11:05:21 pm on
Monday 06 Dec 2021

Television Crazes
AJ Robinson

I haven’t seen Squid Game, yet. I admit I haven’t kept up on the latest crazes when it comes to television. I beg forgiveness for my oversight, but I feel compelled to point something out that I’ve been there and done that.

I’ve seen it all before; ho-hum.

The premise of Squid game is 456 cash-strapped players accept a strange invitation to compete in children's games. Inside, a tempting prize awaits. There are deadly high stakes though.

I know audiences rave of what’s new and original in Squid Game. It’s not unique. Now, although I admit it’s a new take, maybe, a new way of presenting the story, it has been done before. It's only unique part maybe that it's a cross pollination of the worst parts of Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four.

I’m a lifelong Trekkie, a fan of Star Trek, so I know of what I speak. I refer you to the episode “The Gamesters of Triskellion” from the classic original Star Trek. For those unfamiliar with the story, here we go: Kirk, Uhura and Chekov are taken to a planet where the population is made up of people kidnapped from dozens of races and beings from across the galaxy. Their only purpose is to fight and die for the entertainment of the so-called Providers, three powerful beings we only hear and don't see until the end.

The Providers, the kidnappers, make the argument that the people they select are of low intelligence. Therefore, it’s okay to make them fight and die in service to higher beings. A glimpse of the Roman Empire and its gladiatorial combat, perhaps.

Turns out, the Providers are self proclaimed super-intelligent mushrooms, at least that’s how they appear. Although intelligent, they’re not smart. They have great powers, virtual immortality, although that’s not explicitly state, but they’re bored.

So, they abduct people from various planets. The Providers bring them to their world, train them to fight and then pit them against each other in essentially gladiatorial games to the death. The Providers gamble on the outcomes.

Sound familiar?

From what I’ve read of Squid Game, that’s the premise: a bunch of rich bored fellows having people compete in games where death is the usual outcome. To the Providers, competitors are poor and desperate, unworthy of being considered fully human and their worth is a function of their usefulness to their superiors; that is, to die. The organizers are rich, which, in modern society, makes them good, virtuous and always right on every matter; success is everything.

This is reminiscent of some of our resident billionaires. I won’t name any names, such as Bezos, Musk or Branson. Put it this way: they’ve spent a fortune just to take a short ride, of say twenty minutes, into space. The common thread is such people have too much money, too much time on their hands and too little conscience.

I remember how the Star Trek episode ends. Kirk battles three combatants to the death; he wins and doesn’t merely gain freedom for himself and his crew. The other Thrall, as the non-Providers are called, are also set free, with a very special stipulation.

The Providers must educate their former slaves. They must help them build a working society. As Kirk says, “They probably find it much more interesting and rewarding than their gaming and gambling.”

That’s what rings in my mind every time I hear of some billionaire blowing millions on, well, essentially nothing. Think of it. A billionaire could spend one million dollars a month for the rest of their life and still leave a multimillion-dollar estate.

I think of what I would do with even a portion of their wealth. Right here in Orlando there are homeless shelters, food banks, women’s shelters, children in foster care and so on. To be able to make an anonymous donation of even a few dollars to any one of them or to drive up to a food bank with a truck filled with needed items would be so much more rewarding than taking a short spin in a suborbital flight.

Did Shatner cross Kirk?

I have to say, I find much irony in the fact William Shatner, good old Captain Kirk, took one of those pointless, lets-play-human-space-invaders trips. Seems to me, he needs to review his previous performances and maybe tell the rich folk what they should do with their wealth. As Captain Kirk so eloquently put it: they’d probably find it much more interesting and rewarding.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Working, again, as an engineeer, after years out of the field due to 2009 recession and slow recovery, Robinson finds time to write. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true. His teen vampire adventure novel, "Vampire Vendetta," will publish in 2020. Robinson continues to write books, screenplays and teleplays and keeps hoping for that big break.

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