that he is not. He just refuses to accept any bad behaviour as a part of his own action rather an unfortunate consequence this denying any responsibility or question of his moral integrity.

  22. The real horror is how liberals managed to delude themselves into thinking a game about class inequality and the manufacture of consent is about socialism rather than capitalism
    And even more so, how the message went over literally everyone's heads and getting reduced to a bunch of merch and commodities.

  23. I honestly thought the message was simply "risk your well-being in that so called capitalist utopia and maybe be homeless or jailed for life OR come into this communist style regime of ours and everyone will be treated equally but you'll be treating like mindless cattle and forced to compete against each other for a fortune and be executed if you fail." In other words both capitalism and communism can be horrible experiences. It was showing the worst of the two.

  24. Thank heavens for pointing out the Battle Royale reference!!!!

  25. Seeing the popularity of costumes and cosplays of the show feels so uncany and dystopian

  26. The economy in the grandest scale is sadly a zero sum game, the only time is was'nt was in the days where all people were self sufficient. The earth provides more than any human can consume, but money is man-made and it's impossible for one to get rich without someone getting poor assuming all were once equal, there is no alternative

  27. I don't know, I think if there was gonna be an American version of squid game, naively I think netflix would just have Hwang Dong-hyuk do a continuation i.e. a second season of squid game; only set in the US, and at most could make references to board games; for the challenges, and if netflix could pull it off, the cast members might be former character actors from both/either respectively Hunger Games/Battle Royal, or even at most character actors, from battle royal genre movies(I think the Belko Experment, the Purge & Assassination Nation, can be examples of that)

  28. I took the themes of 'Squid Game' to be self-accountability and the dangers of greed. It's popular to say that money is the root of ALL evil but I always believed it is the overindulgence of self-interest (greed) that is the root of all corruption/evil. The more the Won (money) poured into that piggy bank, the less other human lives, decency, and moral values mattered in comparison. The contestants didn't even ask where the money from the games came from? Or why the shadowy organization had easy access to detailed personal information about the people they recruited? These contestants were willingly or willfully blind to the legitimacy of the games. The moral identities of the contestants outside the games were frighteningly easy to cast off in favor of an assigned number on their uniforms. The contestants that survived & returned to the death games with familiarity & clear insight as into what context being "eliminated from the game" truly meant, volunteered to be cutthroat monsters for personal gain and others' entertainment. They allowed the value of their very lives to be summed up as a few stacks of paper dropped in a plastic pig-shaped container. Their "hardships and sacrifices" were self-inflicted. Their better judgment was rationalized away by greed for most and the fear of being powerless to avoid the consequences of having been who they were in the outside world for some. A few of the main characters arguably had a noble cause, I will admit. But, they didn't consider what would happen if they never returned from the death games. What would happen to their loved ones in the aftermath of their "elimination"? How would their "mysterious dissappearance" negatively affect their children? Their spouse? Their parents? Their siblings? Their friends? Once again, SELFISH to the end. They lived irresponsibly and end up where they ended up. They were not victims of circumstance in this case. It is self-deception (and a lack of self-criticism) that blinds us to the accompanying high risks of our petty, short-sighted decisions that involve "easy money" We wander into the jaws of wickedness as if we're entranced by its siren song. Compelled by desperation and honeyed words to walk an eager death march on the narrow path lined with thorns to self-destruction. A shaky, razor-thin tightrope, blurring in and out our vision, over a maddening abyss of hypocrisy with the slimmest chance of coming back from whence you came in one piece. Unknowingly, hurling ourselves into an even deeper pit of despair. Offering ourselves up as easy, willing prey .

  29. This is a terribly inaccurate analysis of this. Authoritarian regimes forcing desperate people to die for the elite classes entertainment is something out of Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany. Not modern day capitalism. Morons.

  30. what about the part where they are all trashy individuals who don’t work for anything

  31. Another metaphor: Sae-byeok gets injured by a random shard of glass. One random medical condition ruins her chances at winning the rest of the game.

  32. Its easy for people to criticize capitalism, but harder for people to come up with a system with less problems
    I know a lot of people still romanticise communism because they havent experienced it, if they would have lived one week under Mao's regime back in the days they would never say a good thing about communism again

  33. It has a lot to do with the issues we face with the difference in classes and the distribution of money. It has nothing to do with capitalism and you show your ignorance by saying it.
    "the traps that capitalism sets" WTF are you talking about, DO YOU KNOW… It is always so annoying to hear idiots try to pretend to be smart.
    Let me help you out; Capitalism does not exist in America, it has been gone for over a hundred years. What we have now is so far from capitalism it should be referred to as either protectionism, or corporatism. Calling what we have in America "capitalism" is as accurate as calling a warm bowl of spoiled milk "icecream". I can go into this deeper but most people can't read well enough to get this far so I'm not going to waste more time without a request. So you know – I'm an economist who has been studying economics, politics, and government for almost 20 years in and out of college. I also have 2 degrees.

  34. Funny how everyone hates the rich until they become one

  35. in europe we had extreme capitalisn ib the 1800. Antidote was trade unions and the specter of revolution and USSR and communism to balance things out. We the people need the USSR ss an extremely useful enemy again

  36. “You are all equal” = socialism/ communism

  37. I took it as a critique on communism… the group doesn’t like their lives even though for a few characters much of it was their own doing (gambling all their money away, committing fraud). So they agree to give up all control in their life to someone else who decides when they eat, how much they eat, when they starve (as every communist country has done). This other system seems better but is actually far worse

  38. The Take on Squid Game:-

    – We should improve society

    – Yet you live in society, I am very smart

  39. I watched squid game when I was relatively young. I had never thought of it like that but I always new deep down that real life and the show are connected.

  40. To care about your own survival is being an organism. To also care about another’s survival is being human.

  41. i like to think of Oh Il Nam as a korean version of Citizen Kane. Citizen Kane was a man who had millions of dollars. Everybody would envy him and everybody would want to be him , but he didnt like being a millionaire , in fact he hated it. He was happy with the little things, the little joys in life like his sled Rosebud. But ALL of that was taken away from him. The only thing he got in exchange was money. He hated money because no matter how much money he spent, he couldnt recover the happiness and joy he had lost. He always lost , whether it was in politics, or pushing his second wife s career as an opera singer. Oh Il Nam most likely was a poor man as a kid. Just like everyone in our current society, he wanted to become rich. He mentions he used to live in an alley with his children. Im assuming back then he was still struggling to progress in his career. My theory is that his children died while he was finally starting to make progress in his career. He lost his family, and the only thing he got in exchange was money, the money he had coveted for so long, but no matter what he did Money wouldnt give him back the joy he had lost. He felt betrayed by the society who had pushed him to pursue money and wealth , and made him forget the truly important things in life, the simple daily joys like hugging your family and saying "i love you" to them. He grew resentful of the modern capitalistic society and thats why he started the games. What he calls "boring" is actually a lack of joy, a lack of happiness. And i think the reason he offers money to the winner is an experiment. He wants to see whether having all that money will make them happy, or will they just end up miserable like him.

  42. Most of us want to identify with the main char. but in real life, most of us; the larger % of people in this whole world are like… well most contestants, they don't care to kill if that means they get to be part of the 1%, so which one are YOU? DO YOU CONSTANTLY ENVY OTHERS, WOULD YOU PRAY FOR THEM, OR WOULD YOU RATHER, WISH THEM THE WORST FOR THEIR LIVES, MOST OF YOU LIE, AND USE A MASK TO LOOK LIKE THE MAIN CHAR. CAUSE THATS WHAT WE'RE TOLD IS BEST. TO BE A GOOD PERSON, NOT A BAD ONE

  43. Remember kids, capitalism bad, private property theft and success oppression.

  44. Best Socialist State was Yugoslavia followed by USSR.

    Capitalism is a right wing blocc and left wing blocc would be Socialism we still see it even in today's political realm.

    Left parties favour taxing the rich for social programs and right wing blocc favours the affluent the economy and strictier boundries on "free handouts".

    But at the end of the day only winner is the government and tax man not the general population "none of us are winners" companies turn over billion dollar profits rise up the prices and none the wiser we pay for it because we simply can't afford not to eat have shelter power etc..

    When they say the rich get richier not "rich in wealth but in absolute power as well never feel things like inflation bills workers etc.. because they can always pass those on to the consumers which is "us".

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