Categoria: English
Creato Sabato, 25 Dicembre 2021

Squid Game, di Luciano Nicolini

The series

For some reason that I cannot fathom, films are no longer in fashion. Series are now the latest craze. The truth is that they have been around for a long time in the world of television: older Italian viewers will remember Italian classics such as “I giacobini” (1962), “I grandi camaleonti” (1964) or “Odissea” (1968). Younger viewers will remember more recent, never-ending, Italian series such as “Un posto al sole” (from 1996 to the present day). Meanwhile, at the cinema, sequels became commonplace whenever a film was a hit with producers rushing to release the next instalment as soon as possible.

The older series came about due to the difficulty related to condensing all the events narrated into a short time span. The more recent series, however, were probably inspired by the old saying "never change a winning team".

Whatever the reason, today they are more popular than ever. Indeed, currently there is much talk of the South Korean series Squid Game which is having huge success around the world.

It tells the tale of a few hundred people, all in desperate financial straits, who take part in a competition consisting in a series of childhood games. The last of these is the squid game, which is pretty violent and is akin to the game known as hopscotch (known in Italian as "campana" or "gioco della luna").

The winner will receive an enormous cash prize while the losers will be eliminated in a literal sense (they will all die). The most interesting aspect is that the players take part voluntarily and can put an end to this massacre play at any time through a democratic vote (but they choose not to).

I won't say any more so as to not ruin it completely for those readers who are curious and still haven't seen the series. But what has been said so far is sufficient to understand that the story is a metaphor of capitalist society: a society based on a battle in which everyone is pitted against each other, a battle from which very few emerge as winners and almost all will lose. It is a battle that could be ended at any time if the majority of the population so wished, but nobody does so, partly because they hope to be a winner (with all the related privileges) and partly because they have by now internalized the rules of the game.

But how is it possible that so many are so eager to watch a series of this kind? It could be likened to a prisoner in an extermination camp watching a documentary on the physical elimination of the prisoners and applauding at the end of the screening! 

Some – it may be said – will have appreciated the metaphor and I count myself among this group. However, I did not applaud (also because I watched Squid Game at home in my house) and, in any case, I would not recommend that anyone watch the series (except perhaps to get an idea of what all the fuss is about).

The reactions

In this regard, as in many debates on original works, there are those who accuse Squid Game of having a negative educational impact on "adolescents". Indeed Laura Valdesi ("La Nazione" 28 October) informs us that the "police have distributed guidelines for parents in order to avoid unpleasant episodes (...). At the heart of the series, there is in fact a deadly game based on a game for young children known as ‘red light green light’” (known as ‘1, 2, 3 stella’ in Italian). “What is happening, therefore, is that children, imitating the actors, start kicking and punching the other players (...).”

“The Squid Game series is classified as unsuitable for under 14-year-olds. This restriction suggests that its content could disturb minors to varying degrees for short or long periods" the police explain.

The use of new technologies must also be monitored by parents. And if anyone notices "that children are playing violent games that imitate those portrayed in Squid Game, they should not hesitate to report it to the police". 

Frankly, the series is full of violent scenes, but they are designed so as to not be any more disturbing than a Western. As far as children's games are concerned, it is well-known that they are often violent but rarely do children go so far as to kill the losers and, if they do, it is usually not because they have seen it done in a movie: if this were the case, how many playmates would have killed those who, like me, were raised on Westerns and American movies based on the second world war? 

One wonders whether the real reason why the series is deemed by some as having a negative educational impact on "adolescents" is that Christians are not depicted in a positive light (they are described as a fanatical sect).

Citizens' basic income

Meanwhile, in Italy, the government is proposing to impose more stringent conditions in order to obtain the so-called "citizens' basic income" (which, as I have said many times, is in reality an unemployment benefit). In the not-too-distant future, it will be easier to lose it. Unlike what happens in the South Korean series, those who lose will not be physically eliminated, but will simply have to get in line at the nearest soup kitchen (or steal).

As in the South Korean series, those in receipt of the basic income could, through their vote, punish the parties that seek to abolish it and put an end to this massacre play. I say this not because I believe that voting can change the world, but because, basically, a form of basic income exists in many countries and is entirely compatible with capitalism. However, as in the South Korean series, those who are in receipt of the benefit today continue to vote for those who plan to abolish it. This may be because they hope to win the lottery (and enjoy the privileges related to the wealth thus obtained), or possibly because they have by now internalised the rules of the game. This is further proof that emancipation from the lower classes is above all else a question of cultural emancipation.


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