Squid Games Takes on Capitalism and Classism

By Karlie Schneider, Staff Writer

*WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD*

There are many mixed views on Capitalism around the worlds. Many people hate it and many people think its the best system to use. Capitalism leads into a much bigger conversation on classism. The popular Netflix series Squid Games takes a emotional and personal dive into capitalism and classism. The show’s premise focuses on players who are in crippling debt. These people are invited to play a series of games for a lot of money. The games aren’t what they seem when contestants start dying because they lost the games. In the very first round the players make a choice to leave the games, but because of their debts they all decide to go back and play the game.

The games illustrate how desperate people are when they fall on hard times. Some reasons the players continue the game is to pay hospital bills, gambling debts, or in some way or another help their families. In the show there are rich people known as the VIPs who watch the ending of the games, as these players start to kill each other. This part of the show symbolizes the rich who sit there and watch people who are poor. The VIPs enjoy the show placing bets on who they think are going to win. You may be wondering why the characters in the show decide to come back into the games knowing they are going to die. Character 322 says it the best.

“I Don’t Have A Home To Go Back To. In Here, I Stand A Chance At Least. But Out There? I Got Nothing Out There.” 

– Player 322 from Squid Games

This quote highlights how flawed Capitalism is. The player rather take his chances inside the game knowing he might be the next one to die. This speaks volumes about our class systems. In the last game characters Gi-hun and Sang-woo are the last players remaining. Gi-hun ultimately best Sang-woo. But as he was planning on killing him, he decides to stop. This notion surprises the VIPs, they don’t understand why he would stop when he was so close to winning all of that money. The VIPs who are extremely rich valued money and they thought that Gi-hun who is poor would also value money. But that was not the case, Gi-hun valued human life over money. This concept shows how those in wealth could never possibly relate to those who have never seen wealth a day in their lives.

At the very end of the series the mastermind behind the games reveals to Gi-hun who he is and why the games were created to begin with. He explains to Gi-hun that the one thing the rich and the poor have in common is that they both are miserable. He created the games and played in them because he wanted to feel like he did when he was a kid, before money became the center of everything. The criticism of this point the host makes is that he tried to compare two drastically different classes. He tried to make being rich a problem. The reason that this is wrong is because the old man invited people to watch the games who could never understand what struggling financially looks like. The trauma of not being able to provide for yourself or family is a far greater struggle than being rich and miserable.

The parallels between capitalism and the Squid Game is that both put people against each other. In the game the players compete with the other players, just like in capitalism workers are often pit against each other. Denofgeek.com says “In our society, this kind of worker-vs-worker rhetoric takes the form of employers telling workers their workload is harder or they can’t go on vacation or get a raise because of fellow employees who leave or go on maternity leave. In reality, these are all normal aspects of managing a business that employers should plan for, and their failure to do so is not the fault of their workers. Much like in Squid Game, it benefits managers and owners if workers are too busy being mad at each other to have time or energy to fight the system and those who make unjust rules in the first place.”

In today’s society the equivalent of the worker vs worker rhetoric would be along the lines of when people tell other people that they are poor because they do not “work hard enough.” Instead of addressing the issue of financial inequality between the rich and poor, they attack each other, much like the players in squid game. The VIPs represent the big corporations while the players represent the working class. Lets take Jeff Bezos as an example. Bezos underpays his workers when he has the means to be able to pay them the appropriate amount of money for their work. The VIPs could easily have donated their money to the players, but didn’t. They would have rather had a spectacle to amuse them.

Even the people in the red suits illustrates the hierarchy of class in our society. The people in red are the ones who help the games run smoothly. They kill the losers of the games, and clean up after every round. Each red person has a symbol: square, circle, or triangle. Each shape represents which red person has what kind of authority. The squares are at the top of the list, followed by the triangles, and then the circles who have the least authority. The circles aren’t allowed to speak to the other shapes unless they are spoken to. They all answer to the frontman, who answered to the host.

Critiquing Capitalism and the class system is nothing new. Many movies and shows have tackled the problems behind it. Hunger Games for example is a one big metaphor for this. In fact there are many parallels between Squid Games and The Hunger Games. Even down to both of the main characters refusing to play the game any longer. There are even rich people who watch the games behind a screen and placing bets. Some people even theorize that the Squid Games and the Hungers Games takes place in the same universe, and that they are each a different version for the different areas. I myself really like this theory because both have similar elements to each other. Having the ability to criticize systems like Capitalism opens the door for further discussions about financial inequality and class. I think this series does a good job in doing that.

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