Among the little princesses, Spider-Men, and Addison Raes that will dot playgrounds during recess before Halloween this weekend, you will not find the signature track suits and white slip-on Vans that have come to be associated with the hit Netflix series Squid Game — at least at some schools. Three elementary schools that are part of the Fayetteville-Manlius School District near Syracuse, New York, have banned all costumes related to the Korean survival drama due to “the potential violent message aligned” with the outfits, WSTM reports.
To be fair, Squid Game — a show in which poor, indebted people compete against each other in a series of life-or-death trials inspired by children’s games — is very violent. It is so bloody, brutal, and gruesome that I, a grown-up blogger and TV enthusiast, had to avert my eyes from the television screen at times, although to be even fairer, I’m a huge wuss whose threshold of fear-adjacent palpitations lies somewhere around the level of Jordan Peele’s Get Out, which I’m told is not even an especially violent movie compared to others in its genre.
But it does strike me as a little weird that Squid Game is being singled out here, with discussion and play related to the show also banned by these schools and others. Were students ever barred from donning the garb of Game of Thrones characters? What about the diagonal Dutch braid of The Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen?
In a statement to the Washington Post, the Fayetteville-Manlius School District superintendent justified the decision to outlaw Squid Game, saying students had apparently been seen imitating certain aspects of the show, although it was unclear whether those aspects included the games themselves, the backstabbing, or the coming to terms with what survival in a cutthroat system of haves and have-nots entails.
“The level of violence is horrifying — more than most shows,” David Anderson, the head of School and Community Programs at the Child Mind Institute, said in a recent blog post on the organization’s website. “It’s a murder fest with the premise that out of over 400 participants, there can only be one survivor … It’s people who are desperate competing to the death for the amusement of the ultra rich.”
Yeah, duh. That’s the whole point of the show. Maybe instead of wasting time making up rules about how juveniles aren’t allowed to wear track suits and numbered T-shirts for Halloween, these experts should be teaching kids film and TV analysis instead. That way they can be equipped for their futures in the real-life cutthroat dystopia of online content production.