*****SPOILERS INBOUND FOR SQUID GAME!****
For anyone who’s been enjoying life outside the confines of a rock’s underside for the past month, it’s well known that Netflix’s Squid Game is the biggest Netflix show ever, reaching over 111 million viewers! The hit Korean show about a twisted organisation pitting poor people against each other in deadly children’s games has swept the globe. However, as renowned and celebrated as the show is, it is not completely without its faults.
While the story, structure, set design, and sheer brilliance of its sickening concept have received praise from fans far and wide, all aspects of the fandom are almost unanimously united in their criticisms of the acting for the VIP characters.
Towards the final episodes of the show, the VIPs are introduced as mysterious masked rich Westerners who have paid a pretty penny to get a front-row seat to the unfurling chaos. The wealthy Americans are the only characters in the show to speak exclusively in English, however, their dialogue and performances were arguably worse than that of a Sega CD game.
Whether it be being compared to the brilliant Korean cast or other English-speaking actors in Western media, almost everyone has labelled the performances as sub-par at best and feeling just strangely…off. Well, it turns out there may actually be a reason for that, and no, it’s not just down to shoddy acting.
John D Michaels, who played VIP One, was recently interviewed by The Guardian, where he explains why the English acting comes across so strangely.
It’s different for every show, but non-Korean performers often act with dialogue that is translated by a non-native – sometimes even by Google Translate – so it can sound unnatural.
We were all wearing very heavy plaster masks, and sitting on couches that were at least 20-30ft away from the closest VIP.John D Michaels (Interview with The Guardian)
We all had to yell our lines vaguely into the air, which added to the weird tonality of the delivery.
In the interview he goes on to elaborate that the actors were given no context for their roles; being told that they were simply playing “dirtbag millionaires” and “total idiots”, which made it difficult for the actors to fully assess how they should compose themselves.
Michaels goes on to state how these issues are further complicated by editing processes; as a Korean editor may not be familiar with which take is best to use with an English scene. It’s also worth noting how heightened a lot of Korean drama is compared to Western drama; something that Western audiences may not pick up on if they don’t speak Korean themselves. Hence the cartoonish nature of the Korean actors’ delivery is lost in translation, whereas the English VIP scenes come across as weirdly stinted.
This is not the only issue Squid Game has had in terms of translation, with many sources reporting numerous inaccuracies in the English subtitles, with lots of character detail and nuance being completely lost in translation.
However, in spite of these issues, it certainly hasn’t stopped Squid Game‘s success, as it is now worth $900 million to Netflix; something that’s sure to be a blow to all the Korean TV channels who apparently rejected the idea for over 10 years.
It’s unknown if a second series is to come, but with the massive success of the first, it won’t be surprising if we hear news of a sequel season being in production soon.
Did you like Squid Game? Did you notice the translation issues? Are there any other foreign series that have had similar issues with English translation? Let us know in the comments!