Squid Game Challenge: A New Controversy, Ethical Concerns And A Broader Economic Argument

By: ScreenGawk Staff | Published: Dec 15, 2023

Netflix’s Squid Game: The Challenge has recently come under fire for its controversial nature and less-than-transparent filming environment.

While the original game called out what many feel is the “darker” side of capitalism, The Challenge takes it a step further — featuring similar themes with real-life participants who have recently come forward about their filming experiences.

What Is The Premise Of Squid Game: The Challenge?

Squid Game: The Challenge has a very similar storyline and set of rules to the original Squid Game, asking participants to participate in challenges for a large — possibly life-changing — cash prize.

Illuminated Squid Game symbols stand illuminated on a brick wall.

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Participants come from all backgrounds and upbringings, echoing creator Hwang Dong-hyuk’s sentiment that the “(original players) were fighting for (their) lives in very unequal circumstances.

Were Anyone’s Lives Put At Risk During Squid Game: The Challenge?

While players did not explicitly state that their lives were at risk, they were completing difficult challenges that had the potential to change the course of their lives — in possibly detrimental filming conditions.

A person shows the camera a gash on their face that has scabbed over.

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Forbes notes that contestants have stated that production was unsafe at times, noting that “entertainment was prioritized over the safety of the players.”

Psychological Damage Can Still Impact Players

Beyond the general statement that detailed unsafe production practices, other players spoke to Variety — claiming that shoot conditions were “inhumane.”

A person experiences severe depersonalization as a result of trauma.

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Other players noted that the inhuman conditions were often unrelated and “had nothing to do with the game,” causing many other online fans and safety advocates to question the safety of the set.

Could There Be A Lawsuit In The Works?

Forbes does note that contestants are threatening to sue Netflix for their alleged trauma and discomfort.

A lawyer prepares to sue for her client.

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Rather than a single lawsuit, there are multiple contestants who are planning to come together in a mass lawsuit, specifically citing key safety issues that occurred during filming. Claims include working in freezing cold temperatures and a lack of critical supplies on set.

Hypothermia And Nerve Damage Abound

Among other health and safety complaints, contestants spoke up about unsafe filming practices in the “Red Light, Green Light” sequence. They stated that they were asked to film in very cold temperatures wearing nothing but light jackets.

Nerve pain is depicted in a cartoon of a person’s arm, with red lines of inflammation under the skin.

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They also claimed that filming ran long during this sequence, which prolonged their discomfort. Some noted that they suffered hypothermia and nerve damage as a result.


Supply Shortages Led To Many Taking Drastic Measures

The cold weather and windy conditions meant that many contestants were experiencing chapped lips. One contestant went on Entertainment Weekly, confirming that there was no chapstick available when they needed it most.

Burt’s Bees lip moisturizer is presented against a white background. Flavors include pomegranate, coconut & pear, mango and pink grapefruit.

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As a result, many contestants were noted to take measures into their own hands, using lubrication from contraceptive devices as a “makeshift” option —  smearing the mixture on their lips.


Some Viewers Were “Turned Off” Before The Show Dropped

Many might agree that economic times have changed, even in the past few years. Many are now experiencing new difficulties and financial strain unlike what they’ve felt before, affecting how they view game shows like Squid Game: The Challenge.

Underprivileged children line up in a food line for a day’s meal.

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This has left many commentators on X commenting about their own experiences, reminiscing about the generational chasm and odd ties that now exist between Squid Game and how many view their reality.


Lee Jung-jae, Squid Game Star, Urges Audiences To Look Beyond The Show

Squid Game star Lee Jung-jae has much to say on the themes and oppressive nature of the show, noting similarities between it and the world around us.

Lee Jung-jae poses for the camera, alongside his likeness in Squid Game.

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“If you think about the themes…how far we are willing to go (for)…wealth, you get a sense that this is the reality for so many people,” said Jung-jae to Forbes.


The Other Side: Squid Game’s Popularity Inspired Many Online. Could It Lead To A “Charity Rush?”

The show’s popularity could lead to a rush of charity as influencers create “look-a-like challenges” of their own. Perhaps one of the most popular versions is MrBeast’s video, Real Life Squid Game!

Mr. Beast poses against a background of money.

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This challenge was completed by 456 people in an attempt to win a $456,000 cash prize. At the time of this publication, it amassed 543 million views.


Could COVID-19 Have Played A Role In The World’s Financial Standing?

Screenplay writer Hwang Dong-hyuck believes that COVID could have made Squid Games feel relatable for thousands of viewers, stating that many experienced financial hardship as a result of the pandemic.

Hwang Dong-hyuck poses with Lee Jung-jae on-set as he works on the screenplay.

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“The world has changed…these points made the story very realistic for people compared to a decade ago,” Hwang told Wall Street Journal.


Not Just Actors: Is Netflix Treating Artists Fairly?

Hwang holdCs a contract with Netflix that forfeits his intellectual property rights and ensures that he’s paid no residuals. As the actors’ complaints came into the spotlight, Hwang has reflected on his own Squid Games experience.

The Netflix logo is illuminated against a dark black background, with a “no” sign over it.

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“At first, it was exciting to think that people (globally)…(could) watch my show…but now I’m thinking — so what? I’m not getting anything out of it,” he told The Guardian.