Why I won’t watch Squid Game

It’s come up a few times over dinner.

The parodies and memes appear on all my social media feeds.

Everyone says I need to see it. 

But no, I won’t be watching Squid Game.

The premise is enticing – regular people (fictional characters), competing on a television program (a la The Hunger Games), in a desperate attempt to eliminate their crippling debt (or die trying).

I’m sure the Netflix show is shot masterfully, as my cinephile husband commented, “every Korean film I’ve ever seen is just beautiful”. 

One of my friends who knows me well said I’d better avoid it, noting “you’ll want to cover your eyes because it’s so violent, but then you miss what they’re saying because it’s subtitled.”

And I’ll be honest, my curiosity is piqued over the artistic statement being made about capitalism by the creators of the show. The director has commented on the similarities between plotlines on Squid Game and the class clashes South Korea has experienced since its economic downfalls of the 90’s and early 00’s that effectively eliminated the country’s middle class. It’s interesting, and refreshing how art can highlight a crisis I knew little to nothing about; to date, my knowledge of the class divide in South Korea comes from the movie Parasite (so good!).  

Even so, personally I know I have no business watching Squid Game. Why, you ask? A couple reasons come to mind:

For one, I’m too squeamish to spend a show’s length of time tensed up on the edge of my seat waiting for someone to die. I can’t hang. No matter what I watch, the imagery sticks with me long after the credits roll, which leads me to my second point: 

I’m too tender for it. The world is full of horrible, unspeakable injustices (think I’m wrong? Open the news app on your phone and take a quick scroll). Why would I want a visual to match the horror stories I hear every day?

I work in industries where I listen to people tell stories of tragedy and triumph on a regular basis, the details of the former imprinting on my brain, causing what my therapist calls “second-hand trauma”. Why would I seek out more trauma in my leisure time?

The things we watch and read about make impressions on our minds. 

I have to be careful, not just with what I watch but what I read as well, knowing that later on, when I’m awake in bed at night unable to sleep, a headline I read earlier in the day might replay in my mind. I truly don’t need a visual to accompany it. 

I don’t want to absorb violence for fun, even if it’s fake.

It makes me feel soft to say so, but I am soft. I am empathetic. I am the kind of person who feels your pain as you describe it to me, and I find it impossible to turn away.

I want to keep my soft heart. I don’t want to show it so much trauma that it grows hard in response to the shock of it all.

It reminds me of the song we used to sing as kids that went, Oh be careful little eyes what you see…

Being a homeschooled church kid, I was pretty sheltered. My parents screened every PG-13 movie in advance of my brothers and me seeing it; we weren’t allowed to listen to secular music (except the classics, like Queen and Styx and Jellyfish). Growing up I hated the weird Christian bubble we belonged to, and I’d sneak in watching whatever I wanted, whenever possible. 

I remember being at my aunt’s house once for Thanksgiving when, while everyone was downstairs in a turkey coma, my brother and I found the upstairs TV remote and we watched Pet Cemetery. Another time, at the same house, we snuck in a screening of People Under the Stairs. And once, the movie Tremors was on while my grandma who was babysitting snored on the couch next to us in our home. Looking back, these are three of THE cheesiest scary flicks, but because I was so unaccustomed to watching horror, I was scared for years to visit a cemetery (dead pets) or be in the desert (deadly earth worms), and you bet I ran as fast as I could up and down the stairs to our basement (so that whoever was below them couldn’t grab my ankles!!).  

But as an adult I see the value in shielding our eyes from that which is harmful to dwell on. It’s one of the facets of my upbringing that cemented into my brain: we become what we most think about. 

Does that mean I’m bound to become a murderer, destined to do wrong, all because I watch a scary movie now and again?? Not at all. But I know for me, watching an entire TV series that centers around a violent game where desperate people compete to the death to improve their dire circumstances would only lead my mind to dark places.

Our minds are wired to be intrigued by depravity (in ancient Rome, death became a form of entertainment) — but we don’t have to give in. We can guard our hearts and minds…and that doesn’t make us weak.

Philippians 4:8 is not for pansies. It’s actually a pretty tall order, if put into practice:

Lovely. Pure. Noble. Admirable. True. These are the virtues my mind needs to be centered on, in order to keep the peace Jesus promised all his followers when he purchased it for us on the cross.

Easier said than done, but so worth it to try.

This is why I refuse to watch, among other things, Game of Thrones (don’t even get me started on my frustration with the many virtuous people who argue for GoT, overlooking the sexism, portrayed rapes, and violence of that show while trying to convince me to watch it – hard pass), The Kardashains (I was forced to watch a few episodes as research when I worked in reality TV, and let me just say, morale has never been lower than at that time), and yes, Squid Game. Because, as our pastor pointed out recently, “you wouldn’t invite someone to come into your living room and commit a rape right in front of you, would you? You wouldn’t ask for a murder to take place in your home, or for someone to come and have an affair in your presence, would you?” The answer is clearly, no, no one in their right mind would do that. And yet it’s similar to what we’re doing when we opt to entertain our brains and engage our limited quantity of attention with content that disturbs the soul.

I know I’m too tender for all of it. And that’s how God made me to be, so it’s okay with me.

This is a no judgement zone if you enjoy watching any of the shows I mentioned in this blog. Thats your business, and I’m sure I do a litany of things every single day that better Christians would take issue with! We are all created differently with differing capacities, and that’s a beautiful thing.

Also a beautiful thing: Mr. Beast recreated Squid Game, and because there’s no blood it’s probably the only version of the game show I’ll ever be able to watch.

Enjoy!

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