Released on September 17th, Korean drama series on Netflix, the Squid Game marked the record of 111M views within the first 28 days, surpassing its predecessor Bridgerton. The whole world was in “obsession” with the Squid Game; not only in a mere scale of imitating the characters or mini-games that appear in the series but to the scale of where people created their own “squid game”, although differentiating with the original “squid game” by excluding the severe violence. After 46 days of the top spot-on Netflix, Squid Game bestowed its crown to another Korean drama series Hellbound. Hellbound was released on November 20th, and it became the world’s most-watched series on Netflix in more than 80 countries within 24 hours since its debut.
Although both Squid Game and Hellbound are fantasy horror, those two series are clearly in different categories. Squid Game depicts a survival game controlled and manipulated by humans, just like Hunger Game. Hellbound illustrates the dystopian world where humans are told about their destined death by a celestial figure and when the appointed time arrives, the executives from the hell come and send them to hell by incinerating them. Despite this difference, those two series mesmerized the popularity. Did they have something in common that is special, which others don’t? What made them so exceptional?
Despite the fact that they are fantasies. Hellbound and Squid Game are painfully realistic. In Squid Game, the subjects are motivated by their debts to participate in such a hazardous, inhumane game. In Hellbound, even in such a hopeless condition that is uncontrollable, humans somehow manage a way to make profits from the despairing phenomenon. Both series display the harsh reality of capitalism. They demonstrate how rather than the gruesome violence caused by the gun or horrifying creature, the gruesome mindset of humans that utilize each other for their good can be more repulsive. It is notable how both series criticize the miserable consequence of capitalism since the contents of both series are motivated by capitalism: people’s urge to gain money and the society that encourages people to do so.
Squid Game and Hellbound are also very violent. Lots of blood, harsh language, and physical conflicts are included in the contents. Now, the majority of popularity is enthralled by those contents. Calling it “Catharsis”, people feel the virtual joy by watching unrealistic violence that is most unlikely to happen in their own real life.
There is one thing that these two common features tell us: the current society is exhausted. Criticism of capitalism and display of brutal reality must resonate emotions from audiences, and people believe that those emotions are solved by watching violence, consequently feeling “catharsis”.
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