Squid Game guard in focus with the about to die contestants in the background

Netflix’s ‘Squid Game: The Challenge’ Is a Late-Stage Capitalist Nightmare

Netflix’s Squid Game came out in September 17, 2021, and remains the best thing the company has ever produced. Created by Korean director Hwang Dong-hyuk, this nightmarish drama features impoverished contestants fighting for their lives in a series of deadly children’s games, all to win the prize of 45.6 billion Korean won.

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But beneath the violent entertainment of desperate people betraying and murdering each other, there’s a strong undercurrent of anticapitalist politics. As Hwang himself has said before, he is deeply critical of both the oppression and limitations that capitalism brings. In Squid Game, debt-strapped people are exploited for problems not of their own making. If capitalist society had simply taken care of them and provided for their needs, then none of this would have ever happened. That is ultimately the true message of the show, one that is frequently ignored.

Looks like Netflix didn’t get that memo. Back in June 2022, Netflix announced that they would be producing a spinoff series called Squid Game: The Challenge. Instead of a drama, this would be a reality game show where real contestants compete for $4.56 million. I hope you see the problem with this.

Squid Game is explicitly saying that this game show is a terrible, capitalist nightmare that only viciously evil rich people would think was a good idea. Pitting the poor against each other as entertainment for the 1% is, like, bad. The phenomenon behind this show’s real-life existence is “recuperation,” which is when radical politics get hijacked and commodified for corporate interests. Netflix is only interested in removing the corrosive anticapitalist bite from Squid Game, all while profiting off of its brand power.

After all, Netflix has screwed Hwang over for years. According to The Guardian, Hwang sees very little money from the billions generated by his own show. Netflix even shot down Hwang’s pitch for 10 years before finally accepting it. He had to take out loans just to finance his own projects during that time, and as we’ve pointed out before, Netflix excuses this low pay with the usual corporate deflection.

And it’s not just Netflix doing this recuperation, either. As we’ve talked about before, creator MrBeast shamefully did his own Squid Game cash grab reenactment. I expect nothing less from a man whose entire brand is about exploiting the poor to begin with.

I don’t care if the reality TV show somehow turns out good. (It won’t.) I hate it thoroughly on principle for ripping to pieces everything the original show stands for, and Netflix should be ashamed.

(featured image: Netflix)

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Michael Dawson
Michael Dawson (he/they) writes about media criticism, race studies, intersectional feminism, and left-wing politics. He has been working with digital media and writing about pop culture since 2014. He enjoys video games, movies, and TV, and often gets into playful arguments with friends over Shonen anime and RPGs. He has experience writing for The Mary Sue, Cracked.com, Bunny Ears, Static Media, and The Crimson White. His Twitter can be found here: https://twitter.com/8bitStereo