EU Play: “Almost, Maine”: A review of EU Arts’s fall production, “Almost, Maine.”

This semester, Eastern’s theatre department performed “Almost, Maine,” a modern play composed of a series of short scenes that take place at the same moment in time, in the same town, with different characters. It’s a clever concept, and the cast and crew of the play executed it beautifully. However, I ultimately found that my sentiments matched the tagline of the play: “It’s love. But not quite.”

There are a million things to love about the play. First of all, the cast is wonderful. There are only twelve cast members, and many of them are double-cast, since there are almost no repeat characters between scenes. They all do a wonderful job making each character unique and interesting, and despite depicting a range of characters of different ages and backgrounds, each one feels very authentic. The costumes help with this. They’re not complicated affairs, but they’re clever. You can tell that Hope has come from out of town as soon as she walks on stage, for example, by her heeled boots and too-light coat.

The set is also gorgeous. As soon as you walk in, you know you’ll be in for a treat. Edison bulbs are strung across the majority of the ceiling, and they twinkle and glow throughout much of the play, creating a charming atmosphere. “You just want to curl up and read a book there,” stage director Anna Davis said. The creation of the Northern Lights is also impressive, and the set pieces on stage are simple and artful, giving the audience just enough to guide them while avoiding overwhelming the actors.

However, I couldn’t make myself love the story, despite the amazing job that the cast and crew did with it. The story incorporates fabulism, a literary technique where magic and strange happenings are part of the everyday world we live in; it’s comparable to magical realism, but some experts argue that magical realism can only be used to describe postcolonial narratives. Fabulism/magical realism is one of my favorite genres, but I think this play gives it a bad name. The fabulism elements were gimmicky and overly self-referential; when one character realizes she’s fallen in love with another, for example, she quite literally falls over, and then states that she’s fallen because she fell in love. Likewise, another character carries around her broken heart in a bag. Well-crafted magical realism and fabulism feels natural to the world; the audience should believe that this is the way the world was meant to be. There was nothing necessary or beautiful about the fabulist elements in this play, and I found it hard to suspend my disbelief.

Another issue with the story was a pitfall of one of the best elements of the play: the vignette style. Because the scenes were so short, some of them worked better than others. I anticipate that people will have different scenes that worked and that didn’t, but there were a couple scenes where I didn’t feel like I had enough information to get emotionally involved with the characters. The framing device was one such scene: I loved the idea of having one scene that bookends the play, but there simply wasn’t enough there for me to care about whether the characters love each other or not.

Ultimately, I really enjoyed watching the play. There were scenes that were beautifully done—I cried at one scene. The cast and crew did a wonderful job with material that simply missed the mark for me. It was the Eastern theatre department that gave me everything I loved about “Almost, Maine,” and for that, I applaud them.

Movie Spotlight: Shutter Island: A broken island field with mystery, memories, regret, and violence.

In 1954, A U.S. Marshal, Teddy Daniels, with his partner Chuck Aule was tasked with finding an escaped patient. They arrive at Ashecliffe, a penitentiary that holds the most dangerous and damaged patients in the world. However, the audience understands Daniels’s true motive for taking on the case as he searches for the man who killed his wife.

The scenes are uneasy as the patients, doctors, and workers are mysterious, leading our main character to question his sanity. Pictures, songs, German doctors, subtle words, and officers remind Daniels of his past WWII memories. He develops hallucinations of his deceased wife, German soldiers, and Holocaust survivors at a death camp. An investigation for an escaped patient turns into Daniels fighting his past and himself.

Feb. 19, 2010, the legendary Martin Scorsese directed “Shutter Island.” The psychological thriller mystery drama is paired with an excellent cast. The three characters played by Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, and Ben Kingsley complement each other in scenes. When all three are in the exact location, it’s a chess match of words wanting to make the other make a mistake.

When the movie ended, “Shutter Island” didn’t win any notable awards. The biggest surprise from this movie was that neither Scorsese nor DiCaprio were nominated for an Oscar. This is one of few blemishes of their career as it is the first time both haven’t been nominated for an Oscar. Some say the movie is hard on the eyes with the consistent flashes of war crimes, concentration camps, and gory death scenes in WWII. 

While the movie has its flaws, here’s what I like about the film. In the beginning, you hear eerie music behind the Paramount logo. It leaves the audience in suspense, wondering what will happen next. This noise follows throughout the movie, seeing odd patients, officers, and Daniels’s memories. I love films that display eerie music, and they put you at the edge of your seat.

Because this is a psychological thriller, conversations about human nature being violent, insane, or delusional are ordinary. However, there are three scenes, in particular, that center around violence. First, Daniels finds himself talking to a vital doctor of the penitentiary about being a “man of violence.” Next is a suspenseful scene of Daniels talking to an inmate, informing him about the dangerous things Daniels has done. Last, the warden has a one-on-one talk with Daniels about his survival instincts, willing to strike anyone in his path.

These scenes make the audience wonder and question, “what information from the main character is being held from us?” Movies shouldn’t just have the watchers have clear answers. A good film should make the audience jump through hoops till the truth is revealed. 

Finally, the biggest surprise is the constant questioning of Daniels’s partner Aule. Nothing is wrong until his partner leaves during an interrogation of a patient; she writes “run” in Daniels’s book. Another instance is when Daniels finds himself being questioned by an inmate on how long he’s worked with Aule and if he can trust him. 

All the paths Daniels ran to get closer to his answers led to a surprising development at the end. Finally, questions are answered, and if you want to discover them, log into Netflix and watch it and you’ll be in for a treat.


Martin Scorsese and Marvel: Two Years Later

It has been about two years since Martin Scorsese made waves by declaring the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies as “not cinema.” It sparked controversy, as various filmmakers and actors involved with the Marvel Cinematic Universe came out and defended their product. Even two years later, it seems as though filmmakers are still trying to defend their stance. James Gunn, the director of “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” along with the recent “The Suicide Squad” responded to Scorsese once again during the promo tour for “The Suicide Squad.” While many may still be offended by what Scorsese said, I wanted to give my opinion on the matter.

Now, in all fairness, I initially heard the comments by Scorsese and was defensive. I grew up watching the MCU, and even up to 2019, I would consider myself a pretty big fan of the franchise. But I also did not know Martin Scorsese at that point. I did see “The Irishman” that fall in theatres, but once I decided that I wanted to write about films for a living, I began diving into Scorsese’s filmography. As of this writing, I have watched 20 of his 25 feature films, and there is no doubt in my mind that Scorsese was correct in what he said. 

The big misunderstanding is what Scorsese means by the Marvel movies not being “cinema.” If you read the full comment, he does acknowledge the fact that the movies are well-made but points to their lack of real emotion as to why they are not cinema. Before you freak out, just consider this: how many Marvel movies actually have stakes? “Avengers: Endgame” may be the only Marvel movie with actual stakes, killing off some of the franchise’s longtime heroes, but that was also the 22nd film of the series. It should not take 22 movies to finally reach a point where the stakes matter. Yes, “Infinity War” did kill off half of the universe, but there was a second part announced before the movie released, so was anything but a cliffhanger ending expected? We have to remember that at the end of the day, the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies are glorified toy commercials, and why would they let the likes of Spider-Man or the Guardians of the Galaxy die when there are more action figure variants to sell?

The other major issue with the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies is how they over-saturate the movie market. Taking 2020 out of the equation because of the pandemic, all ten of the highest-grossing films of 2019 were sequels, prequels, or tied to some IP. All three Marvel movies that year are included: “Captain Marvel,” “Avengers: Endgame,” and “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” Disney as a company made up 70% of the top ten (80% if you include “Spider-Man: Far From Home” which is a Sony and Disney property.) In 2021, Marvel had five streaming shows and four movies come out. You could blame that on the pandemic clogging the slate, but this would likely happen one way or another. There is just too much superhero/franchise content that is taking eyes away from independent movies.

If you are a Marvel fan, this piece is not intended to change your mind. Look, there is no shame in enjoying Marvel movies. I still catch the latest Marvel movies, “Shang-Chi” was fine — far better than the repulsive “Black Widow” I might add — but Marvel seems to want to make themselves out to be “artsy”; thanks, “Eternals.” The fact of the matter is: these are cotton candy movies. A lot of fun, but no substance. “The Irishman” is probably Scorsese’s weakest mob movie, yet it still is better than any Marvel movie to date. Marvel will not change their ways because it works. They will continue cut-and-pasting these movies without taking risks until people eventually grow bored. It has not happened yet, but one can hope. Scorsese compared the Marvel movies to “theme park rides,” and while that may have riled fans up, Disney did just open the “Avengers Campus.” 

Box Office Mojo, CNET, Vulture

Achtung Y’all: U2’s Achtung Baby: The 1991 album celebrates its 30th anniversary this November.

On November 18, U2’s 1991 album, “Achtung Baby,” will celebrate its 30th anniversary. It may not be the band’s most well-known album, but it is the album that completely changed the band U2 is. After “Rattle and Hum,” which was accompanied by a concert film and received a lukewarm reception, the band totally shifted gears with “Achtung Baby.” The support tour, the “ZooTV Tour” made major advances for the concert industry; with dozens of television sets making up the backdrop of the stage and a b-stage where the band could play closer to the crowd.

The opening ambient sounds lead right into The Edge’s guitar riff on “Zoo Station.” Bono states that he is “ready for the laughing gas,” and “ready for what’s next,” signaling a radically different direction for the band. Right after is “Even Better Than The Real Thing,” which opens with another funky guitar riff by The Edge, including a lot of wah-wah effects and delay. 

“One” is perhaps the most important song U2 has ever written. The lines “We’re one, but we’re not the same/We get to carry each other, carry each other,” feel relevant to our current political divide. It is chill-inducing when U2 plays this song live; lights are usually dimmed, phones are out, and many hands are up in unison. Bono occasionally snippets “Invisible” towards the end of the song, singing the refrain: “No them, there’s only us.”

U2 has frequently thrown biblical allusions into their music, “Until The End Of The World” tells a version of the Jesus and Judas story; “In the garden I was playing the tart/I kissed your lips and broke your heart.” This leads right into “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses,” one of the band’s most underrated songs. “So Cruel” slows the tempo and momentum of the album down, but brings a classic Bono ballad to the mix. 

It all picks back up with “The Fly,” a song that has a guitar riff that truly emulates the sound of a fly buzzing in your ear. Some of Bono’s best songwriting takes place here; with aphorisms like “It’s no secret that a liar won’t believe anyone else,” and “It’s no secret ambition bites the nails of success.” The funky “Mysterious Ways” proceeds “The Fly,” with a grooving bassline that allows Adam Clayton to shine for once. Rock radio stations still play this song. “Tryin’ to Throw Your Arms Around the World” is a fun song about a hangover. “Ultra Violet (Light My Way)” is akin to “With or Without You” in that it is a twisted love song. Take, for example, the lines:  “Oh sugar, don’t you cry/Oh child wipe the tears from your eyes/You know I need you to be strong/And the day is as dark as the night is long.” It’s not a happy song, and live versions of the song are some of the most impassioned performances from Bono.

“Acrobat” is another song about hypocrisy and one of the most intense U2 songs: “I must be, an acrobat/To talk like this/And act like that.” It features a blistering solo from The Edge that leads to the crashing crescendo.

The closing song of “Achtung Baby” is “Love is Blindness.” It features a haunting organ, making this one of the eeriest U2 songs. It’s a rather slow song until the solo at the end, which The Edge once again nails. U2 has not closed out an album in such a manner until “The Troubles” on “Songs of Innocence.” 

Without “Achtung Baby,” it’s hard to say where U2 would be. The band pushed the limits of their sound; infusing alternative rock and Motown and new guitar effects. The Edge does his best guitar work, and some of Bono’s lyrics are the strongest of his career. It is their masterpiece, and perhaps a “Zoo(m) TV Tour” could happen to celebrate the band.

The Art of Cooking: A student explains the benefits and pleasures of cooking.

Cooking is an art that encompasses the world. It requires passion, precision, and most of all, love. The culinary arts are a complex mixture of balancing a variety of tastes and aromas, combined with beautiful plating. Cooking allows the artistic side of anyone to come alive. Cooking is an essential skill that all people should know how to do on a basic level. Whether it is a simple breakfast of cereal or a complex five-course dinner, cooking will always be a relevant skill. Preparing and then sharing meals is also a great way to bond and grow relationships. The dinner table hosts a multitude of conversations. Many bonds are formed over good food. Enjoying food with another person is an amazing way to get to know them as well as a way to find out about their interests. 

Some of the benefits of cooking are nutrition, saving money, and learning an essential skill. Quality of cooking is important for nutrition as well as the proper mixture of vegetables, proteins, grains, and fats. Learning how to cook is also not a time-consuming skill to learn. In all honesty, if you know how to read and follow directions, you could likely do a great impression of Gordon Ramsey. Following a few recipes is a great gateway into learning about cooking styles and how to mix flavors together to create a dish. Saving money is essential to life; many people often spend a lot of money by ordering food from restaurants. By grocery shopping and prepping meals, you will be able to save a lot of money that would have gone to restaurants. Meals are going to be more cost-efficient and could also boost morale as a completed task.

Cooking plays a large part in mental health and psychology. Cooking and baking are considered therapeutic because they are “behavioral activations” (Conner et al., 2016). Daily creative activities have been shown to boost happiness in people. Cooking not only boosts mental health, but it plays a part in boosting self-esteem and helps with focusing. The busy work that it takes to cook allows many people peace of mind and is a stress reliever. 

Cooking is an art that transcends basic nutrition and becomes an art form. Cooks can dress a plate with vibrant colors and an assortment of flavors and aromas. TV shows like “Iron Chef” and “Chopped” take various chefs from across the country and judge their ability to make quality food, but also judge on their presentation. The presentation of food is another aspect that makes cooking enjoyable. Presentation aids in making the food’s aesthetic more desirable and enjoyable. 

Cooking has been a lifelong art that has many beneficial effects. Cooking can be used to bring people together for the sake of enjoying food. Cooking is the mediator for a lot of relationships and is often a setting for people to converse. By learning to cook, you can save money and create quality meals. The art of cooking is the many aspects it has in daily life as well as the joy it brings to those it touches.

Cheers! To A Tour: Piano-rock band Jukebox the Ghost headlined the last show of their fall tour in Philadelphia and didn’t disappoint.

Jukebox the Ghost is a piano-rock band from Washington, D.C. who doesn’t have a huge following, but attracts niche audiences. The band consists of three members, Ben Thornewill (piano & vocals), Tommy Seigel (guitar & vocals) and Jesse Kristin (drums & select vocals). The three guys combine to produce incredibly rich vocal and instrumental tracks that you can absolutely rock out to. On Oct. 9 at Union Transfer in Philadelphia, I had the wonderful experience of attending Jukebox the Ghost’s final date of their Fall 2021 tour.

The night started not with Jukebox but with their opening act, Canadian funky rock band, Fleece. I hadn’t listened to any of their music prior to the concert, so I was a tad skeptical. However, when they appeared on stage and told us, “We’re Fleece, and we’re going to rock your socks off,” I was more than excited.

And Fleece did not disappoint. They did, indeed, rock our socks off with funky guitar riffs, Bee Gee-esque vocal tracks and surprise jam sessions and tempo shifts in the middle of some songs. During one slower song, they asked us to put our cell phone flashlights on. The stage lights dimmed, and the band was completely illuminated by our cell phones.

I still am listening to Fleece on repeat today. They were outstanding.

Jukebox then took the stage. With anecdotes, clever banter, audience interaction, songs from their 2008 album and new, unreleased music, Jukebox the Ghost put on a show and made me remember how good concert life could be. Faithful fans and first-time fans (with masked faces) danced and sang without care, finally getting the chance to overcome the COVID concert hiatus.

There were a couple of standout moments for me as a six-year fan of the band and a two-time attendee of Union Transfer’s venue.

Chiefly, hearing new music before it’s even released is always a treat, especially when fans know that artists have been working diligently on projects during COVID. Not being on tour calls for more family time, yes, but also for more writing, recording and editing. When Jukebox the Ghost performed “Million Dollar Bills,” one of their not-yet-released COVID-project songs, fans didn’t sing; they didn’t know the words, of course, because the song was brand new. This was a phenomenon that was interesting to hear at a concert attended by fans of a band. The band wasn’t being accompanied by a sea of voices singing along. Fans got to hear the band purely for their instrumentals and vocals, as if they were listening to the song on Spotify.

This concert marked the second time I attended Union Transfer for a concert. Both were Jukebox the Ghost concerts. Union Transfer is a personal, intimate venue that has dynamic acoustics and ideal house lighting. The main room is small enough that fans can pack in and still get good sound, but large enough so that the same sound doesn’t drown out everything around you.

Concerts post-COVID can seem like a scary thing. Over a year ago we were being told to stay in our homes because going to the grocery store is even too dangerous. Luckily for music fans, advancements in health and policy have made society feel a bit better about bringing live music back. Union Transfer required proof of vaccination and use of masks for all in attendance of the show. I didn’t see one person violating the rules, so I felt particularly safe to be in a crowd of 600 people.

I would recommend Jukebox the Ghost to anyone who appreciates a bit of existential dread in songwriting, incredible piano playing and fun, energetic guitar riffs. I would recommend Union Transfer to anyone wanting to see a more niche band in concert. I’d say Jukebox the Ghost and Union Transfer harmonize well, but not better than Ben and Tommy’s voices in “Jumpstarted.”

Movie Spotlight: “Sunset Boulevard”: A look at a Hollywood classic.

Two weeks ago, I went to watch the 1950’s film, “Sunset Blvd.” at a local theater. Honestly, I didn’t have high hopes. From the trailer, it seemed like the usual depressing, dialogue-ridden, black and white noir film. To both my suprise and delight, it was something different.

I must make the assumption in writing this that most of you haven’t watched “Sunset Blvd.” Though it is a Hollywood “classic”, I have yet to run into someone who has seen it. The film is about the movie industry, hence the caption, “A Hollywood Story”. William Holden plays a struggling screenwriter, who has given up on producing art because of his struggle to make money. When the creditors from the bank come to take his car, he becomes desperate and becomes entangled with aging film star Norma Desmond. This leads him down a rabbit hole of sometimes strange, and often tragic story twists.   

 All of the acting in the film is quite superb, but Gloria Swanson’s performance as Norma Desmond overshadows everyone. She plays a film star from the silent area, who was swept to the side when “talkies”, movies with sound, became mainstream. I found the similarities between her character and Charles Dickens’s Miss Havisham quite striking. My suspicions were confirmed when William Holden’s character made a reference to their similarities. 

In essence, Norma Desmond is a modern Miss. Havisham. She lives in the past, she still believes herself to still be a great start, and she is very bitter. She watches her own movies over and over, and her house is covered in photos of herself. 

Actress, Gloria Swanson, does a simply remarkable job of portraying this fading star, who is yearning for love and praise. Her ability to act as a silent star, in a movie that involves sound, is more than impressive. Gloria Swanson had been a silent actress herself, and Sunset Blvd. was a return to the screen for her, so in a way, her acting was reflecting a slice of reality. 

But Gloria Swanson is not the only reason to watch this movie, Billy Wilder directing is also praiseworthy. His camera work is crisp and smooth. His shadowy atmospheres contribute immensely to the movie’s darker themes, of greed and pride.

Another fascinating aspect of the movie is its narration. I hate films with narrators. So often they are used as a shortcut to make up for visual deficiencies. In a film, the director is supposed to show the audience an image. He is not supposed to tell them what to think about the image. The image should speak for itself. Somehow, William Holden’s narration is quite convincing, and actually adds another layer of complexity. 

Greed seems to be the central theme of the film. Each character is interested in themselves and their careers. Every action taken by a character is motivated by greed. William Holden’s character is willing to sacrifice too much for his dreams of wealth. It is also a warning against living outside of reality. Like a classic noir film, the ending is not pleasant. But the closing scene, (which I will not spoil), is one of the most fascinating and dramatic endings to a film I have ever watched. Not to mention one of the most iconic moments in cinematic history.

The Art of Interfaith Dialogue: A student reflects on her time in the Chamberlain Interfaith Dialogue.

According to Krister Stendahl, a Swedish theologian and New Testament scholar, three rules are essential to interreligious understanding: first, when one aims to learn about another religion, they should ask the adherents of that religion rather than its enemies; second, one should not compare their religion’s best to another religion’s worst; lastly, it is important to leave room for holy envy. The art of interfaith dialogue is rooted in both Stendahl’s three rules of religious understanding and sichah – the Hebrew word for “conversation.” Sichah is an opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogues that extends beyond small talk with another person. 

In taking part in the Chamberlain Interfaith Fellowship, Stendhal’s rules of interreligious understanding were enacted through sichah and relationships developed alongside students from the Jewish faith. Under the guidance of Dr. Modica and Rachel Happel, four Jewish students from Temple Beth Shalom and four Christian students from Eastern University discussed our unique faith backgrounds through the lens of justice, current events, and beyond.

Amongst the wonderful students from Temple Beth Shalom, I had the privilege of being paired with Evie to meet bimonthly. Sitting (virtually) alongside Evie, a former stranger and current friend, we utilized Krister Stendahl’s rules of interreligious understanding to delve into discussions about our different faith backgrounds. 

The art of interfaith extends into real-life importance of religious literacy within career paths. Business majors benefit from knowing how people of varying religious backgrounds lend and borrow money; nursing majors must know how people of varying religious backgrounds treat and view illness and death; youth ministry and biblical studies majors must be mindful of how to commit to sermons and dialogues that are not discriminatory towards other religious backgrounds; exercise science majors must be aware of the dietary restrictions and religious fasting periods of their athletes of varying religious backgrounds; and education majors must be cognizant of the different pedagogies that religious teachings utilize and the major holidays that students celebrate. 

Regardless of how appetizing the notion may appear, I do not believe that different religions worship the same God. However, I do believe that there is a common denominator among the major world religions: loving others. I have found celebration in that, despite many differences, the world religions unite on a message of deep love for others. I certainly experienced this neighborly love in my engagement with interfaith immersion experiences and hope that others engage with the art of interfaith dialogue.

COVID and “WnW”: A look at COVID’s effects on Wednesday Night Worship

Imagine it’s 2018, and you live in Gough. It’s approaching 11 pm, and you decide to be responsible for once and start heading to bed. As you flick the light off and crawl under your sheets, you hear booming music vibrating the very floor and walls of the building coming from downstairs. Intrigued, you trot to the lobby to find the source of it all, and you see students from all over Eastern filing into Gough Great Room. Deciding to join them, you are welcomed by students with smiling faces and warm hearts; As the worship team transitions into the next song, you raise your voice with the crowd and the evening melts away in praise of God.

That’s how it used to go, anyways. After COVID shut everything down for a long period of time, the longstanding Eastern tradition that is Wednesday night Worship (or “WnW”) had to make some adjustments. I sat down with Kaitlyn Arrow, junior and a team leader for “WnW,” to talk about the event in its current form. Kaitlyn first experienced “WnW” during a campus visit as a high-schooler, and fell in love with the people and community: “It’s something you can’t describe,” she said, “you feel safety and a hope that is hard to replicate, seeing people worship in all different ways”. Kaitlyn joined the worship team as a sophomore Fall of 2019, but COVID soon forced the university to shut down, and the event was resurrected at the start of the new school year in a more COVID-friendly form.

Holding worship outside presents a variety of challenges and drawbacks for the Wednesday Night Worship teams. Kaitlyn mentioned that there is a lot more setup/tear down than there used to be. This means that the worship team can’t devote much time to mingling with the community. Furthermore, while worshipping outside can be great, Kaitlyn said nothing beats the ambiance of the dimly-lit great room filled with students and music. When everyone is spread out on the field, worship is more impersonal and it’s much harder for students to connect with each other. She also said it was harder for a student to come by themselves. Kaitlyn encourages anyone who has questions about pre-COVID “WnW” to contact any of the seniors on staff.

The two most obvious difficulties for “WnW” are winter and the weather. Last year, when it was raining or too cold, the worship team performed to an empty Great Room and an Instagram live feed. Singing in the very room that in years past was packed with worshipping students seems like an ironic reminder of how much the Pandemic keeps people apart. This school year Eastern’s COVID restrictions are much laxer, but as winter rapidly approaches, the “WnW” team has yet to receive any official word on how they can hold the event as the temperature drops. One potential plan is to hold it in the Great Room with vastly limited attendance, but Kaitlyn is against this plan herself, saying that “WnW” has never been about turning people away. She says, at the moment, Wednesday Night Worship will happen at 9:30 pm every Wednesday “until our fingers freeze off or our equipment breaks”.

Squid Game: A look at Netflix’s new smash-hit, “Squid Game”

On September 17, 2021, Netflix’s “Squid Game” made its debut on the streaming service. Hwang Dong-hyuk’s “Squid Game” had a long journey to see the light of day, as it was initially rejected for nearly a decade until finally being greenlit by Netflix two years ago. 

“Squid Game” introduces their main protagonist, Seong Gi-Hun, who is in financial trouble with debt collectors. He is a gambler, lazy, divorced, and lives with his elderly mother struggling with health problems. To make matters worse, is his constant failures as a parent to his 10-year-old daughter, as he makes his daughter’s birthday unsatisfying. The same night after bringing his daughter back to his ex-wife’s house, he is met in a subway station by a well-dressed man. This man offers Seong the chance to play a game for money. This scene is very comical as every time Seong loses, he is then slapped by the man. Finally winning, Seong receives the cash and a card with a chance to change his life for the better. 

Thinking about the card and his financial troubles, his mother tells him that he will lose the chance to see his daughter as she moves to the United States in a year. Due to this information, Seong then calls the number in the back of the card to participate in a series of games without knowing the severe challenges he will face.

While being picked up by a mysterious man in a van late at night, Seong is knocked out by sleeping gas reaching to the games. He wakes up with a new pair of clothes in a room with other contestants. Seong notices his childhood friend, an older man with a brain tumor, and a pickpocket. At the same time, surprised by the number of people in the room, multiple men in masks walk out to introduce the games. In an uproar, the contestants are furious with being kidnapped and not knowing where they are. However, in particular, one man tells them why they are here and what measures had to be taken, as each contestant is struggling financially. 

The masked man then informs the 456 contestants that there will be six games, and if someone loses, they will be eliminated. While the players walk to the first stage, the contestants are introduced to “Red Light, Green Light.” Thinking this would be easy, contestants who failed were killed. The scene is eerie, as each player is shocked by the outcome of these games. While narrowing his safety, Seong and other players fear for their lives and want to quit knowing that half of the other members were killed. The masked men then allowed the contestants to vote to end the game or continue for the prize.

To me, “Squid Game” displayed significant character development not only in our protagonist but in our side characters. It focuses heavily on human nature as to what people would do for money and how this can damage relationships. The uneasiness of each member going through the games and outside of them makes it more challenging. Contestants lose their identities, while others grow new ones. “Squid Game” isn’t just a death parade, it is a show of character improvement.

Sources: Esquire, Collider, and Netflix