456

What was that line like? “The man is the head of the family and the woman is the neck, so she can turn him wherever she wants”. Well, nothing is more fitting especially when it comes to stubborn Mr Run.  The man in time has developed a very interesting strategy  – which I am often satisfied with, I have to say –  that is, whenever I propose something he is not pleased with, he offers something in return, he is sure I would not say no:

Mrs Tink: “What about going with Mario and his wife to their friend’s  restaurant Saturday night?”

Mr Run: “Saturday? Oh, I’d thought about spending the week-end in Florence!”

Of course, he knows how much I adore Florence, hence, in this way,  he is able to skip what he believes to be an unpleasant night for him.  But it’s not always so easy to find a comfortable way out. He had been trying for weeks to ignore my wish to watch “Squid Game” on Netflix,  forcing himself to enjoy romantic series set in the Victorian Period in exchange. He was even open to watch all the six seasons of Downton Abbey plus the movie again. Since I didn’t mean to wait that much, I decided to act as the “neck” this time using my wild card:

Mrs Tink: “But Love, even Baricco says it is a remarkable series”

Mr Run: “Baricco?”

Mrs Tink: “Indeed”

It wasn’t Baricco, actually, but Gianluca Vacchi, a well-known billionaire , who has become famous for his crazy dances on Tik-Tok  and with over  20 million followers on Instagram.20 million! What is  Baricco  compared to Gianluca Vacchi, he can’t even reach 30 thousand on Instagram !  So, it happened that one day I came across one of his videos, whose theme was one of the games of the show and I was absolutely impressed:

Mrs Tink : “10 minutes, only 10 minutes and if you don’t like it , we’ll switch to something else!”

Mr Run: “Only 10 minutes!”

Mrs Tink: “Ok. Ah, I forgot……………..it’s in Korean”

Mr Run: “Korean!!!”

After those 10 minutes we were totally hooked and I couldn’t imagine but watching it in any other language but Korean.  Squid Game is about 456 people who choose “freely” to participate in a series of competitive games in which the alternative to winning a prize pool of 45.6 billion is “elimination”.

The last to be recruited is Seong Gi-hun,  a lazy but well-meaning man who’s living on the back of his elderly mother’s meagre income. Because of his betting habit, he loses his family, constantly disappoints his young daughter and  is even  forced to sign a physical contract promising his organs in case of any more delays in payment by some debt collectors.

All the other 455 contenders share stories of failure, desperation , exploitation, loneliness and they believe the game to be their ultimate  chance  of social redemption. They are taken to a distant island  and secluded in  a sort of alienating labyrinth  which has clearly  the form of Esher’s staircase. The  players always proceed in line, like Dante’s defeated souls of the Purgatory.

They are under the control of  workers/soldiers  who are dressed in red and wear black masks with 3 signature symbols: circle, square and triangle.  A circle means a straight forward worker, who is at the lowest level of the hierarchy, those with a  triangle are soldiers with weapons, while a square refers to managers with the most power. The presence of such a strict hierarchy  and the  idea of  identifying the rank  and the task of the workers through a symbol seems to be borrowed  by Edwin A. Abbot ‘s “Flatland”, which was, actually, meant to be a satire against the oppressive hierarchy of Victorian England which reduced lower classes and women into submission.

In fact Squid Game’s target  is  clearly the capitalistic system and  its rules . The contests are nothing but metaphors of our competitive society, which is unpredictable, unfair and deceptive.  No game is ever explained to the competitors before they may choose the means (or companions) to play with and  first time the protagonists of  Squid Game choose to take part into the competition,  they do not know the consequences of the defeat.

But the second time, even though they are no longer unaware, they feel “forced”  to go back to play.  Why? Because the labyrinth  of  their life has just one way out possible: that game. This is how they feel. Despite the organizers  do not miss an opportunity to point out that the competitors have “freely and consciously” joined the competition, we know that  that freedom  is just illusory. In fact,  are  we really “free” to choose when we have to accept an underpaid  job,  or to end up into debt, because we made an investment without knowing the conditions and consequences?

The awareness that only one of them will be destined to grab that chance makes the game more violent and ruthless. The competitive and selfish side of human nature  takes over  any form of cooperation and compassion.  Men turn  into those Hobbes’s wolves who move circumspectly  according to the saying “mors tua vita mea“.

In this moral downfall,  there are beautiful lyrical  moments when those half buried sentiments of piety, compassion, friendship,  brotherhood and love  surface  intensely  in a last desperate fight between hope and disappointment. It will fall on  Seong Gi-hun  – our picaresque hero, whose number 456 symbolizes, according to numerology,  the need to take steps forward to reach a new level – the task to take us to the that level offering a sparkle of hope.  I can say no more, otherwise I would reveal too much; but it is truly a great product and it is worth watching it. If don’t trust me, trust picky Mr Run.

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14 thoughts on “456

  1. So, I have family members who are fans . . . and who kept describing it as a real game which was confusing to Melisa and me (phrases like “people really die” is what made it confusing for us).

    Anyway, nothing about this show has any appeal for me, but just to make sure, I watched the Pitch Meeting for it.

    Warning: don’t click on this LINK if you 1) like the show, and, 2) don’t want spoilers.

    But, a serious critique (from someone who has not watched the show but knows the premise) would have me say this: I get there is a suspension of belief required with almost any fictional story, but you can’t have it both ways . . . you can’t use the story to explore human traits and then ignore what humans would actually do in such a situation. (yes, I know many stories do exactly that … hence why I don’t read them; they offer naught but illusory lessons)

    You mention it as targeting the “capitalistic system and its rules” but capitalism isn’t like that at all.

    You also say: “But the second time, even though they are no longer unaware, they feel “forced” to go back to play. Why? Because the labyrinth of their life has just one way out possible: that game. This is how they feel.”

    What you are essentially saying is that they are suicidal … but they aren’t because that’s not what they signed up for (I get the implication vis-a-vis the capitalistic system, but few would swap it for living in, say, North Korea).

    The other reason their acceptance of a virtually certain death sentence doesn’t ring true is that once they know that, I know what actual humans would do . . . rebel (history taught us that many, many times).

    I know, I know; it’s fiction . . . a vehicle for pointing out the absurdity of the life we choose to live (maybe) . . . but, again, the main character isn’t exactly a stand-in for humanity and his choices are not what we should ascribe to, nor what many, many of us do. I could also fault the implied lesson here: win at all cost! Yes, some “play” life that way, but so, so many do not.

    BTW, the only reason I’m replying is because of the number of people (et tu, e-T?) who say I “must” watch this show and that I will like it.

    I’m glad so many people find it worthwhile, but that’s not me, Bob. I’ll take Hitman, Joe Versus the Volcano, Creator, Local Hero, and a few others as beacons for personal (and social) ethos.

  2. I’ve seen clips of this absurdist tragi-comedy and can see that one might easily be drawn in — probably a reason I won’t watch as I have much else to occupy my time. (No, not to play Solitaire incessantly on my phone, not that.) Possibly the main reason I don’t want to watch is that I feel we’re already living in a real-life video game where, every election time, we’re given the illusion of free will in deciding our country’s future direction when in fact things are rigged so that control is given to a cabal who decide their friends come out on top while the rest of us strive just to survive.

    And now I’ve again ended up ranting and being political on here, sorry, Stefy!

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