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

What We Know About Netflix’s ‘Squid Game: The Challenge’ Reality Series

Now with less murder!

One of the biggest television series of 2021 was Squid Game, a Korean thriller about players who participate in deadly childrens’ games to win millions of dollars for the amusement of wealthy benefactors. Now, Netflix is taking this capitalist metaphor and stripping it of all irony with a new reality competition series, Squid Game: The Challenge. And the spinoff is set to be one of the biggest reality programs ever.

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Squid Game: The Challenge will feature both the largest cast and lump sum cash prize in reality TV history, with 456 real players competing for a reward of $4.56 million. The players will participate in a series of games inspired by the show, as well as new challenges. And just like the original series, they will need to depend on alliances and strategy to survive. Netflix put out a global casting call for players, who must be able to speak English.

Squid Game: The Challenge full trailer

Netflix’s initial announcement of the series (below), last year, was predictably light on details, considering they were just getting started and still casting the series, so they didn’t have any footage to show. Now, we’ve got a full trailer that looks just as uncomfortably similar to the fictional version as you’d have imagined!

If future seasons of the show involve comeuppance for those who created the series’ twisted battle to the death, do you think Netflix executives will be as eager to recreate that in the real world? Hmm …

Squid Game took the world by storm with Director Hwang’s captivating story and iconic imagery. We’re grateful for his support as we turn the fictional world into reality in this massive competition and social experiment,” said Brandon Riegg, Netflix VP of Unscripted and Documentary Series. “Fans of the drama series are in for a fascinating and unpredictable journey as our 456 real world contestants navigate the biggest competition series ever, full of tension and twists, with the biggest ever cash prize at the end.”  

It’s all about the money …

Squid Game currently holds the record for Netflix’s most popular series of all time, with over 1.65 billion view hours in the first 28 days after its September 2021 premiere. A second season is already in the works, with Netflix dropping the first teaser around the same time as the game show announcement.

Of course, Netflix isn’t the first to attempt a real-life version of Squid Game. YouTuber MrBeast launched his own version, where 456 people competed to win $456,000. The technically impressive re-creation garnered 42 million views in one day. While it had massive viewership, many criticized the YouTube video for ripping off and profiting from the original series.

But that’s exactly what Netflix is doing by spinning their original property into yet another moneymaking device. Obviously players won’t be murdered in The Challenge, but it’s a pretty dark capitalistic move nonetheless. After all, the original series is all about economic exploitation, and yet here Netflix is, economically exploiting its contestants. It dilutes the themes and messaging of the series, but of course that’s the point. At this point, when the world feels like its rocketing towards dystopia, I fear that we are but a few moral and economic catastrophes from an actual death game series. And I’m pretty sure that’ll be streaming on Netflix too.

(featured image: Netflix)

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Author
Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.