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Squid Game (Round Six)

Around 2008, Hwang Dong-hyuk had tried unsuccessfully to get investment for a different movie script that he had written, and he, his mother, and his grandmother had to take out loans to stay afloat, but still struggled amid the debt crisis within the country.[28][29][f] He spent his free time in a Manhwabang (South Korean manga cafe) reading Japanese survival manga such as Battle Royale, Liar Game and Gambling Apocalypse: Kaiji.[31][32][33][34] Hwang compared the characters' situation in these works to his own current situation and considered the idea of being able to join such a survival game to win money to get him out of debt, leading him to write a film script on that concept throughout 2009.[34] Hwang stated, "I wanted to write a story that was an allegory or fable about modern capitalist society, something that depicts an extreme competition, somewhat like the extreme competition of life. But I wanted it to use the kind of characters we've all met in real life."[35] Hwang feared the storyline was "too difficult to understand and bizarre" at the time.[31] Hwang tried to sell his story to various Korean production groups and actors, but had been told it was too grotesque and unrealistic.[36] Hwang put this script aside without any takers, and over the next ten years successfully completed three other films, including the crime drama film Silenced (2011) and the historical drama film The Fortress (2017).[34]

Squid Game (Round Six)

With the Netflix order, the film concept was expanded out to a nine-episode series. Kim stated that there was "so much more than what was written in the 120-minute format. So we worked together to turn it into a series."[39] Hwang said he was able to expand the script so that it "could focus on the relationships between people [and] the stories that each of the people had".[41] Initially, Netflix had named the series Round Six, rather than Squid Game as Hwang had suggested; according to Netflix's vice president for content in Asia Kim Minyoung, while they knew that the name "squid game" would be familiar to Korean viewers from the children's game, it "wouldn't resonate because not many people would get it", and opted to use Round Six as it self-described the nature of the competition. As production continued, Hwang pushed on the service to use Squid Game instead, which Kim said its cryptic name and the unique visuals helped to draw in curious viewers.[40][42] At the time that Hwang wrote the series, his goal was for having the series reach the most-watched show in Netflix in the United States for at least one day.[28] Hwang had initially written the series as eight episodes, which was comparable to other Netflix shows, but found that the material for the last episode was longer than he planned, so it was split into two.[43]

Hwang wrote all of the series himself, taking nearly six months to write the first two episodes alone, after which he turned to friends to get input on moving forward.[35] Hwang also addressed the challenges of preparing for the show which was physically and mentally exhausting, saying that he had forgone dental health while making Season 1 and had to have six teeth pulled by his dentist after production was complete.[31][43] As such, Hwang was initially unsure about a sequel after completing these episodes,[35] though he wrote the ending to keep a potential hook for a sequel in mind.[28] Hwang had considered an alternate ending where Gi-hun would have boarded the plane after concluding his call with the game organizers to see his daughter, but Hwang said of that ending, "Is that the right way for us to really propose the question or the message that we wanted to convey through the series?"[50]

As Netflix was targeting the work for a global audience, the visuals were emphasized and some of the rules of the children's games were simplified to avoid potential issues with the language barrier.[36] The colorful sets and costumes were designed to look like a fantasy world. The players and soldiers each wear a distinctive color, to reduce the sense of individuality and emphasize the difference between the two groups.[32] The green tracksuits worn by the players were inspired by 1970s athletic wear, known as trainingbok (Korean: 트레이닝복).[60] The maze-like corridors and stairs drew inspiration from the 4-dimensional stair drawings of M. C. Escher including Relativity. Production designer Chae Kyoung-sun said these seemingly infinite stairways represented "a form of bondage for the contestants".[61] The complex network of tunnels between the arena, the dorm, and the administrative office was inspired by ant colonies.[32]

The players' dormitory was envisioned with the concept of "people who are abandoned on the road" according to Chae; this was also used in the tug-of-war game.[63] The room was designed using white tiles and the curved opening like a vehicular tunnel. The bed and stairs initially were laid out to look like warehouse shelves, but as the episodes progressed and these furnishing used as makeshift defenses, they took the appearance of broken ladders and stairs, implying the way these players were trapped with no way out, according to Chae.[63] The dinner scene that took place in the eighth episode was inspired by the art installation The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago.[61] Walls of many of the areas where the games took place were painted in skies inspired by The Empire of Light series by René Magritte.[61]

The crew spent the most time crafting the set for the Marbles game, creating a mix of realism and fakeness as to mirror the life and death nature of the games themselves.[64] Chae stated that this set was designed as a combination of small theatrical stages, each stage representing parts of Player 001's memories.[63] The VIP room was one of the last pieces to be designed, and Chae said that they decided on an animal-based theme for both the costumes and room for this; "The VIPs are the kind of people who take other people's lives for entertainment and treat them like game pieces on a chessboard, so I wanted to create a powerful and instinctive look for the room."[63]

The robot doll in the first episode, "Red Light, Green Light", was inspired by Younghee, a character who appeared on the covers of Korean textbooks Chul-soo and Young-hee in the 1970s and 1980s,[61] and her hairstyle was inspired by Hwang's daughter's.[60][63] The doll singsongs, in Korean, "Mugunghwa Flower has Blossomed", referring to the hibiscus syriacus, the national flower of South Korea.[47] The use of this familiar character was meant to juxtapose memories of childhood and unsettling fear in the players, according to Chae.[63] Similarly, the set for the dalgona game, using giant pieces of playground equipment, were to evoke players' memories of their childhood, and was a common place where Korean children would have played dalgona with friends.[63] The dalgona used in "The Man with the Umbrella" were made by a street vendor from Daehangno.[65]

Throughout the series, the trio of circle, triangle, and square shapes appear frequently on the cards given to recruit players, on the guards' masks, and inside the show's title. These are shapes associated with the playing field for the children's game of Squid (Ojing-eo). They are also used to represent the hierarchy of the guards within the complex. Following from the comparison with an ant colony, the guards with circles are considered the workers, triangles as the soldiers, and squares as the managers (see also: Korean honorifics). Further, in the Korean alphabet, Hangul, the circle represents the romanized letter "O", the triangle represents part of the letter "J", and the square represents the letter "M"; together, "OJM" are the romanized initials of Ojing-eo Geim, the Korean translation of Squid Game.[66]

Two classical music pieces are also used throughout the show as part of the routine for the players: the third movement of Joseph Haydn's "Trumpet Concerto" is used to wake the players, while Johann Strauss II's "The Blue Danube" is used to indicate the start of a new game.[67] Ludwig van Beethoven's "Fifth Symphony" is also used for background music in the VIP lounge.[67] A cover of "Fly Me to the Moon",[h] arranged by Jung and sung by Korean artist Joo Won Shin, was used over the "Red Light, Green Light" game of the first episode; according to Joo, Hwang wanted a contrast between the brutal killing of the players in the game and the "romantic and beautiful lyrics and melody" of the song, such that the scene "embodies the increasingly polarized capitalist society that we live in today in a very compressed and cynical way".[69]

In the Netherlands, Netflix hosted its own Squid Game where people were able to play the game Red Light, Green Light in both Maastricht and Rotterdam. A replica of the doll was exhibited and staff were dressed as guards. Winners were awarded with Squid Game memorabilia. The event attracted hundreds of people.[80][81][82] Similar events featuring replicas of the doll have occurred across the world, including Sydney[83] and the United Kingdom.[84]

Outside of Asian regions, its popularity was driven primarily through word of mouth and viral spread on social media. Vulture also claimed that the show's widespread localization, with subtitles in 37 languages and dubbed versions in 34 languages, helped to capture an international audience.[38] Hwang believed that the popularity was due "by the irony that hopeless grownups risk their lives to win a kids' game", as well as the familiarity and simplicity of the games that allowed the show to focus on characterization.[109] The diversity of the characters that play the Squid Game, drawing from different walks of lower- and middle-class life, also helps draw audiences to watch as many could find sympathy in one or more of the characters.[109]

In South Korea, the popularity of Squid Game led to a surge of network traffic which caused SK Broadband to file a lawsuit against Netflix, seeking monetary damages to pay for increased broadband usage and maintenance costs associated with the program.[130] One of the phone numbers used in the show belonged to a private resident who reported receiving up to 4,000 calls each day from people, several of whom desired to play a real-life version of the game;[131] Netflix stated they would edit the show to remove the number.[132] 041b061a72


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