Netflix thinks it knows us. It thinks it knows what shows and what movies we will enjoy. Whether it’s a 98% match or a trending new original, Netflix thinks you will watch it and get you hooked. This blog will put Netflix to the test to see if these shows and movies are really worth your time.
This week, while I was aimlessly scrolling through Netflix, I found myself at the trending category and saw plenty of shows that I have already seen before. “Sex Education” is back at number one on Netflix because a new season has arrived to our TV screens again. It’s a show that follows an awkward English teen through his horny high school years, and feels kind of like a Netflix cliché. However, I have seen the first two seasons and it is a funny show and is a great Netflix original.
But I don’t want to do a show that many people have seen in the past just because its back to number one.
This week it’s “Squid Game.”
Weird title, I know. But here me out.
Action. Horror. Chaos.
All this after you get over the fact it is dubbed over in English. So, if you can’t get past that, it might not be for you. But if you can, you will be saying “what the f*** is going on.”
The desperation to make money from the main character, Seong Gi-Hun, is almost hysterical and will make you laugh at the lengths he is willing to go to. But ultimately this will be his demise.
His will to make money to be able to support his daughter gets him into a tricky situation where he owes money to a gang and finds himself approached by a man that offers him a spot in a game to win money.
This game is not what he was expecting.
456 players all are in extreme debt and Seong was the last one to enter. The game is run by a person in a black mask named the Frontman. The contestants are tasked with six games they have to make it through to win the cash prize at the end
But soon enough people start dropping like flies in the first game. I’ll let you find out yourself what the first game is. But most people played it as a kid and this version has quite a lethal twist.
This is like “The Hunger Games” meets “Saw.”
By now, I think just about everyone has seen “Squid Game,” or at least heard of it.
If you haven’t heard of it, well…
When I saw that a Korean show was number one on Netflix, I was actually in shock. I don’t remember ever seeing a Korean show in the top 10 let alone in first place.
Currently, “Squid Game” has been number one in the United States for 21 days, has taken the top spot in 94 countries, and, according to Netflix, has been seen by 111 million viewers.
As you can imagine, I’m excited to see this happening.
However, I quickly realized that a lot of those viewers were watching the English dubbed version.
I totally get that some people struggle to focus when they have to read subtitles, but there is so much lost in watching dubbed versions of anything.
To be fair, I tried to set my bias aside and re-watch a few episodes dubbed before I sat down to write this.
And it was surely an experience.
I genuinely couldn’t help but laugh at some points.
I didn’t even think the voice actors matched the original actors/characters very well, which, in my opinion, seems bare minimum.
Half of acting is what you do with your voice (I think. I’m not an actor, I’ve just seen a lot of movies), and none of that could be detected in the dubbed version. The voice actors sounded corny and put-on, and it felt like I was watching a silly comedy instead of an intense commentary on capitalism.
All of that was gone to me.
And on top of that, I realized that even the subtitles failed to convey some of the messages in the dialogue.
I can’t speak Korean (yet) so I only caught a couple of them on my own, but here are some examples that I’ve seen.
One example of this is when Ali addresses the other men in the game. In Korea, there is a system for how you address and speak to those who are older than you or in higher positions than you. Ali refers to Sangwoo and Gihun specifically as sa-jang-nim, which roughly translates to “boss.” The subtitles translate it to “sir.”
This may not seem like a big difference to English-speakers, but it is there to show viewers that Ali is slightly uncomfortable with the Korean language. Those who are learning Korean are often taught the most polite form of speech so as to avoid being rude accidentally, but it comes off stilted and shows the disadvantage Ali is at in the game.
Sangwoo eventually tells Ali to call him hyung a term used by boys and men to address men who are older than them. This technically means “older brother”and is used only between people who have a close relationship. This makes Sang-woo’s ultimate betrayal hurt even more.
One of the most significant examples of a mistranslation is during the memorable marble episode. When Ilnam and Gihun are playing, Ilnam refers to Gihun as gganbu, which roughly translates to neighborhood friend and was a term used mostly by older generations as children. He then says that “we share everything.”
His actual line stated, “there is no ownership between us,” which is particularly
important considering the twist at the end.
Another significant mistranslation is one of Minyeo’s lines in which she says something like “I’m not a genius, but I can figure it out.” What she actually said is more like “I’m very smart, but I never got a chance to study.”
I think this perfectly exemplifies what the show is about – capitalism creates different opportunities for people in different situations, leaving some at more of a disadvantage and having to stoop to varying levels to succeed.
I’ve also seen comments from native Korean speakers saying that a lot of her dialogue is botched and doesn’t properly portray the tone her character uses when she speaks. The way she chooses to say things is important to her character.
Things like this are important to the core of the show.
You wouldn’t have caught these things watching the subbed version, but it just goes to show how much is missed. And, in my opinion, even more is missed when it’s dubbed.
Director Hwang Dong-hyuk said himself that writing and re-writing the first two episodes alone took him six months.
It’s disappointing to me that so many people have said the show started dubbed without them changing the audio, and, sadly, I think that dub is part of the reason why it’s gotten so many more views than other Korean media.
As Bong Joon-ho (director of “Parasite”) famously said, “Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”
So, if you’re looking to overcome that barrier, here are some other Korean thriller/horror TV shows to check out on Netflix.
I’ve already mentioned “Sweet Home” before, but it really is good and has some of the same gore that plays a large part in “Squid Game.”
“Kingdom” is one of the best. It falls more under horror than thriller, but if that’s your thing, then you should definitely check it out.
“Kingdom” is a period piece with a twist. The writer of the show was inspired by a period of time during the dynastic Joseon era where many deaths were recorded due to an unspecified illness. She re-wrote that illness to be a zombie plague.
The next one I’d recommend is “Save Me.” It’s about a girl whose family becomes deeply involved with a cult that disguises itself as a church and her four former classmates who attempt to save her and expose the cult for what it is.
The last one for today is “Extracurricular.” It’s been a while since I’ve seen this, but I think it’s one of my favorite shows of all time.
It’s about a model high school student who secretly runs a prostitution ring (in which one of his classmates is involved) to make money for college. It’s dark, but it will keep you on the edge of your seat.
“Extracurricular” is similar to “Squid Game” in that even seemingly “good” characters sometimes have questionable morals. Some more than others.
But it’s different in that there’s no dub available. For any of these shows, actually.
Oh and if you’re wondering if I cried while watching “Squid Game?” Yes, I did. A couple of times.