One hundred and eleven million Netflix subscribers have launched Squid Game since it began streaming on September 17. A historic record, claims the platform. Released last night, this triumphant (but unverifiable) figure does not indicate whether viewers watched all or part of the South Korean series at the heart of all conversations, even multiple concerns. One thing is obvious, however: in a few days, this ultraviolent soap opera, at the crossroads of Battle Royale and Hunger Games, has become fashionable. Take the test: type “Squid Game” in Google. Vertigo: 342 million links already offered by the search engine (probably a few million more when you finish reading this article). Hundreds of articles decipher this shocking fiction from every angle: the controversy over its ultraviolence and its disturbing influence in certain schoolyards; its socio-political decryption in all sauces; the explosion in sales of white Vans worn by participants in the massacre game that gave the soap opera its title; the impact of Squid Game on upcoming Halloween festivities; the recipe for the sugar cake to cut seen during the second test in the third episode; which character of Squid Game refers you to your star sign; charity auctions linked to the series in the presence of the actors… A deluge, a tsunami, an avalanche: Squid Game and its nine episodes are turning the heads of the planet.
The series is at the top of the “top 10” of Netflix’s most viewed programs in dozens of countries, from France to the United States, including Great Britain, Germany, Turkey, Singapore, South Africa, Mexico, Japan … or of course its home territory, South Korea. Headliners Lee Jung-jae (aka main hero Seong Gi-hun, player 456), Park Hae-soo and actress Jung Ho-yeon are seeing their popularity explode on social media. In one month, the latter saw her number of Instagram followers increase from 400,000 to 14 million! Even Jeff Bezos, Netflix’s eternal rival with Amazon and its Prime Video SVOD service, praised this dizzying bingo, as did actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (aka Jamie Lannister in Game of Thrones, another phenomenon series), during his speech of president of the jury at the last CanneSéries festival.
All addiction boxes checked
And to think that we thought Netflix had run out of big hits since the start of the year! Failed: with this fiction entirely written and directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk, defector of cinema and new star at 50 years old via this first jackpot test, the SVOD giant has just put a hell of a coin in the machine. The tentacles of Squid Game-mania have not finished gripping us, especially as an inevitable sequel – the finale ends on a big cliffhanger – will sooner or another blow on the embers. But how the hell do they do it? After the Spanish La casa de papel or the German-American Unorthodox, without forgetting our (pitiful but praised in America) national Lupine, how a content as typically local as Squid Game, series soaked in Korean folklore and references to the socio -economic of the country, could it take off so quickly, so high?
The first stage of the rocket is of course the concept itself. Clever, ultra-efficient, playful (costumes, masks with primary forms, childish codes, etc.), full of spectacular decorations resembling a contemporary art exhibition (the series obviously benefited from a very high budget. comfortable), well interpreted, skilfully dosing the nods to pop culture (we even mention the Matrix): Squid Game accumulates the good points and ticks all the boxes of addiction. With its over-indebted losers, who agree to participate in six deadly trials inspired by childish games in exchange for a huge jackpot, the series resonates universally with our psyches anxious by uncertain tomorrows. But also with the zeitgeist woke revolted by social injustices. Paradoxically, she also surfs the cynical values of flagship reality TV shows like Survivor / Koh-Lanta and their message: walk or die; kill or be killed; your allies of the day can be your enemies of the next day. Of course, its creator denounces the horror of a system … but while feeding on its cruelty. Instinctively, the current went with the audience. Did Netflix strategically orchestrate the phenomenon? Yes and no.