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We decided to review a show that you are all talking about, from the perspective we only know how to view them, as writers.
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The Squid Gladiator Games - Op-Ed Piece
This is going to be one of those posts where I put on my writing hat and analyze a piece of media with writing in mind, hence the hat. I view the piece as if I wrote it.
Recently I was notified of a certain Netflix show that is taking everyone by storm, Squid Games.
What is it about? You ask. (For those of you who don’t know about it) Oh boy…. Well…. It’s The Hunger Games, without Jennifer Lawrence, and no bow and arrow. Oh, and replace the game of kids murdering each other with some children’s games that you played during gym class. It’s like someone over there read up on the gladiator games and watched The Hunger Games and thought, “You know what this needs? More murder. But no swords, only kid games.”
Yeah, it is a weird show. I saw a scene because, of course, I am going to want to watch the show about people getting brutally murdered, and in the scene, a group of people were playing Red Light, Green Light, an innocent, wholesome game that my sisters would play in Girl Scouts, but there is a catch. If you move on the red light, you get shot or eliminated, as the show puts it. Eliminated from life. The main character has to survive the various games he plays. I swear that is what this show is about.
When my buddy told me about this show, I was appalled by the idea. First off, that has been done before. Saw did it. The Hunger Games did it. The Romans did it, and they were so into that idea they skipped the killing of actors and went right with killing the people in the arena. I don’t care for stories around such mindless violence that presents itself as sophisticated. I am obviously in the minority here since it is a hit.
Secondly, there is only so much murder I can stand in a story. I love seeing Superman deflect bullets or Spiderman webbing a guy against a wall, but there is only so much I can see nameless characters get killed and then have the show expect me to care about them. There is a disturbing quote by Joseph Stalin that reflects this trend in storytelling. “One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic.” To me, that is what happens after I see body after body get shot. The effect of the character’s death is not there. It reminds me of how everyone doesn’t feel bad when we see Storm Troopers die in a Star Wars movie. We see it happen so much, we minimize the actual death going on in the scene, and that hurts the actual story.
Apparently, this Asian version of Hunger Games meets Saw plus tag is the most successful show in Netflix history, and it is showing us all two things, well, besides all the dead bodies.
The end of the old way of viewing a show is really over. Nobody cares if a show is on one of the major networks anymore. Those mean little to anything to a viewer since you can join a streaming service and watch your show there. The shows haven’t changed as much as the actual way we view them. Even now, with movies, we see them being released simultaneously in theaters and streaming services. Although this is treated as common in most households, this move is more radical than we think. Imagine if you could watch Star Wars on TV the same week it was out back in 1977. Or back in 1994, you could see Pulp Fiction in your living room instead of going to the theaters. This has the potential to change movies, which of course, means it can change our pop culture. The stories we will be told can change since our accessibility to those stories has changed.
Literature has been left to dry in this new trend of streaming movies, Netflix and chill, and binge-watching culture. There is a high demand for new stories and new characters, so much that we are now interested in stories from the bad guy’s perspective, and we are accepting of reinventing old tales. The movie industry and the television industry changed the model of the consumer because of the era we are in, but I have yet to see this happen as much in literature. People aren’t as drawn to e-books, but there aren’t as many people buying physical books. So something has to give. Can literature continue to thrive in the technologically dominated storytelling world? I hope so. There will always be a place for a book in the home, so luckily, literature has that in its back pocket, but I don’t see any being fearful of the other video industries dominating most of the viewers’ attention. That is a cause for concern for me. If movies and television get all the viewers and money, how long is it until the books reflect that cultural shift; if it hasn’t already.
Literature has become like classic rock, in my opinion. Sure, a bunch of people like it, but it doesn’t seem to be connecting to as many people as it used to. Slowly literature lost its seat at the zeitgeist table of pop culture, just like how classic rock became dad music and not as relevant. People know some of the classic books like we know the classic rock bands, but when it comes to what is current and trending and what most of us want to do or listen to, books and classic rock are not on that list.
The second thing Squid Games showed me is that, man, Asians are weird. I mean, hey, I like Asians and all, don’t get me wrong, but you guys are into some weird shit. Like this show took an innocent kid’s game and made it disturbing. Saw at least tried to pretend he wasn’t flat out murdering people. As if he had a purpose to it all. Even though the only reason he did it is because he was out of his freaking mind; taking something for children and then spinning it around to reflect the world of an adult with the violence and realism is about as adult of a thing that anyone can do. We stripped away the innocence of things that we used to love as a kid cause as we grew older, we grew to learn of the harshness of the world. Then we saw our favorite show or song as part of that messed-up culture. Hence, we ruin it, with the knowledge we gained from adulthood, which is why you have the most popular show about a bunch of Asian people running across an open field getting shot by an American girl robot when they move. We don’t view life as innocent, and our stories reflect that take.
Also, I love how you can tell it’s an Asian show because there isn’t one non-Asian in the show aside from that one token non-Asian character. It’s like the writers were seeing the cast and then thought, “I think we should add like an Indian guy or a white girl, so we don’t come across as bad.” That one token non-Asian character can make the difference. You compare this to American shows that are either complete representations of a culture where everyone acts the same like they are all Italians or all black, but they are definitely all something. Or the other type of American show that tries to get everyone on the color chart. They have the black woman, the white guy, the Indian guy, the Russian woman, and the British guy. I have heard some say they think that this variety is the key to a great show, as compared to, you know, great writing and acting. Both types of shows rely on stereotypes of certain groups of people in order for the audience to connect with the characters. Although both types of shows downplay this aspect.
I only asked to see the one scene where half the people get murdered, and that was enough for me.
I joked with my buddy that the characters in the show should act like the early Christians and not give a shit about dying. Fear is the key to authority that controls through violence; if you trust a power higher than them, you are taking away their power. That is what the Christians did when they were to be killed in the Colosseum.
“Oh, you want to kill me? Well, go ahead! I don’t fear death, for I have Jesus, and he conquered death! You are not more powerful than the Lord. For my soul is greater than anything you can do to my body.”
That is basically what a Christian would say to a Roman figure before they were to be killed by lions in the Colosseum.
I’d like to hear what the Roman officers had to report to their bosses later that day.
“So why did they resist?” The boss said.
“Apparently, they believe that a dead guy is going to help them live after they die, and they don’t even fear death. It’s like they welcome it, and it’s kind of weird.”
“Eh, no worries. I am sure that group will be silenced eventually.”
I joke about the show and the gladiator games, but I do think it is interesting that in the year 2021, we are watching a television show that is the closest thing that we could get to an actual gladiator game. It is scripted. It is not real. But you know what, they are doing a pretty good job at making it appear real. And the sick part about it, we all love it. You have spoken to your friends about the show. I am writing about it. And it is trending on social media pages. The show that is a modern replication of a brutal ancient game is the most popular show today.
Sports have yet to go that far and flat out have the athletes die in the middle of the games, although I am not ruling them out with that preposterous idea; these are the same people who are making their leagues all about gambling and their games look like wrestling matches, so you never know there. But as of now, this scripted version of a historical event, like the gladiator games, is a hit. And we all wonder why the Romans loved those games. We do too. Maybe we aren’t as sophisticated as we want to think that we are. We only choose to view ourselves in a positive light without realizing that the flaws of those in our past are as a part of us as the great traits we claim to have. Ask yourself this; if Rome was around today and gladiator games were still a thing, what would they look like? Squid Games. They’d look like Squid Games.
Squid Games is a show that I am not sure how I would feel if I wrote it. I get the shock factor in storytelling. People are intrigued by the unknown future of the characters, and what better way to show this in a story than with murder. The characters may not live to see the next scene because they could be killed at any moment. There is an appeal to it all. I get it. And I am sure that some of you will disagree with my take on the show and see it as very entertaining and worthwhile. To each their own, but if I wrote it, boy, I’d have a lot of explaining to do to my friends and family.
Nothing here, but the regular stuff.
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About The Blogger
Greg Luti is an editor and blogger on pensandwords.com. His favorite writers are Robert Frost and Charles Bukowski. He enjoys reading up on history, watching comedies, and playing video games, when he is not writing down a few notes for his next piece. He started this blog out of his love for literature and hopes that the reader shares that same passion.
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