'Squid Game'—find out why the world can't escape its tentacle grasp

Netflix's newest phenomenon: Squid Game

"Squid Game" is the mega hit Korean thriller about playground antics and violent deaths that's blowing up on Netflix. Heard of it? I'm sure you have. And even if you haven't, odds are you've seen memes of it floating around the internet.

This disturbing, gruesome, funny and nostalgic streaming sensation has ignited a ton of online buzz, not least of which being the lawsuit brought to Netflix by a South Korean internet provider over an astronomical surge in traffic. The show has even generated some halloween costume ideas with which to traumatize the neighborhood. And, perhaps most terrifying of all, there's viral "Squid doll" sightings.

So what exactly is "Squid Game"? The show centers around people facing financial ruin, who are given the "opportunity" to make the equivalent of $39 million American dollars. All they need to do is win a series of simple, childlike challenges. The only catch is, if they lose, they die.

Without giving too much away, this is what makes the show truly scary: that people already in dire situations are targeted for their desperation, and pit against one another in meaningless, downright silly "games," and yet beating out the opponent really is a matter of life or death. "Squid Game" in essence is about the "contests" we agree to as part of competition culture and how it forces us to quite literally risk our lives for the sake of money.


This is what we love about the horror genre. It takes actual societal nightmares, like the hopelessness and utter unfairness of wealth disparity, and turns them into glaring metaphors that no matter how hard you try, you just can't look away from. Korean cinema simply has America beat in this territory. We see this not only in "Squid Game," but in the multi award-winning "Parasite," another Korean film that explores similar themes. Their relatable-rather-than-attractive-but-otherwise-dim characters, gripping and relevant story concepts and blending of comedic dialogue with horrific imagery brings audiences into a visceral and emotionally impactful experience in a way the American formula just can't. Or won't.

"Squid Game" takes things one step further than "Parasite." Rather than one singular film, the show offers multiple episodes full of intense cliffhangers, daring viewers to make just one more click. That, and the added intoxicating appeal of recruiting friends to join in on the shared disturbance, is partially why it has become more of a word-of-mouth phenomenon than its film predecessor. After all, what could be more fun than saying to a loved one, "This gave me nightmares. Watch it and tell me what you think."

The show debuted on Sept. 17, and is already about to beat "Bridgerton" as Netflix's biggest original series of all time. That's right, not even the almighty Shonda Rhimes can outswim "Squid Game." Which completely backs my theory that people will choose stories about dystopian murder games over frilly romance any day. Now if only we could find a way to combine the genres. Jane Austen Meets Battle Royale, anyone?

The show is so popular, in fact, that there has been a real-life victim of the Squid Game. Whoa, whoa, whoa. Settle down. No one has died (yet). There is, however, a man getting barraged with up to 4,000 unwanted phone calls a day.

For context: In the first episode of "Squid Game," a mysterious man gives mysterious business cards with a mysterious phone number on it. (Did I mention this show is mysterious?)

People began calling the number out of curiosity, only to find out that it belonged to a real person. The man on the receiving end of the phone calls had not yet seen "Squid Game," and thought he was being pranked. The good news is, he might make a large sum of money off of it, as a Korean politician is offering $85,000 to purchase the number for himself. This man with the seemingly unlucky phone number might get a fortune overnight. Pretty aligned with the show's central themes, if you ask me.

With so much amazing press surrounding it, you'd think we'd be seeing headlines about a season 2. Well, so far there are no plans for that. Regardless, "Squid Game" is a perfect example of what surprises can happen by adding story diversity into our streaming platforms. Clearly, people want shows that are hard-hitting, exciting and make the world seem a little larger, even if the world also feels a bit horrifying.

Watch it, if you dare. But be warned, you might never look at "red light, green light" quite the same way again.

Courtesy of Elaine Ahn

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Due to a perfect storm of supply chain issues, product recalls, labor shortages and inflation, manufacturers are struggling to keep up with formula demand and retailers are rationing supplies. As a result, families that rely on formula are scrambling to ensure that their babies get the food they need.

Naturally, people are weighing in on the crisis, with some throwing out simplistic advice like, "Why don't you just do what people did before baby formula was invented and just breastfeed?"

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Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

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Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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Your cat knows you better than you think.

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However, a new study out of Japan has found that cats may be paying more attention to their fellow felines and human friends than most people thought. In fact, they could be listening to human conversations.

"What we discovered is astonishing," Saho Takagi, a research fellow specializing in animal science at Azabu University in Kanagawa Prefecture, told The Asahi Shimbun. "I want people to know the truth. Felines do not appear to listen to people's conversations, but as a matter of fact, they do."

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