Squid Game

image for Squid Game

Short takes

WARNING: Not suitable under 17 due to extreme, frequent and graphic violence; sex scenes; substance use; coarse language.

Age
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
classification logo

This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Squid Game
  • a review of Squid Game completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 28 October 2021.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 17 WARNING: Not suitable due to extreme, frequent and graphic violence; frequent coarse language; sex scenes; forced sexual activity; alcohol and drug use; gambling.
Children aged 17–18 Parental guidance recommended due to extreme, frequent and graphic violence; frequent coarse language; sex scenes; forced sexual activity; alcohol and drug use; gambling.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Squid Game
Classification: MA15+
Consumer advice lines: Strong themes and violence; blood and gore.
Length: 480 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Squid Game is an 8-part South Korean drama series. Hundreds of South Korean citizens who have found themselves deep in financial crisis and on the margins of society are invited to play in a mysterious tournament, promising the opportunity to win their way out of their dire circumstances. If they agree, they are drugged and taken to a secret location to begin the ‘games’. What they soon discover is that although they are all simple childhood games from their youth – losing results in immediate and brutal death. Again, and again, they must fight to the death until there is only one man left standing. Not only are the games deadly, but there are many psychological twists and turns along the way.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Death; Violence; Massacres; Mortality; Gambling; Financial Debt; Horror; Abuse; Class systems; Suicide; Religion.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

This television series has extreme frequent violence that is realistic and gory. Examples include:

  • Multiple graphic massacres where many people (sometimes hundreds) are gunned down. They are seen falling to the ground with blood spurting out of gunshot wounds.
  • Multiple fighting scenes where men and women fight with their hands and with weapons such as knives, poles, smashed bottles. One scene in particular, where a large fight breaks out, there is strobe lighting that flashes on/off as we see people slashing and murdering each other with screams of agony.
  • Multiple scenes of people being shot at close range in the head. This includes close-up shots of wounds to the head.
  • A man violently hits a woman to the ground and punches and kicks her repeatedly.
  • A man pulls an eyeball out of its socket.
  • A man pushes a broken bottle into another man’s throat, and he is seen dying.
  • A man commits suicide by hanging himself with a rope. We see him hanging.
  • People plummet to their death from a high platform, and we watch their bodies hitting the floor and lying in a pile with broken limbs and split skulls.
  • A girl discusses how she found her mother murdered by her abusive father, so she murdered her father in revenge.
  • A game is played where one player repeatedly slaps the other player hard in the face when he or she loses.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this series that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • WARNING – the violent scenes described in the above section will lead to significant distress in children under the age of five. Viewing in this age group in not appropriate and should be avoided.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this series that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • WARNING – the violent scenes described in the above section will lead to significant distress in children aged five to eight. Viewing in this age group in not appropriate and should be avoided.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this series that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • WARNING – the violent scenes described in the above section will lead to distress in children aged eight to thirteen. Children of this age group (particularly those in the 11-13 age bracket) may believe or assume that they have the capacity to cope with viewing this show, however the frequency and severity of violence in Squid Game has a powerful desensitising and harmful effect on children at this stage of development.
  • In one episode, players are asked to form teams. Most select their trusted companions or friends that they have formed. They then discover that they are playing marbles against their partner, and one of them must die. This leads to some very emotional scenes as people must betray those that they care for most and watch their friends die.
  • Several scenes of doctors cutting organs out of dead bodies.
  • A young man is forced to his knees in front of an older man who is demanding that he perform oral sex on him. The young man escapes by pulling out a gun.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

  • WARNING – the violent scenes described in the above section are likely to lead to distress. Children of this age group (particularly those in the 13-17 age bracket) may believe or assume that they have the capacity to cope with viewing this show, however the frequency and severity of violence in Squid Game has a powerful desensitising and harmful effect on children at this stage of development.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this series, including:

  • A woman invites a man to have sex with her in a toilet cubicle. She is trying to entice him to help her and let her join his team in the games. The sex is devoid of emotional connection or affection. It is transactional.
  • A girl talks to her friend about how she was abused by her father when she was a child.
  • Men discuss the loose sexual morals of a woman.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this series, including:

  • A young man is forced to his knees in front of an older man who is demanding that he perform oral sex on him. The young man escapes the situation by pulling a gun out and shooting his attacker.
  • A woman and a man have sex in a toilet cubicle.
  • The VIP lounge has naked women with body paint in various poses around the room for the pleasure of a group of men.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this series, including:

  • A woman smuggles contraband cigarettes packaged in a condom inside her vagina. She is seen extracting them in a toilet cubicle. It is not graphic, but it is clear what she is doing.
  • Adults drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes.
  • The players are drugged by gas and are unconscious until they arrive at the secret destination.

Coarse language

There is frequent coarse language in this series, including:

  • Fucking
  • Fuck
  • Prick
  • Bastard, etc.

In a nutshell

Squid Game is a psychological horror series for adults that is not written with child or teen audiences in mind. It is a brutal, social commentary on the destitution and desperation of adult failure and hopelessness in a rigged class system (in the context of South Korea, but certainly applicable in many other countries). The series uses extreme violence as a mechanism for creating impact, and the repetitive and visceral nature of the violence has a distinct desensitising, dehumanising, and numbing effect on the viewer. Although Squid Game has the blood and gore that one might expect from a gory horror film, it also has strong character development which evokes a deeper emotional investment by the viewer. This makes the slaughter of characters even more distressing at various points throughout the series. Children and teens do not have the relevant life experience or maturity to empathise and understand the concepts explored in this series – the violence will entertain them and stick with them, but the social commentary will pass over their heads. Parents should be aware that the MA15+ rating given for Squid Game is warranted and conservative and the series is not recommended for teens under 17.

The main messages from this series is that capitalism has a dark side – it is an allegory for the destructive and dehumanising nature of capitalist society – to get rich, or die trying.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Camaraderie, teamwork and kindness, even in the face of extreme conditions.
  • Respect and recognition that everyone has their own individual strengths.
  • Bravery in the face of danger.
  • The power of innovative and creative problem solving over simply brute strength.

This series could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • How systems can keep people trapped in a cycle of poverty and destitution.
  • The negative aspects of a capitalist society – what are the downsides? How could we counteract them?
  • The addictive and harmful consequences of gambling.
  • Parents could discuss with their children why the series Squid Game has captured the interest of children and teens – what is it about the concept that is attractive?
  • Parents could discuss how repeated exposure to extreme violence can lead to an effect known as ‘desensitisation’. You could discuss what the consequences of desensitisation might be.