Parasites, Squids, What’s Next?


Art by Hyewon Kim

This weekend, Netflix’s “Squid Game” hit $900 million, making it the biggest foreign language series of all time on the streaming service. Within the first month of airing, 65 million households were binging the suspense filled show [1]. The series has turned into major internet trends on Tik Tok, and even Halloween costumes. 

Not so long ago, the film world went crazy over the blockbuster Parasite, a movie centered around a crazy broke family (not to be confused with Crazy Rich Asians) struggling to survive in a money hungry society. 

In a similar manner, Squid Games showed the desperation of those in struggling, and how far each individual was willing to go for their own benefit. The show depicted realistic people with real, current world struggles, and they each had their own strong motivators for winning the 38 million dollars. 

For example, Saebeok is a North Korean defector who wants to give her family a peaceful life in South Korea. Ali is a Pakistani factory worker earning minimum wage under a terrible boss, just trying to make ends meet for his wife and child. Sangwoo is a once successful businessman, running away from the police and piles of debt. Finally, Gihun is a reckless gambler, trying to save his mother from diabetes and his daughter from being taken away by his own divorced wife. 

Their backgrounds drove them to keep fighting, even as the other contestants dropped dead like flies around them. The relatable and pitiful images of these characters gains the viewer’s attachment and investment.

The success of Squid Games stems from multiple factors. It’s suspenseful, violent, and willing to kill the “good people”: the perfect recipe for a hooked audience. The plot is relatively easy to follow, with a simple story but complex commentary. 

The show also features three-dimensional, realistic characters that grapple with humanity and the lure of money. There was no one true protagonist, and every person had a unique emotional appeal. The diverse group of “heroes”, from a factory worker to a Seoul University graduate, also capture the viewers: someone they see in themselves. 

On top of this, Squid Game addresses class conflict, a relatively rare occurrence in most movies and shows, and it did so in a successful manner. Especially with the pandemic, audiences have been drawn to ideas and themes of inequality. 

It’s no wonder why Squid Game found such success. These past few years have seen the steady increase of mainstream Asian representation in the entertainment industry, from the explosive growth of BTS to the record-breaking Oscar win by Chloe Zhao. A Hollywood that once pushed Asians aside is shifting, and Squid Game is only the latest in this sequence of events.

Less than 2 years ago, Parasite won 4 big name Academy Awards and was the first Korean movie ever to win the Oscar for Best International Film. On top of that, it was the year’s highest grossing international foreign language film [2].

Of course you can’t forget about BTS when it comes to Korean entertainment. The sensational boy band has racked up unbelievable and record breaking stats. Their song, Dynamite, single handedly flourished in many aspects: most weeks at number 1 on the Billboard Social 50 chart, the most Youtube views in 24 hours, and around 7.779 million streams in a day, making it the biggest spotify debut of the year [3]. 

And Squid Game has racked up its own considerable stats as well. So far, 132 million households have begun or finished watching, with more to come. The show only cost 21.4 million dollars but has an estimated 891.1 million dollar impact value. It’s clear that it really drew in viewers, around 90% watched more than 1 episode, and around 66% of the 132 million viewers watched the complete series. 

The stats are evident in our communities and online as well. For Halloween, thousands of kids and adults alike wore the iconic red and green tracksuits the show features, Squid Game videogames were quickly created, and the tense honeycomb scene was made into a sensational dalgona trend all over social media. 

Ted Sarandos, a Netflix executive, tells a business conference that Squid Games could be the corporation’s biggest hit ever. With timeless characters, action, and messages, this is a show that won’t fade away. 

This rising trend will only continue in the future, with many independent Korean filmmakers hoping for their own global break as well. Once these first walls were broken by Parasite, Squid Game, and more, foreign entertainment will be an unstoppable force. 


[1] netflix-squid-game-on-pace-to-be-biggest-hit-show-2021-9 

[2] ‘Parasite’ Wins International Film Oscar; First Korean Movie to … › film › news › parasite-wins-oscar-bes…