What is Squid Game?

Top 5 Things Teachers Should Know

Squid Game has become a global smash hit and Netflix’s most-watched original show, with 132 million people streaming it. That far outstrips the previous record holder, Bridgerton, which was seen by 82 million people. (Bloomberg News)

While it has become a binge-worthy phenomenon for adults, it is not for children and presents challenges for teachers. It focuses on kid’s games but the violence associated with losing is inappropriate for most students.

Schools in some states, the UK and Asia have warned parents about the series and its violence and sex. Some schools banned Halloween costumes based on the show and others have banned playing the children’s version of the game in the school year.

What do teachers need to know? ThinkFives has a Top 5 list to help teachers understand the phenomenon and be ready for questions in class.

It’s a Huge Ratings Hit for Netflix

While Netflix doesn’t charge per show, they do assess the value a new hit brings to the service both in terms of public relations and new subscribers. According to internal documents seen by Bloomberg News, the show generated 891 million in “impact value.”

The numbers are quite staggering. The show cost about $2.4 million an episode to create which is approximately 1/10th the cost of the Crown or Stranger Things. 66% of all viewers who started Squid Game finished in 23 days or less, showing how binge worthy it is.

Despite warnings that it is for adults, thousands of younger students have either seen or heard about Squid Game.

It Was Made in Korea

Squid Games is is the first Korean drama series to hit #1 on Netflix. It reached that milestone just four days after release. The show is in Korean with subtitles and audio dubbing available in English.

Director Hwang Dong-hyuk finished the script in 2009 and initially believed the story might be too unfamiliar and violent for commercial success. “But after about 12 years, the world has changed into a place where such peculiar, violent survival stories are actually welcomed,” he told The Korea Times.

Squid Game is Based on a Korean Children’s Game

Squid Game is a real game in Korea. It was popular in the 70s and 80s around the time the show’s director grew up in Seoul. Director Hwang chose Squid Game as the name because for him, it represented one of the most physical games kids played. He shared that it is “the most symbolic children’s game to represent the kind of society we live in today.” (Which says a lot about our times)

The rules of the real game are fairly simple.

  • Players divide into two teams, one offense and one defense
  • The offense starts at the head of the squid and the defense waits inside the body
  • Defense can run everywhere inside the limits while the offense must remain outside the boundaries and can only hop on one foot period.
  • The offense wins by escaping the defense at the midpoint or by entering the squid’s body and overcoming the defense to put a foot on the squids head
  • The defense wins by pushing the offense completely outside the boundaries.

Check out this Korean video which shows how to play https://youtu.be/uTufobo5bCo

The Plot is Disturbing

For those outside the Netflix bubble, Squid Game focuses on a group of volunteers who agree eventually to be involved in a deadly tournament of children’s games. Huge stakes are involved with the winner taking $45 billion South Korean won (about $38M US).

With adaptive learning, teachers can immediately see where students are struggling and, more importantly, which methods of teaching are helping them improve and master the material.

The odds aren’t good and it’s survival of the fittest. Think Hunger Games but played in a Kindergarten schoolyard. It’s a bloody, dark and emotional series.

While there are morals embedded in the drama – particularly about the role that trust can play in society and whether we have the potential to reverse the competitive nature of our society – it is still a violent drama.

This is Not for Kids

Beware: This is not for children. The #1 thing that teachers (and parents) should know about Squid Game is that this is not for kids.

Netflix says, “Appropriate only for children ages 16 and older. Parents need to know that the level of violence is very intense in Squid Game.” Even 16 may be too young.

According to Common Sense Media, “Parents need to know that the level of violence is very intense in Squid Game. Characters are systematically tortured and killed for the sadistic pleasure of a game master. Adults have sex, and there are threats of sexual violence: Women are grabbed by the hair and beaten.”

It’s not that these actions are not ingrained deeply in existing video games but that should not let people get caught up in the popularity and forget the nature of the content.

Bonus Top 5 List

For those adults who have seen Squid Game you might not have known these background facts:

  • Dorm walls, which are initially covered by beds, actually have drawings that will serve as clues for which games will be played later.
  • Contestants enter by calling an 8-digit number on a mysterious business card. That phone number really belongs to a man in Korea who now says he receives 4,000 calls a day.
  • The guards in the show originally had Boy Scout uniforms but they evolved to highlight uniformity and “ants in a colony.” The masks are inspired by traditional Korean masks, hahoetal, and fencing masks.
  • Dalgona is a real candy in Korea made with sugar and water. The actor playing the lead character used this technique of not breaking the shape to win contests when he was a kid.
  • In the game of glass stepping stones, the glass was over a meter from the ground, providing a real scare for the actors as they walked.

What did you think of Squid Game?





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