Squid Game: Does Netflix’s translation ruin the show


Photo used under SPCL guidelines.

Zoё Kershner, Staff Writer

    Have you heard of Netflix’s new show, Squid Game? If not, you may have heard fellow classmates talking about it. It seems to have caused quite the commotion among students.  When asked about why she loved the show, freshman Maija Eisenberg said, “It’s very thoughtful and mind-bending while also being full of excitement and suspense.” Why is it so popular? Is it worth the hype? These were the questions I had in mind when I set out to watch the show for myself. 

     The first episode of Squid Game was released on September 17th, 2021, and has just hit 111 million views, surpassing Bridgerton, and becoming Netflix’s biggest series launch. Within the first couple of days of it being released, many people took to social media platforms such as Twitter and TikTok to discuss the interesting plot of the show, such as the sudden turn of events, and the fast paced action.

     In Episode One, there is already a lot to unfold. Netflix’s description of the episode Red Light, Green Light, leaves a lot to interpretation. 

     “Hoping to win easy money, a desperate Gi-hun agrees to take part in an enigmatic game; not long into the first round, unforeseen horrors unfold.”

 Squid Game highlights economic struggles and the division of classes in South Korea by portraying the life of people in debt, competing for money. We start off by getting a look into the life of Seong Gi-hun (played by Lee Jung-jae), a man living with his mother in South Korea. We follow him as he goes throughout his day, gambling on horse races in the hopes that he can get more money for his daughter’s birthday. 

   Later in the episode, Gi-hun finds an opportunity to win money by playing games. With little contemplation, he accepts his offer and is on his way to the site of the challenge. The first game is red light, green light, but there’s a catch. You either make it to the other side without moving when the “light” is green, or you die. There is no escape. Throughout the first season, you watch as more people die at the expense of losing the simple games, and watch as characters move on. 

  Although the show provides an entertaining adventure as you watch the characters compete for financial freedom, the subtitles translated into English leave out some important messages in the show. Because of the limited space for subtitles on the screen, a direct translation from Korean to English usually isn’t possible. Many Korean and English-speaking people have noticed the very big differences in the dialogue and subtitles. Youngmi Mayer, co-host of the feelingasianpodcast, made a Tiktok, and tweeted about her frustrations towards the subtitles in the show. In her tweet, she stated, “if you don’t understand Korean you didn’t really watch the same show.” 

      Why does it even matter? Well, in her TikTok, with over 13 million views, Mayer explains, “That [subtitle] is such a difference in ideology that the writer is trying to get across to you.” Squid Game was created to promote anti-capitalist views and critique the debt crisis in South Korea. The subtitles only take away from the point that the writers are trying to make, and instead, portray a show that doesn’t come with an important message and leaves out the cultural context. Some viewers are even creating conspiracies

      I found the show to be interesting, but is it really the same show that the writers intended for us to watch?