I check out worldwide sensations because I’m that kind of chair.
The type that offers itself up to anyone who wants to take a load off and comfortably, nee honestly, jaw about the latest, greatest and not so greatest of events and phenomena happening in our world.
This is what finally got me this week to tune into Netflix’s 9-episode global juggernaut Squid Game almost two months after its September 17 debut.
– When you’re watching a Saturday Night Live parody of something you’ve never seen you know it’s time.
– When you teach a classroom of college seniors who’ve all seen it (and loved it) and you’re the cheese stands alone you feel the pressure.
– Most importantly, when you’re a person who wants to express an intelligent opinion on what’s goin’ on rather than type/scream into your highly personalized social media newsfeed you owe it to yourself and anyone within eye or earshot to be informed.
In other words, shut the f-k up if you haven’t at the very least watched it, read about it or experienced it. Especially if IT’S everywhere, or seemingly everywhere, you turn.
This and an admitted morbid curiosity about everything even slightly morbid, is what led me to Squid Game. Or shall I say, in full confession, episode 1 of Squid Game.
Because the truth is Netflix would have to pay me, and do it quite handsomely, to get me to tune in to episodes 2-9. And certainly a lot more beyond that to get through its now sure to be season 2.
How much more?
Not even the fictional cash prize of $38.4 million for SG’s fictional players would do it because I’ve lived long enough to know that there is ALWAYS an irretrievably toxic hidden cost for you when that much money is involved with something you know deep down is just plain wrong.
At least for you.
This bloody mess of a series from South Korea taps into any number of hot button issues in the most banal, infantile, reductive and exploitative way possible.
Or, well, at least the first episode did.
But after a lifetime of viewing thousands of TV series and movies I got it. I truly did. And, well, I seriously gave it a try.
I don’t hate you for loving it. So don’t despise me for loathing it.
Think of Squid Game as the worst volume or sequel in The Hunger Game series. A story with all the depth of a Transformers film and all of the bloody action in every superhero movie combined were there no parents or uptight American studios to answer to.
The latter actually makes it sound appealing, which it clearly is, to some, um, many. This, more than anything else, disturbs me.
It’s seemingly bathed in the issue of class, themes of the have and have nots, the worst of human nature and the best of intensions gone awry.
In a practical sense, it also has the irresistible story hook of a bunch of people playing a high stakes game. I mean, who doesn’t love games?
More to the point, I love games. I mean, I L-O-V-E them. My husband and I used to have game nights, when we all felt safe doing such things so close together.
In fact, tonight I might even re-watch Michael Douglas and Sean Penn in the 1997 flick of twisted human desperation, The Game. That’s how much I love them.
Which brings us back to the subject at hand. How high stakes is Squid Game?
Put it this way, if you screw up the rules even once, you die.
Meaning you get quickly shot in the heart, through your head, out your brain, up your ass or even further down below until you disintegrate or explode into a bloody, flesh flattening heap.
As a viewer you’re mired in puddles and droplets and reaction shots of bullets impacting on the bodies of the dying spraying blood. On everyone and everything. Especially the surviving players.
And if you are a player who doesn’t survive your corpse will likely get piled atop or beside others and later get carted away. You will die in that brightly colorful warm up suit they gave you to play this series of games you might remember from childhood. On the other hand, if you don’t die and emerge victorious you will win $38.4 million.
But the chances of that are the same chances you have of winning that amount in an American lottery, albeit at an unspeakable and, practically speaking, impossible to truly believe, voluntary risk-reward.
Since I didn’t venture past episode one, I can’t say exactly who is supplying the money. But I do know the game is being watched on closed circuit TV by what is likely a small group of very, very, VERY rich people so it’s safe to assume it is them who are doing the financing and the viewing.
In the show that I saw there is one person sitting on a lovely, sumptuous chair sipping either wine or liquor from a gorgeous glass, subtly luxuriating at the site of the carnage and yet, almost a little bit bored at spots.
No doubt this person has experience with the masses being exploited for their own amusement and financial gain.
The latter is clearly the case since no uber wealthy person does this much research (Note: A detailed dossier on everything about the dozens of players has been assembled in advance), and spends this degree of time and money, without some big financial payoff for themselves in mind.
Even if the deal merely involves a way to satisfy themselves sexually or socially (Note: Or both) their true aphrodisiac, if we dare to be REAL about it, is ALWAYS the assemblage of money and power, their quest to be the top dog.
This is why all the players participating/hunted in this game are seriously in debt, near penniless or at the end of their rope in every other way with only one last chance to grab what they perceive as life’s ultimate reward – MONEY.
Well, at least it thinks it is.
I pictured Jeff Bezos in a Blue flight suit, sipping Courvoisier from a short baccarat tulip glass in one hand as he slow-drew in smoke from a gurkha royal courtesean cigar (Note: Google it – ok, here) in the other while he every so often watched everyone I ever loved or cared about, or could have loved and care about if I knew them, bleed out.
Call me crazy but this, to me, is not entertainment. Nor does it say anything, or anything much, about the human condition that I didn’t already know.
However (and it’s a BIG however), the success of Squid Game is another thing. And it says a lot. An awful lot.
Approximately 142 million people in 90 countries have streamed it. It’s generated revenue of almost $900 million in these two months on a budget of about $24.1 million for ALL nine episodes. That means each episode brings in 41.7% times what it cost to make.
Not only are all its top creatives being courted by all the major Hollywood agencies, it is likely to go down as Netflix’ #1 most watched and most profitable first season program ever.
The only way Netflix isn’t doing season two is if there’s a worldwide apocalypse that shuts down every….
Okay, better not manifest that idea given the climate, both literally and figuratively, we’ve barely managed to survive in the last 18 months.
But for this we can’t blame Netflix. As part of our new, connected/disconnected global community this is clearly in our nature.
I will be thinking about that in the coming days as the Kyle Rittenhouse jury figures out what to do about a real-life under age kid who shot into a crowd of people and drew blood and death as well as an audience well into the tens of millions and counting.
With equal dread.