‘Squid Game’ is a show about being in debt, so it’s no surprise it’s a hit

According to this op-ed, the protagonists’ financial difficulties make Squid Game sympathetic.

Squid Game, a South Korean series that has gone to No. 1 in 90 countries, is now the most-watched program on Netflix. It follows 456 players as they compete in a unique and risky game. The winner of a half-dozen rounds of home children’s games such as marbles and tug-of-war will get billions of dollars in cash, while the 455 losers will die instantly.

Squid Game’s acting and graphics are fantastic, but the characters’ actual financial situations also contribute to the show’s success. Personal debt is a significant issue in South Korea, and the story has a strong resonance in the United States, where roughly 75% of Americans die with an average debt of $62,000.

Squid Game’s participants come from many walks of life, but they’re all trying to repay their creditors and avoid the moral stigma of debt. When the players inquire why they were picked, a guard says that they’re all “on the verge of financial collapse,” being “chased by [their] creditor” for debts they can’t afford to pay off

Payday loans, medical debt, criminal legal obligations, and credit card debt follow the same pattern. But there is a solution on the Greendayonline site to consolidate payday loans or credit card debt. There you may find also VA: Green Day Online payday loans which have many benefits.

Debtors strive for financial freedom

The connections between Squid Game and nations like South Korea and the United States’ hypercapitalism, debt-fueled economies are striking. The symbolic imagery in the Korean horror film is quite explicit, with white billionaire “VIPs” with financially and morally obscene incentives and masked, police-adjacent foot soldiers working to keep the creditors’ crimes hidden. 

A rigged game in which debtors strive for financial freedom strikes close to home for an American audience whose public goods, such as health care, housing, and education, are individually debt-financed, privatized commodities.

The total amount of household debt in the United States now is about $15 trillion, and that’s just what we can count. The Federal Reserve does not consider certain types of working-class debt, such as payday loans, criminal debt, and utility bills. 

Paying back student loans has become America’s version of the Squid Game, with usurious interest rates engineered to guarantee that almost everyone loses — and that the poorest suffer the most. Defaulting on a loan might result in a warrant for your arrest, the loss of your driver’s license, or the garnishment of your Social Security income. 

Financial difficulties for players

Players may be drawn to the game because of financial difficulties, but predatory recruiting efforts should not be overlooked. The for-profit universities that prey on veterans or single Black moms to enroll in fraud programs, or the peddlers of subprime mortgages that helped destroy Black family wealth in the 2008 meltdown, are similar to the Squid Game recruiter persuades protagonist Seong Gi-hun to join the games.

The debtors don’t realize what’s at risk until they play the first game, Red Light, Green Light, in the program. When more than half of the players are unexpectedly removed and gruesomely killed, the surviving players band together and demand an immediate stop to the games, enabling everyone to return unharmed. In essence, they form a union and use their combined strength to sabotage the game’s incentives to continue.

This small scene in the program demonstrates how the Debt Collective, the nation’s first debtors’ union, can exhibit strength as an organizer with the Debt Collective. The Debt Collective thinks that similar to how labor unions collectively negotiate for better salaries and working conditions, unionized debtors may achieve broad-scale debt cancellation and revolutionize how we fund public goods.

In 2015, we put our idea to the test by organizing the Corinthian 15, the first student debt strike in history, followed by the Biden Jubilee 100 earlier this year. We’ve secured billions in student loan forgiveness for those who for-profit universities duped, and we’ve placed the demand for widespread student debt forgiveness on the legislative agenda. Like the Squid Game contestants, we went on a debt strike and refused to pay.

When the Squid Game competitors return to play the game later, their ability to negotiate collectively as debtors are preserved. The Debt Collective aspires to encourage the type of economic disobedience that we should be threatening now.

Take, for example, student loans: 45 million people are burdened with roughly $2 trillion in student debt, having spent years repaying the government only to find that their sum ultimately climbs beyond the initial principle as time passes and interest accumulates. Despite widespread economic precarity exacerbated by the epidemic, President Biden plans to resume monthly payments on all federal student loans in February, two years after a suspension halted fees and interest on all federal student loans.

What would happen if we chose not to pay?

Would a combination of default, $0 monthly payments, and collective demand for complete cancellation of all student debt help us achieve full cancellation? The epidemic has taught us that the federal government can get by without student loan payments. Since March 2020, payments have been halted.

However, the Debt Collective’s demand is more than eliminating all student debt since the same situation would resurface a semester later; as a starting point, we think that all colleges should be tuition-free. “The potential of debtors’ unions…is not just to reject and renegotiate illegal obligations,” Debt Collective cofounder Hannah Appel said, but also to “push open issues that the age of finance appears to have foreclosed.” To put it another way, a demand for student debt forgiveness must be accompanied by a need for a fundamental reshaping of our economy and the creation of genuinely reparative public goods like tuition-free college and Medicare for All.

That’s also one of Squid Game’s takeaways. As the series comes to a close, Seong demonstrates that he grasps this notion by sprinting to save another victim from the Squid Game’s predatory recruiter. He recognizes that winning the Squid Game isn’t everything if the game is still being played – a spirit of unity shared by Debt Collective members working to cancel other people’s debts after their own has been eliminated.

Fiction may sometimes help us perceive reality in all of its absurdity, horror, and possibilities. What games are we compelled to play in real life? Using a credit card to cover medical costs or falling into debt to repay pandemic-era rent? The losers in our version can die. A developing debtors’ union, on the other hand, may start to address these issues while also flexing an untapped source of strength. For a brief period in Squid Game, the debtors banded together and acknowledged the aggregate force of their financial commitments. We must follow suit.

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