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Blog/Squid game – visually striking, meme-able and instantly iconic

12th October 2021

Squid game is the latest Netflix creation to grip the globe. The South Korean made series is the most watched show in over 90 countries across the world, and almost instantly escaped from the bounds of television and into popular culture, such is its appeal.

In the show, there exists a secretive underworld of blood sports, conducted for the pleasure of a handful of rich backers, in which 400 or so regular people – all of whom find themselves in one financial predicament or another – compete to the death for an ever growing prize pot that promises to free them from their fiscal torment.

The contestants – unknowingly to them – are hand-picked to compete because their extreme hardship ensures that they will be willing to go beyond what their ethics would ordinarily allow them to in order to win – including accepting that if they lose they will die, and that for them to succeed, everyone else will have to perish.

Once they agree to participate (without knowing the full extent of what’s involved) they’re gassed and whisked off to an island where they wake to find themselves in some sort of nightmarish brightly coloured prison/theme-park hybrid, where they’re soon ushered – by an anonymous red boiler suited/masked army – to begin the traditional South Korean kids games that they must win to survive (‘Squid game’ being one such pastime).

And you can kind of guess how it goes.

But what makes Squid game quite so memorable (other than the superb – albeit not entirely original – concept and brilliant writing), is its incredible use of visual devices.

Once the story leaves Seoul, South Korea (itself an amazing setting for a dystopian TV series), and the characters arrive at the island, the sets become vivid, and strikingly simplistic. They’re childlike and seemingly fun, but with a clearly sinister vibe.

The outfits worn by the games masters, the contestants and the boiler-suited guards are all instantly iconic and have a personality of their own.; most notably the guards, whose identities are hidden by a sort of black fencing mask with a simple white geometric symbol over the face, signifying the wearer’s rank. Even the handful of VIPs who are funding the whole thing are given animal masks – the species and gold and jewel studded nature of which are deeply symbolic.

Each of the games features more cleverly designed props – each of which feed into the childhood/death oxymoron. All of which I’m sure you’ll be able to purchase in one form or another before long. Everything from Giant dolls that repeat the same sinister mantra over and over to integral-to-the-plot sugary biscuits.

It’s visually different to anything I’ve ever seen before and instantly recognisable. And as importantly in 2021 – most of it is meme-able.

If there was an award for the most memed things of all time, Squid Game could already be in with a shout of the top prize if my social media timelines are anything to go by. And with the very concept of a meme being that its shared thousands and millions of times then Squid Game has managed to breed itself a very healthy guerilla marketing campaign.

Even if you haven’t seen Squid Game, you’ve kind of seen Squid Game.

Whether or not it was the intention of the creators to give people something they’ll want to share so readily, and so distinctive that it cannot be confused with anything else I’m not sure – either way Squid Game is going to be in our cultural consciousness for a long time to come.

Squid Game
Coming to a doorstep near you this Halloween
Maddison Creative 2020