Arts and Entertainment

Squid Game: Transformation Through Dubbing

Squid Game, a Korean TV series, started streaming on September 17, 2021. Just 4 days later, it hit the number 1 spot on Netflix. Squid Game follows a group of extremely poor and indebted people in South Korea. They are suddenly given a mysterious opportunity to win money. With this, they enter a tournament where they have to play childhood games. What they do not know is that losing a game equates to death. These people are desperate, however, and they continue in the tournament at all costs to win the prize money in the end. 

It is strange to think that a non-English language series has become so popular. Why has Squid Game become such a hit? Audiences are captivated by the thrill and violence within the show. Also, audiences become quickly connected with the characters. We learn the ins and outs of their lives and sympathize with them. Watching them participate in the games and face death at every corner is extremely entertaining and nail-biting. Moreover, this series presents many prevalent social issues. It implements problems such as poverty, debt, social-class differences, and violence. These are problems that we face and deal with in our everyday lives, so, when portrayed in the show, it grips and engages the audience.

However, since Squid Game was dubbed to English, the way we perceive the show may not be totally authentic. A lot of controversy has sparked over the fact that there are clear misinterpretations in our English version from the initial Korean version of Squid Game. For example, there is an instance in the show where a character is trying to prove her intelligence. She says, “I’m not a genius, but I still got it worked out. Huh.” This is the English translation, which is close but not one hundred percent. The real line is, “I am very smart. I just never got a chance to study.” The translation is similar if you pick apart the line word for word, but the meanings of these lines are completely different and portray unequal ideas. The issue with this alteration is that the English-speaking audience is misunderstanding Korean culture. The initial intent was to explain the unfortunate circumstances for poor Koreans. They may have a lot of potential for success, but without any money they are incapable of taking next steps. The English version of this line does not illustrate that idea whatsoever. 

There are many other instances like this one, where the English translation is slightly tweaked from the original dialogue. Our perception of characters and their personalities, our understanding of Korean culture, and the significance behind the show itself has all been altered. Due to dubbing, the Netflix series has triggered a lot of debate and disagreement. Squid Game has been transformed as there are countless ways to interpret the show. 

Squid Game is definitely a bit disturbing, but it is engaging and compelling. I would absolutely recommend this show. But, in order to get the real and full Squid Game experience, look out for erroneous dubbing and do not believe something just because it is what the subtitle says.