Netflix’s Squid Game — a South Korean show in which working-class people compete in life or death children’s games — may be the streamer’s most popular show of all time, but it has gotten some knocks when it comes to its English subtitles, which some say miss crucial cultural context.
Rolling Stone News sat down with comedian Youngmi Mayer, who posted about the issue on TikTok, to break down scenes and give some clarity to what the English subtitles miss.
Fair warning, there are spoilers.
Scenes discussed include the first episode, where the audience is introduced to elder player Oh Il-Nam. “Donning 001 on his uniform, Il-nam meets the first schoolyard game with glee as the others look on in disbelief of the carnage,” host Delisa Shannon says. “Il-nam means ‘First Man’ in Korean and throughout the show, the characters find themselves existing in a world crafted from a past generation, still bound by the rules of a bygone era — a direct nod to the show’s presumed critique of capitalism.”
It also explores the final twist of the season, the sixth episode, and the last episode, “One Lucky Day.”
“Youngmi found that the last episode, ‘One Lucky Day,’ is based on a Twenties book of the same name that was lauded as an honest portrayal of the suffering experienced by those under colonial rule in Korea,” Shannon says. “The episode’s storyline directly coincides with the plot of the book, in which on one rainy day, a poor man ignores his wife’s advice, makes a fortune, gives it all away, and returns home only to find her dead. According to Youngmi, this further justifies Hwang Dong-hyuk’s critique on the weight of capitalism.”