The 2021 Netflix drama, which follows debt-shackled contestants as they compete in deadly versions of children’s games, has been the year’s biggest pop culture phenomenon, becoming the subject of PC game mods, Halloween costumes, and an SNL music video that barely counts as a parody, because it mostly just describes the show. (“Pink guards locked us in a big room,” “there’s a robot girl who caught me running,” and so on.)The point is that just ‘doing Squid Game’ is enough of a premise to get a greenlight in 2021, and I appreciate that MrBeast’s production, which he says cost $3.5 million including the cash prizes, doesn’t pretend to be a parody. The 25-minute video (embedded above) does Squid Game about as accurately as you can without actually committing murder, promising $456,000 to the winner in a series of instant-elimination kid’s games.
No one gets shot, but the 456 players are fitted with remotely activated devices that simulate a shot to the gut. They play Red Light, Green Light, the honeycomb candy game, the marble game (with pre-picked teams to force the show’s twist), and even tug-of-war and the glass bridge with the help of a clever set and a foam-filled pit. Other elements of the show, including the giant ball of cash, also show up. Ironically, one of the only things they don’t do is play the “squid game” itself, but to be fair, it’s essentially a combat sport, and that would require more complicated waivers.
MrBeast’s Squid Game recreation is more or less a typical TV game show, but it is funny to see such a lovingly accurate recreation of a fictional gauntlet in which rich people brutally exploit the vulnerable for entertainment. Few would’ve been better for the job of making ‘real life Squid Game’ than MrBeast, who was organizing stunt games for cash well before the show existed. Previous videos include Last To Leave $800,000 Island Keeps It and $60,000 Extreme Hide And Seek. He also does videos that just involve spending money, such as Eating A $10,000 Golden Steak (24k Gold), and makes charitable donations, which it’s good to be seen doing if you’ve eaten a golden steak on camera.
Some have criticized MrBeast for missing the point of the show by spending so much on the video (see the replies here), which is reasonable, though I find it hard to declare that $3.5 million spent on a YouTube video and cash prizes is bad, but $21.4 million spent on a Netflix show is good. And for that matter, what makes the millions spent on Battlefield 2042, a shooter I enjoy, or any of the entertainment people like, a more noble use of human potential? Hm. Much to think about.
One thing I know for sure: Now that Squid Game has reached its ironic potential and the year’s almost over, I’ll be glad if we leave it in the past now. At least give it until 2023.