Squid Game: Children’s Games and Conversations on the (Play)Ground

Virginia Siegel (Arkansas Folk and Traditional Arts, University of Arkansas Libraries)

In 2021, Netflix’ South Korean drama, Squid Game, took the United States by storm. My survey of American news coverage reveals that the “top-down” reading has focused on the show’s dystopian world, including speculations that the show’s appeal is centered in its critique of late-stage capitalism. A look at conversations “on the ground,” however, reveal viewers’ preoccupation with the traditional children’s games that feature prominently in each episode. Using both folklore and cultural studies theory, I argue that the transnationally recognizable games are the primary driver of interest, as well as the show’s most effective tool in crafting the dystopian.

Part of 06-03 Children's Folklore [hybrid], Friday, October 14, 2:30 pm–4:30 pm