While “Squid Game” is considered one of Netflix's biggest hits, news of a competition series inspired by the Korean drama has prompted criticism from some fans who say the premise misses the mark.
In the series, contestants burdened with immense debt participate in competitions playing twisted and violent children’s games for millions of dollars. It can only have one winner, and those who lose die.
With “Squid Game: The Challenge," Netflix said in its release that "the worst fate is going home open handed” (aka not death).
"You’ve seen the drama, now it’s your chance to take part in Netflix’s biggest ever social experiment!" Netflix writes in its casting call. "This supersized unscripted show turns the scripted world of the drama into reality. Real-life players will be immersed in the iconic Squid Game universe and will never know what’s coming next. Here they’ll compete in a series of heart-stopping games in order to become the sole survivor* and walk away with a life-changing cash prize. With a fortune up for grabs, who will be an ally, who will you trust, and who will you betray in this ultimate test of character? *Please note: Win or lose, all players will leave unscathed. But if you win, you win big!"
When news of the reality competition spin-off was announced last week, some on social media pointed out the irony of such a competition show.
“The game is intended to represent the commodification of suffering by privileged people, and how watching people struggle for money and their lives is seen as entertainment for people who will never have to experience such things,” said Mika Winder, 16, of Oregon. “Making a real life version goes against the entire message of the original show in an almost comical way."
Others echoed similar sentiments on social media, including one person who tweeted: “Did Netflix even watch the show? Did they glean any meaning from it?”
Netflix and production firms Studio Lambert and The Garden, the show’s co-producers, did not respond to request for comment.
How the competition show will work
The reality show will feature 456 English-speaking players from around the world who will compete for a cash prize of $4.56 million, Netflix said.
Details of what the games will entail were not revealed in Netflix's press release or the show's casting application.
For some fans of "Squid Game," like Dracy Peters, the reality competition series is an opportunity to "have fun."
Peters, 23, of Louisiana, said he's applying to be a contestant to put his knowledge of the games to the test.
“The show is a work of fiction with an elaborate plot, where the characters had to risk their lives for the money,” Peters said. “Here, the worst fate a player can have is supposedly going home empty-handed.”
But for others, like Winder, it's a hard pass.
“The people competing are projected to the rest of the world for cheap thrills and it is a mockery of the original story,” she said. “It goes to show the extent to which people, especially in America, will disregard the plot of something, and the metaphors behind it, in order to make money.”
The show has generated strong reactions before
This isn't the first time the original dystopian TV show has garnered a strong reaction.
When the nine-episode thriller premiered on Sept. 21, "Squid Game" notched the No. 1 spot in 94 countries, including its home base, South Korea. There, the show struck a particular nerve for highlighting a deeply entrenched issue: debt and the perennial struggle of paying it off.
And shortly after its debut, companies hoping to capitalize off its popularity rushed to incorporate the show into ad campaigns — a move that was perceived as crass due to the sensitive themes in the Korean thriller.
"Squid Game" has also inspired celebrities to re-create scenes from the show — sparking similar controversy.
In November, Chrissy Teigen was reprimanded for hosting a "Squid Game"-themed party with celebrity guests dressed as players from the smash hit.
That same month, YouTuber MrBeast built sets inspired by the show and had contestants compete for $456,000 in a video uploaded on his channel, which has since garnered more than 260 million views.
One Twitter user pointed out that they don't think they've "ever seen the moral stance of a show so completely misunderstood by the general public like Squid Game has been."