On the outset, let me state that I think Squid Game is the best series I have watched since Breaking Bad. So, that's saying something, I guess. Why has it shot up to becoming the most watched series globally?
What is more significant is that culturally, for entertainment, cinematic industry in particular, it was always a Western thing. For the first time, its Asian fare. It tells us that the world is quite flat now. Politically correct casting and minorities representation are more than catchphrases now - they are being "mainstreamed".
Cultural FAD? - A fad, trend, or craze is any form of collective behavior that develops within a culture, a generation or social group in which a group of people enthusiastically follow an impulse for a short period. ... Fads are often seen as sudden, quick-spreading, and short-lived.
I dislike some people who pooh-pooh things like Squid Game as cultural fads. You can choose not to participate in them, no need to sit on your high horse and diminish others' delight. It is like a non drinker opining what a waste of money to drink expensive wines - its unnecessary, irrelevant and reveals more about your insecurities that you need to put people down in order to bring yourself up.
There are cultural fads that I did not latch on to but I keep largely quiet about it. I have only ever watched the first Star Wars movie (and didn't like it). I have not watched a single Star Trek movie franchise. I have not read or watched Harry Potter with his Excruciating Opaque Glasses. I have not watched The Game of Thrones. But it is ok not to participate in all things and everything.
Squid Game is 10x better than Hunger Games, and Hunger Games copied too liberally from Battle Royale. All movie concepts are borrowing something that has been done, so don't get too worked up over it.
Cultural fads or not, these things are stuff to get a bit excited about cause "its life". Let's collectively enjoy them... World Cup, Olympics, moon landings, etc... do you also pooh-pooh the World Cup as a cultural fad?
Why SQUID GAME Is So Good:
a) The premise is interesting, rich person creating games for betting and testing a person's limits, morally and tasting mortality. It is very relevant for the current pandemic times - when a lot of people are in debt, facing bankruptcy, prolonged unemployment, investments being wiped out ... the desperate lives which most of us can fathom and empathise. The twist when they voted to get out, only to realise the real world is a lot worse than the "games".
b) Stories such as Battle Royale, Hunger Games ...etc. should not have been movies. Squid Game took the right path in making it a series as characters needed to be fleshed out. Soon every of the top 6 characters has a strong affinity with us - we feel for their anxieties, fears, apprehensions, betrayals, futility, and dances with the devil.
c) Casting & Details - what brilliant casting. Every one of the top 6 roles were brilliantly casted. Even in your desperate lives, every one's story is different, and heart breakingly so. Note the use of classical music for most of its background - deliberate, classy and funny at times.
d) The games are those we played when we were young. The innocence of it all. The mind boggling part is when those games came with death when you lose. The innocence collided with harsh reality and unnerving mortality of it all.
e) The framing of those games was a killer. You could be playing solo, or be in teams, or in partnership of 2... because you don't know the games ahead of time, your best pal teammate could very well be a one on one winner takes all game. Nobody's a true friend when chips are down. Makes us question our relationships in real life - are we friends/family because we have not been "tested"?
The gory part of it all is to ask if we are celebrating the "gore". I don't think so. But the serpent's throne of capitalism, the evil that can permeate when capitalism islet unchecked and unabated - that's all over Squid Game, when too much goes to too few, bad things can happen.
The spectacle of the games, the selfish voyuerism of those millionaires with masks on, betting and delighting with the on-goings. Are we, the audience, no better than these VIPs with their masks on?