Archive for October 26, 2021

What’s the Time, Mister Wolf?

Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , , , , , , , on October 26, 2021 by dcairns

Squid Game not only lives up to the hype, it’s better than it has any right to be. While the high-concept gladiatorial set-up mixes together BATTLE ROYALE, EYES WIDE SHUT, The Prisoner, maybe Lost, the execution is just original enough, and the execution astonishingly consistent and flawless. Amazing design, great performances, the twists all play fair and deepen the meaning of the show rather than undercutting it.

There was a point where Fiona observed that the grim situation of the central characters, competing for their lives, echoed that of Nazi murder camp inmates. I said that it mainly reminded me of school. The fact that there were authority figures, enforcers of rules, but they made no effort to protect their subjects from each other, seemed particularly telling. That tied in with the use of schoolyard games tricked up to provide a body count.

The first game, Red Light / Green Light, was played at my primary school, but my memory tells me that we called it What’s the Time, Mister Wolf? For no reason any of us understood.

Of course, now we’re getting stories about Scottish school kids who’ve watched the show and are playing the games for real. Of course. Of course.

It was striking to me that none of the big kids at my school, those who were NOT bullies, ever protected the weak kids from being bullied. Too much trouble. Not their business. And the playground was a place of anarchy, completely unmonitored. It’s very much what we see in Hwang Dong-hyuk’s series. All he adds is a body count (warning: the show is very, very violent and it’s ridiculous that it should be rated 15. If you’re going to have ratings they should mean something).

If you wanted to make schoolyards free from violence, psychological as well as physical, you would have to pay adults to supervise. Unsupervised play is when kids pick up bad habits from one another, mainly. The presence of responsible adults forces them to act civilised, mostly.

The other thing that Squid Game is about, obviously, is late-stage capitalism and class, like PARASITE. The idea that people on the bottom rungs of any modern society would willingly face death to escape their situation seems quite plausible, and if we’re not there yet, we probably soon will be.

Squid Game is on Netflix. Fiona rates it the best TV show she’s seen since Breaking Bad, I don’t have a handy rating but I can find literally nothing wrong with it.