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Rubado column: It's time to talk about 'Squid Game'

The following is an opinion column written by a Forum New Service editorial staff member. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Echo Press.

Rubado Column Mug
Jared Rubado

Before I dive into this column about "Squid Game," Netflix's newest show that is sweeping the nation, I need to give a fair warning.

If you have not seen "Squid Game," please look into the content that is in this nine-episode show. There is vulgar language and extreme graphic content. If it weren't one of the most popular streaming shows of all time, I wouldn't have picked it for this week's column. I don't want to lead people to watch this show if they're not comfortable with the way the messages are conveyed.

"Squid Game" is a Korean show about hundreds of people who desperately need money playing childhood games with deadly consequences.

The show focuses on Seong Gi-hun, a gambling addict who is down thousands of dollars and is losing contact with his daughter with every bet he places. Gi-hun is set to board a train back to his lower-class mother's house when a man in a suit offers him a chance to make all of his losses back and more.

I don't think I can say anymore without getting into big-time spoilers, but this is one of the best shows I've ever seen. I've raved about HBO's "Watchmen" before as my favorite show of all time, and I got a similar feeling watching "Squid Game."

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It's important to note that this show is in Korean. Netflix had an English dub, or you can watch it with English subtitles. I recommend the subtitles because it better serves you to appreciate the acting. But it doesn't matter. Find what's best for you. What you shouldn't do is let a foreign language deter you from a great piece of art.

I don't think you'll find a show that had a better combination of acting and character development from a director-cast side of things in a single season. There was a 50-minute episode that conveyed character arcs that most shows take years to pull off. This show leaves you feeling lifeless while your heart is racing a million miles per hour.

One thing I am a sucker for is subtle foreshadowing. I love when a show tells me what's going to happen in a way that's right in front of me, but there's no way I could see it without knowing what's already happened. "Watchmen" might be the best show I've ever seen at foreshadowing clues.

I think there are many different lessons to pull from "Squid Game" if you're a viewer. But one of them I want to focus on is what this show says about capitalism. "Squid Game" is a story about a wealthy entity taking advantage of low-income people. Being that the prize for playing is money, the motives for each player depend on how they value money.

"Squid Game" is a metaphor for how large companies and organizations exploit people through capitalism. For example, you have the freedom to become whatever you want for a job. If you come from a place of wealth, those freedoms are more extensive because your opportunities are greater for things like college, location and luxury.

Lower-class people also have the freedom to become whatever they want. If a young person grows up poor and wants to become a doctor and cannot afford to pay for a decade of schooling out of high school, they turn to government agencies for loans to go to school. Interest accrues, and they spend even longer paying off the derby they owe. The financial benefits of being a doctor aren't as lucrative in this situation.

But that's just an example of a lower-class person picking a wealthy career. What happens when that person wants to become a teacher instead? Even though it's half of the schooling, the debt will take even longer to pay off because the wages are lower.

If your answer to this is "pick a different job," you're missing the point. Instead of blaming the people for their financial hardships, most of which they often can't control due to systemic discrepancies, maybe blame the institutions sucking every dollar out of society.

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"Squid Game" makes you think a lot about capitalism. Do the players have to play the game? No, but if they don't, their lives in the real world are essentially over. It's a show about false freedoms and how they take advantage of desperate people, which is something you can see pretty much anywhere today.

Jared Rubado is the sports editor for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus. He moved to the area in September of 2021 after covering sports for the Alexandria Echo Press for nearly three years. Jared graduated from the University of Augustana in 2018 with degrees in journalism and sports managment.
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