Netflix’s Squid Game is the newest TV sensation domestically and overseas.
The Korean-language show is a fresh take on the subgenre of cutthroat contests previously popularized by films such as Battle Royale and The Hunger Games films. The plot centers around people being recruited by a mysterious organization for a macabre contest whose cash prize is a life-changing sum for its financially destitute contestants.
The 456 individuals must complete a series of schoolyard games, but the catch is that if you lose, you die. However, what sets the premise apart from other stories like it is the fact that, after an initial introduction to the game, its characters willfully participate in the proceedings, knowing full well the stakes involved.
With its subtly crafted thematic elements commenting on the arbitrariness of socioeconomic stratification, the dialogue is an important aspect of communicating those ideas. Now, TikTok user Youngami Mayer, who is fluent in Korean, has called out the Netflix show’s subtitles for its translation being lacking and completely altering the original meaning, according to HypeBeast.
For example, one character’s piece of dialogue was translated as “I’m not a genius, but I still got it worked out.” However, the correct translation more closely resembles “I am very smart, I just never got a chance to study,” something Mayer said is a trope in Korean culture that is a commentary on the limits of being able to rise above the class into which one was born. This is a key bit of character development for Han Mi-Nyeo, played by Kim Joo-Ryung, as the character is a looked-down-upon gangster type, Mayer said.
“Almost everything she says is being botched translation-wise… the writers, all they want you to know about her is that. Seems so small, but it’s the entire character’s purpose of being in the f***ing show.”
There’s a ton of other examples too, which you can view more of on Mayer’s TikTok and Tweets below:
Mayer went on to say that the mistranslation speaks to the poor pay and working conditions of translators in general.
You can watch Squid Game right now on Netflix.