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On ‘Squid Game,’ innovation and media
Reaction videos and parodies are the new Sunday newspaper column review section.
It’s perfectly ironic that the take home message of Netflix’s mega hit “Squid Game” is that capitalism is corrupting. The expanding market for media production is the only reason this series was able to be produced.
“Squid Game“ creator and director Hwang Dong-hyuk told the Korea Times that although he wrote the hit Netflix series 12 years ago, due to typical production limitations and challenges, it took more than a decade for any company to invest in the anti-capitalist psychological thriller’s production, which ended up totaling $21.4 million. In contrast, YouTuber Mr. Beast’s 25-minute video parodying the ”Squid Game“ concept has more views than the original series and cost only $3.5 million to make.
Mr. Beast had real people compete for $456,000. The test was to see who could camp in a warehouse turf field for as long as possible. Unlike the “Squid Game“ series, people weren't killed upon leaving the camp circle, they were given cash and a flight home. Some have criticized Mr. Beast and YouTubers as a community for not being real artists. A Vice article criticized the “so-called ‘creators,’” by pointing out that “Mr. Beast’s Squid Game highlights a fundamental problem of YouTube. There is no shortage of people who make original art and put it online, but the internet is dominated instead by people who can take advantage of existing properties and fan bases … Despite being original content from a popular content creator, it’s nothing more than a sad retread of someone else’s work.”
So is Mr. Beast’s “Squid Game“ actually “misunderstand[ing] the anti-capitalist message of Squid Game,” as one Vice writer suggests? The barrier to the original show’s production were the entertainment gatekeepers, denying the creator resources to produce this massive, global hit. The plot of "Squid Game“ critiques how removed from life holding massive wealth can make people and how unchecked power can corrupt to the point that forcing poor people to fight and die for money is entertainment.
It’s understandably frustrating as a creator, even knowing that YouTube is a free platform with billions of viewers versus Netflix’s subscription-based audience, to have someone profit off of your idea and reach more viewers. There’s no evidence to imply that Dong-hyuk is upset with Mr. Beast's “Squid Game“ video. If anything, it probably made more people want to watch the original show.
This isn’t a new phenomenon. To be an artist or entertainer is to want people to react to your work. Chef’s crave reviews from critics, movie stars want Oscar’s and writers wait for book reviews. Reaction videos and parodies are the new Sunday newspaper column review section.
Innovation and competition have produced platforms like YouTube, Twitch, Vine, Tik Tok and Tumblr where a once unknown creator like Mr. Beast making videos in his bedroom can run a multimillion dollar production company and receive billions of channel views every month. This democratization of media platforms has successfully decentralized celebrity production and by nature, the ability to access wealth that comes from having good, creative ideas and a platform to monetize.
Mr. Beast did have people play a waiting game for a huge cash payout for the purpose of entertainment, showing how amusing and positive that can be. In that sense, it is directly contrary to the original “Squid Game“ plot. We truly live in the golden age of entertainment. Original media giants like Warner Bros., Columbia and ABC are still producing movies and television alongside thousands of online short-form creators and vloggers. The real crony-capitalist critique that audiences and the entertainment industry should take away from this situation is that true talent and motivation no longer be silenced or permanently turned away.
Patricia Patnode is a Gazette editorial fellow. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org
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