‘Squid Game’s’ hidden clues, the problem with capitalism

What+started+out+as+a+South+Korean+thriller+juxtaposing+children%E2%80%99s+games+with+themes+of+late-stage+capitalism+transformed+into+a+symbol+of+protest.+On+Oct.+20%2C+South+Korean+protesters+donned+Squid+Game+costumes+as+they+marched+for+better+working+conditions.

Art by Johanna Wen

What started out as a South Korean thriller juxtaposing children’s games with themes of late-stage capitalism transformed into a symbol of protest. On Oct. 20, South Korean protesters donned Squid Game costumes as they marched for better working conditions.

Squid game: cultural phenomenon that has captured the eyes of the world, becoming the most watched Netflix show of all time. The popularity has spurred hundreds of online debates and conspiracy theories. However, what does this say about the culture? And what are some easter eggs that you may have missed while watching this hit show?

KEY:
101 (Deok-su)
199 (Ali)
218 (Sangwoo)
067 (Sae-byeok)
001 (Oh-Il-nam)
456 (Seong Gi-hun)
The cop (Jun-ho)

Easter Eggs:

Outside World Hints: 

  • 101 jumps off the bridge into the water, escaping a gang after getting out of the game the first time- he fell off a glass bridge resulting in his death.
  • 199 runs away and takes money from his boss after getting out of the game.
  • 067 holds a knife to a broker’s neck after getting out of the game- her death resulted in 218 stabbing her in the neck.
  • When in the outside world, 218 seemed as if he was going to end his life- he died by suicide in the squid game ring.

Who’s the Creator (001)?

  • During the first round, 001 votes “no” because it wouldn’t be fun for him if no one wanted to participate in the deadly games.
  • Met with 456 in the outside world and convinces him to join back to the games.
  • When the cop opens the player books, it starts with 002 instead of 001.
  • During the marble game, 001 sits in the corner because he knew the person who didn’t have a partner wouldn’t be punished.
  • 001 is familiar with every game (he said that every game is his favorite) because he created them.
  • 001 smiled while playing the fatal Red Light Green Light game.
  • Begged for the Frontman to stop the game, and the Frontman listened to him.
  • During the VIP episode, one of his hands appeared wrinkly (pointing to old age- 001 ).
  • The doll did not scan 001 in Green Light Red Light.

Are 456 and 001 related?

  • They meet after the first game in their neighborhood (001’s cover story explains that it was a friend’s neighborhood)
  • After 456 tries to get chocolate milk, 001 asks him if he was spanked a lot as a kid, then mentioned 456 was like his son.
  • During the marble game, they both said it looked like their own childhood neighborhoods.
  • 456’s father isn’t mentioned in his life, only his mom.

Conspiracy Theories:

Red guards were old winners: the participants of the game were there because they didn’t have good financial skills; the winners could be back in debt after spending all of their prize money. Because of this, winners of the game would need more money, hence going back to the game (001 keeps track of them, mentioned in the end with the conversation with 456). It wouldn’t be fair if they participated back in the game, as they knew the games and how to win. At the end of the first season, 456 dyed his hair red.

Dalgona Candy:

Recipe for Squid Game’s infamous dalgona candy. Make it at home and tag us on Instagram at @threepennypress (Alexa Bu)
  • Hard honeycomb toffee-like texture
  • Can be cut with any cutter (a circle, triangle, umbrella, square)
  • Aim in the game was to poke out the shape without breaking (called Ppopgi- to pick), if they did, they would be eliminated (die).

Tools:

  • Ladle
  • Wooden chopstick
  • Mat
  • Bottom of a pot/something to press down
  • Cookie cutters

Ingredients:

  • White granulated sugar
  • Baking soda

Instructions:

  • Caramelize sugar in ladle over flame (stir with wooden chopstick) until golden light brown and melted
  • Add a pinch of baking soda
  • Take off flame and mix
  • Pour onto mat
  • Oil the presser and press
  • Indent candy with the cookie cutter (do this fast before it hardens)
  • Enjoy!

Analysis of the show

What started out as a South Korean thriller juxtaposing children’s games with themes of late-stage capitalism transformed into a symbol of protest. On Oct. 20, South Korean protesters donned Squid Game costumes as they marched for better working conditions.

For many, Squid Game was not only hard to watch for its violence but also for its uncanny resemblance to reality. More and more, it seems that personal well-being is put on the back burner to keep up in our hyper-competitive society. The average American works four times more hours than a worker in the 1950s for the same standard of living. Furthermore, according to the World Health Organization, in 2016 there were 745,000 deaths by stroke and heart disease due to overworking.

German poet Bertolt Brecht explains this predicament in his poem “Hollywood Elegies” where he proposes that God did not need to create a heaven and a hell. He only needed to create a heaven that was hell for the poor. That is the reality of the people who participate in the Squid Game: society is heaven for the rich but hell for the poor.

Squid Game also critiques the illusion of freedom and fair competition. By asking the participants if they wanted to continue with the game, it created the illusion of choice; however, that is not truly the case.

The only reason the game organizers offered the players a “choice” is because the organizers understood that there really was no choice. The rich are getting richer while the poor are forced to take on a second or third job to keep themselves afloat. If the players choose to not continue the game, what other options do they actually have?

It is the illusion of freedom that keeps us our own oppressors. We’d like to think that we are special and would be able to “win the Squid Game.” However, by participating in the game, we are further playing into a system designed to oppress and control us. The illusion of freedom is simply that: an illusion.