Squid Game has become a global phenomenon and cultural icon. The impact so great that young kids are imitating the styles and violence of the games in the schoolyard.
I wasn’t a big fan of Squid Game but as a youth pastor, I'm glad I've watched it because the themes in this Netflix series needs to be addressed to educate our young people. Not every young person watched the series but it's not surprising if many already had, not to mention the ubiquitous memes circulating through the internet.
I believe Squid Game should be addressed because the negative impacts are already obvious and harmful. Children are not invoking death penalties but they incorporate violence into punishment for losing a game.
The popularity - or pervasiveness - of Squid Game gives us an opportunity to discuss themes and messages that the show presents.
The good news is that the series does have a clear and valid message that speaks into the brokenness of society. By discussing it, we can help young people be aware of our reality and how we can make positive changes to make our world a better place.
I suggest three key Christian ideas that we can talk to young people about.
Society is unjust but God brings justice
The premise of the series is a group of people, who are in debt, are taken to an unknown island to play a series of 'childhood games'. If they win, they receive a large sum of money.
The series highlights the disparity between the rich and the poor. The rich has many advantages in life, whilst the poor are vulnerable to manipulative schemes designed by those with means and resources.
A common argument people might say would be how these 'players' in the game chose to be in the game and therefore their deaths were justified, but we need to take into account that these people were desperate for money for a variety of reasons rather than purely out of greed. They felt they had no choice but to take a gamble (excuse the pun!) and fight to survive.
I think it's good to reinforce the message that we do live in an unjust world. We live in an unjust world because of sin and because sinners like you and me some times take advantage of the poor and vulnerable.
The Good News is that God is a just God and He promises to restore justice back into the world. In the future, when Jesus brings a new heaven and earth, "He will wipe away every tear… There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (Revelation, chapter 21, verse 4).
Everyone has the right to live
Another theme Squid Game explores is whether 'poor people' deserve to die because no one in society notices them and they won't be missed if they died.
'Poor people' are considered trash and taking up space. Moreover, those in debt are seen even lowlier because they don't seem to have got their act together. They keep getting themselves into more and more debt.
Later in Squid Game, the director also explores the question, 'who deserves to die and who deserves to live?' If young people do not critique what they see, they'll subconsciously misunderstand that some people are more deserving than others. They'll be at risk of 'playing God' by thinking they can judge the worth of someone's life.
However, we know from as early as Genesis chapter 1 that all life is precious because all life is created in the image of God.
In Genesis chapter 1, verse 27, we are told that "God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." The repetition of, "in the image of God," emphasises the sanctity of human life.
All life are created equal with value and worth. Doesn't matter if you're rich or poor, male or female, or of a certain ethnic background. All humankind are created in the image of God, so we need to respect one another and certainly not inflict violence against others.
There are things in life more important than money
As the series goes deeper and deeper and more and more lives are lost, the characters are confronted with an important question: How far am I willing to go to get that prize money?
Without spoiling the series, you do see characters wrestling with this question and the obvious message we see is that age-old saying from Confucius: "Money can't buy you happiness." In the moment and when you're in desperate circumstances, it does seem like money is the answer to all our problems, but eventually we realise that that is just a lie.
When money becomes our god, it will strip away our humanity.
The Bible talks about money in numerous sections. Jesus also spoke a lot about the dangers of loving money. Jesus once famously said, "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money" (Matthew chapter 6, verse 24).
Squid Game, in my opinion, is not for young audiences because the way violence is presented through playing children’s games make it hard for them to separate reality and fiction and finding the line between right and wrong.
Even though this series should be kept well away from children, in our day and age, it's not that hard for children to find ways to access it if they wanted to.
So, rather than ignoring the problem, we can be proactive in addressing the themes and messages behind the series. We can help young people analyse and critique a text and hopefully point them toward a better solution and Hope for the future.
Rachel is the children and youth pastor at Northern Life Baptist Church in Sydney. She loves volleyball, reading and a good TV drama! She has recently finished studying a Master of Divinity at Morling College and she’s continuing further studies towards another Masters.