Virality is a phenomenon. There isn’t a strict formula for predicting what song might have world leaders let fly their usual sombre demeanours and dance wildly. Nor which slang might transcend national borders to become memes or social media “challenges” adopted globally.

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So, in 2008, when Hwang Dong-hyuk wrote what will eventually become ‘Squid Game’, he was so sure it wouldn’t pick up because he believed the plot was “too difficult to understand and bizarre.” The writer was living with his mother and grandmother at the time, and he, reportedly, was so broke that he sold off his laptop for cash. True to Hwang’s thoughts about the story, local studios rejected the dystopian survival film for being too gory and unrealistic.

But fast forward to over a decade later, the show has hit No. 1 on Netflix in more than 90 countries, including Nigeria. ‘Squid Game’ is also on track to surpass ‘Bridgerton’ as the most popular show in the streaming service’s history. The series also leads conversations on social media, dominating memes and jokes and challenges as the audience reacts to the thoroughly thrilling show.

Why is the world buzzing over a show that was, 13 years ago, destined for the bin? Why is ‘Squid Game’ dominating conversations around the world?

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WHAT IS THE ‘SQUID GAME’ ALL ABOUT?

‘Squid Game’ is a South Korean survival drama TV series that centres on a contest where 456 players compete in a set of children’s games with a macabre twist to stand the chance of winning prize money of 45.6 billion Korean won (about N12 billion).

The players are carefully selected by the game organisers due to their crushing debts and disturbing gambling history, which give them little resistance to the exorbitant prize money being dangled in front of them.

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The 9-episode long show spotlights several universal themes which give it a global appeal.

WHY IS IT SO POPULAR ON SOCIAL MEDIA?

The series resonates with many people because of its deft portrayal of the worsening gulf between social classes around the world. It holds a mirror to capitalism and satirises its ruthlessness in a way that almost everyone can relate to.

It also jarred the world to the spiking level of gambling addiction, with characters who are willing to lay down their lives for money despite the odds being unimaginably skewed against them.

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The show’s audience around the world is localising the lessons from the show.

Nigerians are not excluded, with several tweets equating some scenes in the film with the situation of the country.

“Wait. This opening episode of Squid Game, you can swear this is satire about the Lekki Gate massacre. Green white green. People being shot. Someone in the shadows calling the shots. The ‘cover up’ at the end. Crazy,” Elnathan John, a Nigerian writer, tweeted.

“With the amount of money Nigeria is owing china, they go soon park us go do squid game,” another user said.

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THE MEMES

Several in-film images have also been used by social media users to paint hilarious or ominous representations.

It is believed that on TikTok, the #SquidGame hashtag has been viewed more than 22.8 billion times.

One of the reasons the show has become such a gloabl phenomenon is its accessibility. ‘Squid Game’ is filmed in Korean, but Netflix offers subtitles in 37 languages and dubs in 34 languages, allowing those who would rather not read subtitles to enjoy it, too.

Watch trailer below:



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