Netflix production Squid Game has exceeded expectations by becoming the most-watched show ever on the streaming platform, garnering over 111 million viewers and raking in an estimated US$900 million in value for the company.
Aside from record numbers, the Korean TV series has also triggered a cultural paradigm shift of sorts, with areas such as fashion, events, social-media trends, and art having been heavily influenced by the show.
Let’s begin with fashion. Since the show debuted, reports show that demand for retro-inspired tracksuits, red boiler suits, white slip-on sneakers, and numbered T-shirts has skyrocketed. According to data from footwear brand Vans, demand for teal-coloured slip-on sneakers increased by 130% week-on-week.
Retailers on ecommerce platforms including Amazon and Lazada are also expecting Squid Game to be a major Halloween inspiration this year and are stocking masks and suits by the thousands. There’s even a YouTube guide on how people at home can use a 3D printer to create the mask worn by the show’s guards. While Netflix has released an official line of Squid Game merchandise, the items do not mimic the clothing worn by characters in the show.
The show has also inspired a host of events and popups around the world, all which have drawn in squealing fans. Perhaps the most talked about was an official Netflix popup at Seoul’s Itaewon subway station, which featured replicas of the show’s colourful props including the giant doll in the show’s pilot.
At the upcoming Expo 2020 in Dubai, the Korean Pavilion is set to feature real-life versions of the games featured in the show—except that nobody dies. The hour-long games are said to draw in exhibition visitors and will feature the show’s stoic guards standing by to make sure visitors follow the rules.
Just as with any cultural phenomenon, art, creativity, and social-media trends are bound to follow. We’ve already seen creative agencies and brands waste no time in jumping on the bandwagon. Most of these efforts seem like a stretch of the brands' product or messaging. Dalgona candy appeared to be the most common point of inspiration, with brands such as Hong Kong Airlines and Pepsi drawing out their own logos on candy.
On TikTok, memes and viral trends abound. For example, users around the world made videos of their own childhood games. A video of the animatronic robot-doll dancing while flailing her hands resonated beyond TikTok onto other platforms. Major food websites rushed to publish recipes for Dalgona candy, while demand for umbrella-shaped cookie cutters spiked.
And of course, fan art on the likes of DeviantArt and Reddit means that thousands of young designers and artists have been inspired by the intricacies of the show as they imagine character pair-ups and alternate fanfic plots. In fact, the show has reaped so much attention from teens and kids around the world, that schools in some countries have issued warnings to parents about the violent nature of the show.
This all makes us wonder: will we see another piece of streaming content capture the zeitgeist the way Squid Game has?
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