Squid Game: Do Nice Guys Finish Last?
The hit Netflix series Squid Game tells the story of Seong Gi-hun a gambler, drowing in debt, and trying his best to be something of a father for his daughter. A chance encounter with a chic recruiter, opens up an opportunity to play childhood games (squid games) and make millions of dollars in the process. The only cost is death (if you lose).
Now the series according to the Hollywood Reporter is “…currently sitting atop Netflix’s list of most watched shows in 94 countries around the globe. But even more astounding: Netflix says Squid Game will soon become its most viewed piece of content, in any language, ever.”
Though the series is quite violent (gratuitously actually), I did find a lesson for myself that does apply much to my own life and the spiritual life in general. It relates to the euphemism that “nice guys (or gals) finish last.” Meaning, it doesn’t pay to be a good person in this life. I think the series begs to differ.
To prove my point we could look at the final scene where our main character Seong Gi-hun is sitting across the bed from the chief organizer of the squid games. The mastermind however is dying and spends his last moments conversing with the protagonist about life and human nature. They both see a homeless person outside the window who is caught up in the cold winter night. The antagonist makes a bet: I bet you no one will come and help that homeless person before 12pm. Seong Gi-hun, a believer in the goodness of human nature, believes someone will come along to help.
This same conversation and this same scene is played out in numerous scenarios throughout the series. We see betrayals, callous acts of indifference and downright acts of murder as characters seek to one up the other. Except in our main character – for the most part.
Seong Gi-hun seems to have had a good heart right from the start. Indeed, in one final climactic scene, the main character is willing to give away all the money, all the sacrifices he has made up that point, to simply keep his friend alive. This same friend, who tried on multiple occasions to take the life of the main character. Seong Gi-hun is willing to lose everything and walk away rather than legitimately (or illegitimately) take life.
Indeed, it is said often today that nice guys do finish last. I think the phrase is incorrect. Perhaps weakness, indecision, and a flimsy character are really what put us in last place. But goodness is fundamentally strong. It is stable, it perseveres, and it lasts, in spite of everything that the shadows may throw at it. In the end, the homeless person is helped by a kind stranger. Our main character walks away with a new life and a new purpose.
In the race of life, the most important thing I would argue is to last. To remain the course. To remain true one’s morals, one’s character, and one’s ideals in all the games we come across in our lives. Nice guys then may finish last, and as Squid Games shows very well, this is not such a bad thing.