“Squid Game” is a game-changer for cultural globalization

Netflix’s ‘Squid Game’ Popularity Unprecedented for Foreign Language TV Series Reaching 111 Million Global Audiences [their] the biggest serial launch ever! The show was also rated as’ No. 1 [of the most viewed content] in 90 countries ”, just two weeks after its September 17 release and almost two months later, the series remains on Netflix’s Top 10 list in the United States.

As an Asian American, I was amazed that a show like “Squid Game” permeated American pop culture the way it did – every major American media organization was talking about its success, it was All over Tik-Tok, social media memes accounts were referencing it and the show had even made its way through beloved US territory in Halloween costumes. Frankly, I didn’t understand his success in the US at first: it wasn’t even an Asian American – it was a K-drama shot in Korea, with a mostly Korean cast and shot in Korean in the UK. instead of English … it was so un-American.

Asian portrayal in movies and TV shows in America has historically been limited to stereotypes, so the fact that “Squid Game” was in fashion was an unexpected but pleasant surprise to me, as I’m sure it was. the case for many Asian Americans. I grew up consuming media where Asian actors limited themselves to playing extras, weird, quieter nerds, martial arts masters, “dragon ladies”, or male sexual fantasies. And let’s not neglect Hollywood by laundering the roles of Asian characters, where Asian actors never made the casting calls – like in 2017 when Scarlett Johansson was controversial as the main character in “Ghost in the Shell” which was based on a film adaptation of a popular Japanese manga.

“Squid Game” was an exception to these stereotypes and literally changed the game. The show takes place in bustling Seoul and transports viewers to a mysterious island where broke contestants fight for survival (and for $ 45.6 billion) through a series of traditional Korean children’s games, with a bloody touch.

South Korea’s entry into a globalized popular culture sense didn’t actually start with “Squid Game,” but with the rise of BTS and K-pop. BTS’s achievement with its song “Dynamite” reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2020, indicated a change in “[the West] dominating world popular music. And according to a CNN article, “BTS became the only third group in 50 years to have three number one albums on the Billboard 200 charts in less than 12 months, joining the ranks of The Beatles and Monkees.”

South Korean culture continued into the mainstream, with the help of K-Dramas and critical acclaim for the film “Parasite”, the first foreign language film to win the Best Picture award at the Oscars in 2019. In a New York Times article, which calls South Korean entertainment a “cultural juggernaut,” Jang Young-woo (either co-producer or co-director of three popular Korean shows on Netflix, explains that it doesn’t is that after the recognition of “Parasite”, that “The international audience really started to pay attention, even though South Korea had been producing similar works for years.”

But according to USA Today, it’s not just South Korean music, movies and TV shows that have been on the rise in recent years: a “Hallyu or Korean wave” of pretty much everything K-fill- in-the-blank has found its way into Western culture through “K-dramas, K-fashion, K-beauty, [and] KBBQ ”.

USA Today’s Jenna Ryu explained that “what’s popular has been linked for decades” in large part because of the historical significance of US-South Korean foreign relations. Cultural dissemination began with the Korean War and the United States’ alliance with South Korea. Beginning in 1950, the United States sent a total of 1,789,000 troops to the peninsula to support South Korea’s war against North Korea. Because of this, a strong Korean-American culture has developed.

As for the reasons rooted in the widespread accomplishments of “Squid Game,” Creative Director Kim Un-yang explained in an interview with Hollywood Reporter, that “the essence of the show is its commentary on injustice. social – class divisions and financial inequalities, or even gender issues. These issues of social injustice are not just Korean – the whole world is grappling with them. These elements also made the show resonate strongly in outside Korea. ”

But that doesn’t explain why the movie “Parasite” – which had similar themes of social and financial inequality – only grossed around $ 254 million worldwide, and although the film and show markets TV shows vary, Squid Game Season 1 is expected to “create nearly $ 900 million in value” for Netflix.

Reasons for the show’s impact could also point to Netflix’s strategic business model approach, which ensures it accommodates global audiences. Part of this model includes providing voiceovers in addition to subtitles in multiple languages. Although dubbing has been the subject of much debate on social media about the authenticity of language translation, it remains beneficial because it eliminates language barriers. If many non-Koreans were forced to read the subtitles on their screens as the only way to understand a story, it could be argued that the popularity of the series would have been drastically reduced. After all, listening to a program in dubbing in the language you know best is simply more convenient.

Dubs are particularly critical in the marketing goals of major streaming services to make international content viable for US consumers. In a survey conducted by Netflix, cited in a 2018 article, “a high percentage of American viewers do not want to watch content in languages ​​other than English”, compared to all other regions of the world where “l he appetite for programming outside of Hollywood in languages ​​other than English is high. Netflix’s survey concluded that if American viewers saw high-quality content in a foreign language, they were more likely to watch it – and they were “much more likely to end a show if it had been dubbed, rather than subtitled “.

Reflecting on the company’s goals of reaching a global audience through this specific marketing strategy designed in 2018, Netflix Chief Product Officer Greg Peters said, “When we do [storytelling] well, all that complexity fades into the background. He continued, “All you have left is one amazing story well told and beautifully presented… and there are so many untold stories the world is just waiting to see.”

Peters dreams seem to have come true with the release and response of “Squid Game” to the world, which sums up a beautiful storytelling. The gripping yet violent dystopian thriller, with its obscure Candyland-themed visuals, in addition to its resounding social message, blends wonderfully with Netflix’s platform and strategic business model and has created a perfect recipe for international success. .

James C. Tibbs