It just goes to show you should never give up. After all, even Netflix‘s biggest new show Squid Game wasn’t given an immediate green light! (Too soon?)
If you paid any attention to social media over the weekend, you likely noticed thousands of TV fans discussing the international megahit, a Korean horror-drama titled Squid Game that follows strapped-for-cash contestants from all walks of life as they compete in deadly children’s games in hopes of winning a cash prize. It’s been trending in the streamer’s top 10 list since its release just two weeks ago — and for good reason! Squid Game has some of the craziest, most jaw-dropping plot twists ever! Seriously, there hasn’t been a show that has captivated audiences on this scale since maybe Game of Thrones.
But this instant hit wasn’t always expected to be the success it is today. In fact, it took the creator, Hwang Dong-hyuk, 10 years to get this story about human ambition and differing social class experiences to screens. Now, he’s opening up about how Squid Game came to be… and hinting at the elements of his life that inspired the story!
Yup, you read that right. This was somewhat inspired by a true story! WHAT??
Okay, okay, we’re not saying the creator ever actually played to the death for some money, but he was inspired to write Squid Game after experiencing financial troubles himself, some of which occurred as he was writing the first draft. According to The Numbers Game on Twitter, Hwang once had to stop writing the script to sell his $675 laptop when strugglingly with money probs. Whoa!
He also based one of the show’s most infamous figures off of a character often depicted in elementary school textbooks — yup, the scary robot (left inset)! Other inspiration was drawn from manga and Korean children’s games of the ’70s and ’80s, as he explained to Variety:
“When I started, I was also in financial trouble and spent a lot of time in manhwabang (manga cafe in Korea) reading comics like Battle Royale and Liar Game. I came to wonder how I would feel if I participated in games like this. But I found the dynamics too complex, and for my own work I focused on using children’s games.”
The writer eventually turned his original movie script into the series we know today, but, unfortunately, nobody initially wanted to help produce the show when he was finished with the script in 2009. He told NME Portal the show was actually rejected several times before finally landing at Netflix.
In multiple interviews, Dong-hyuk admitted producers, investors, and even potential stars viewed the project as too violent and complex. More importantly, they didn’t think it had any commercial appeal! Um, they got that one wrong. Squid Game is set to be the platform’s most viewed show in history! But given that he was likely talking to just Korean-based creators, it’s not too surprising that the violent nature of the series would dissuade investors and the like. Korean TV mostly centers around family-oriented content… Not exactly what Hwang wrote!
As the debt rose in the country over the last ten years, more and more people began to have encounters with moneylenders and loan sharks — inspiring the writer to give his script one last push in the industry. Thankfully, the streamer was there to support the project, as he told Chosun:
“It’s a sad story. But the reason I came back to the project is because today’s world has become a place where these incredible survival stories are so common.”
After that long fight to get the story made, the production was briefly shut down during the pandemic, as well. So it’s been no small feat to make what we all just binge-watched this past week. Unfortunately, upon its premiere — despite receiving high praise — the show has also been cast in controversy.
Many have accused the creator of plagiarism, citing similarities to The Hunger Games, Battle Royale, and, especially, a 2014 Japanese film, As the Gods Will. To defend himself, Hwang told Variety many of those similarities are merely a coincidence since he first wrote his story in 2009. And in the case of Battle Royale, he proudly shouts that out as one of many influences:
“I freely admit that I’ve had great inspiration from Japanese comics and animation over the years.”
Of course, the idea of a brutal, dystopian winner-take-all competition is nothing new. Stephen King tackled it twice in both 1979’s The Long Walk and 1982’s The Running Man, the latter of which was given a more satirical game show tone in the 1987 movie adaptation. We’d guess the reason for the subgenre’s continued popularity is its commentary on the increasing way in which those in poverty are worked to death in so many areas of the world and have been for centuries.
But the problems and accusations have continued. The show has also faced backlash for enforcing stereotypes of the “seductive and cheating woman,” the “useless old man,” and immigrants. While the 50-year-old has yet to truly acknowledged those claims, he did insist his story was written as an “allegory or fable about modern capitalist society.”
The Fortress director also admitted this project was his hardest to write yet, telling the outlet:
“Writing (Squid Game) was more difficult than normal for me, as it was a series, not a movie. It took me six months to write and rewrite the first two episodes. Then I verbally consulted with friends and got tips to improve.”
We’re sorry to say it doesn’t sound like a Season 2 is guaranteed. The writer is currently penning a draft of a movie temporarily titled KO Club (AKA Killing Old Men Club). But he did muse on the possibility of another season, saying:
“I don’t have well-developed plans for Squid Game 2. It is quite tiring just thinking about it. But if I were to do it, I would certainly not do it alone. I’d consider using a writers’ room and would want multiple experienced directors.”
Hmm… We think Netflix will be begging for more content considering they believe they “scored a goal” with the number 1 series in 90 countries. Chief content officer Ted Sarandos revealed at the Code Conference in El Lay:
“Squid Game will definitely be our largest non-English language show in the world, hands down.”
He even said there was a “very good possibility” it will be their “biggest show” period! Wow! We bet Hwang is so glad he never gave up on his idea!!
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