The mega-hit Netflix series, Squid Game, has led to hundreds of parody and response videos on YouTube and TikTok. For instance, one of the most popular parody videos, "$456,000 Squid Game in Real Life!" created by MrBeast, boasts 284,602,590 views and 14 million likes on YouTube as of August 22, 2022. In addition to pure imitations like Mr. Beast's, radical adaptations applying any storyline or motif of the original show also circulate in on/offline fandom. Indeed, Squid Game spread across the world quickly due to its relatable, universal theme, the entertaining visual and kinetic factors that guide its consumption and its pacing, and its presence on a (mostly) globally accessible online streaming service. Accordingly, Squid Game parody videos attract millions of YouTube viewers by engaging with these popular characteristics, causing  scenes of their own in social media environments.

In this essay, I explore how user-created Squid Game parody texts on YouTube and the comments they generate reflect international fans' engagement with transcultural receptions of Squid Game. International fans are amorphous and diverse,naming or not naming their nationalities, ethnicities, races, and gender identities when they engage in transcultural fandom activities. I use "international fans" rather than "global fans," because the latter implies homogeneous consumers who reflect the expanding global media's market strategies, while the former tends to express the multidimensional dynamics of transcultural fandom by implying heterogenous and connected fan identities. Each parody video reveals a fan's intervention, making a transcultural context and creating "contact zones" through which variously-situated fans encounter different cultures.1 By offering close readings of fan-made parody videos and analyzing comments on YouTube, this essay explores how international Korean drama fans create virtual spaces to express and also negotiate multiple transcultural fan appropriations. This essay also pays attention to the subversive potential of some fan-made parody videos compared to the Netflix version of Squid Game by focusing on fans' appropriative power dynamics within the dominant media platform of YouTube.    

Parody is one of the most common fan engagements with mainstream media content on social media platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok. YouTube is one of the most accessible and commonly used platforms by global audiences and fans regardless of age, gender, or religious identity.2 YouTube's universal accessibility allows countless users to create parody videos or leave comments daily. Parody can be an essential technique for the public to recreate significant works according to their own intentions and tastes.3 Media and cultural studies scholars, who highly value fans and audiences, have theorized "active audiences"4 by focusing on their "participatory culture" and meaning-making processes.5 Reception studies notably promoted fandom culture, focusing on everyday practices that use dominant media resources. There has been a lengthy debate on how we can evaluate audiences and fans in terms of their political agency, especially as related to socioeconomic structural power systems and technological policies.6

Fan appropriations and resistance are freely expressed in the name of parodies. Just as literary parodists reveal their respect for the original author through an imitation of the form and genre, fans who parody popular culture products or TV dramas intensively reproduce signature scenes. For Squid Game, it is the episode "Red Light, Green Light." Whether they adopt one of the similar settings, attires, sound, and background music pieces of the original series, most of the parodies twist the scenes of "Red Light, Green Light." The original game, named in Korean "The Roses of Sharon have Blossomed," is a traditional children's game that has been widely enjoyed on the Korean peninsula since colonial times. The show's players were shocked by the sudden execution because the children's play, "The Roses of Sharon have Blossomed," has nothing to do with the death penalty. The players' shock is intensely conveyed  to global audiences, who see the visual effects emphasized by the show's grotesque setting of the game. As soon as the innocent Young-hee doll blinked her eyes and captured the movement of the game participants, all international fans could be as horrified as the players on the show. The world of innocent children was transformed into the world of ruthless execution sites.

To study Squid Game's transcultural parody videos, I purposively sampled five popular YouTube videos produced in English, each with more than 1,000 views and more than 1,000 subscribers as of August 2022.7 Following their subscribing numbers, the list of the five YouTubers is loveliveserve (7.96M subscribers, 664,118 views), RDCworld1 (6.11M subscribers, 13,657,679 views), Dtay Known (2.55M subscribers, 11,349,161 views), Baroness Von Something (18K subscribers, 50,010 views) and Trenyce (1.25K subscribers, 20,790 views).

Black YouTuber RDCworld1's parody, "If Black People were in Squid Game," ignited heated online discussion about the racially differentiated reception of Squid Game.8 When the soldier wearing a square-shaped helmet announced, "The third game will be basketball," Black participants exclaimed joyfully, while three white contestants and one Asian contestant expressed despair. The camera zoomed in on the Black participants lacing their basketball sneakers and warming up for the game, while White participants complained about unfairness. Stereotypical images of Black people who are good at basketball and ready to play the game at any time are comically and triumphantly depicted in RDCworld1's video. The unfairness of the capitalist society's economic conditions is transformed into racial difference in this Black parody version. Once given suitable game genres and rules, Black people win the game without desperate effort. In RDCword1's textual universe, Black participants enjoy survival basketball as they play daily games in the streets and parks.

RDCworld1's video received explosive viewing numbers and over 18,000 comments as of August 2022, reflecting international fans' racial consciousness. Several comments received more than 1,000 likes and brought about hundreds of responses. For instance, when one user, whose profile picture is of a Black man, commented, "Congratulations on completing this round. The next round will be swimming," hundreds of fans expressed their feelings, thoughts, and perspectives toward the comment. In the comments and replies, some Black fans argue that even swimming will benefit Black competitors and other fans claim that Black people are not good at swimming compared to other sports. The user's root comment is a stereotypical racial joke, but the responses toward this joke show a diverse spectrum of fan engagement. Most respondents enjoyed the racial joke through laughing emoticons or recreating similar versions of the joke, such as "The third game will be Ice Hockey." Still, some hesitated between joining in the vicious humor or being intimidated by the racial joke. Comments like "Can it be this a joke?" or "Isn't it perpetuating Black stereotypes?" illustrate that there are fans who cannot join in the expressed humor.

RDCworld1's "If Black People were in Squid Game" led to similar racial parodies such as "If Black People Hosted Squid Game"9 or "If White People were in Squid Game,"10 revealing Black fans' racialized engagement with Squid Game. In these parody videos, traditional Korean games are changed into racially specific ones such as basketball, the cupid shuffle,  and dancing to Black music.11 Interestingly, even parody videos that include "white people" in the title, such as "If White People were in Squid Game," still feature competitions that putatively favor Black people. For instance, white participants in "If White People were in Squid Game" two white contestants, including one played by a Black participant in a blonde wig, cannot dance to music such as "Teach Me How to Dougie" or "Hit the Quan," cannot answer pop culture questions to find out a Black musician's full name, and cannot answer the last game question, "Name the three Civil Rights leaders. These cannot be Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Rosa Parks." Black or multi-racial YouTubers mostly create these parodies and parodic spin-offs. Survival games, the main structure of Squid Game, lend themselves well to racial provocation, particularly for Black fans.

 Another Black Youtuber, Dtay Known, released six parody videos, including "Trailer."12 Dtay Known intentionally names his videos "Squid Game Parody - Season 2" to draw Squid Game fans who anticipate season 2. Dtay Known's parody in "Squid Game Parody - Season 2 | Ep.1 '' does not change the games of the original show, unlike RDCworld1's parody. It reproduces the signature stories and the method of the games. However, Dtay's parody maintains a tone of humorously mocking and teasing the original, partially by shifting the cultural basis of the humor. In the "Green Light Red Light" game scene, the Young-hee doll appears as Dtay's mother in a shower gown and a cap echoing the parody's opening scene, where she threatens to discipline him for not doing his chores punishing the losers with a leather belt and slippers, just as Dtay imagines her doing throughout the earlier portions of the video. As soon as the audiences see Dtay's video, they anticipate that his mother will eventually punish her grown-up kid, the main character of the parody video, with leather belts and slippers, and extending this to numerous contestants heightens the humor. Comedy elements such as slapstick, Black people with wigs, and Black slang (regardless of race) are the characteristics of Dtay's parody. A participant in the "Red Light, Green Light" game, a Black male actor playing a role as a female contestant  (signified by name and wig), suddenly starts to complain during the game that she cannot follow the Black mother's rules. The character refutes the game's absurd logic, arguing that the only person she can obey is Jesus Christ, but after her lengthy harangue, a slipper mercilessly executes her. Most comments about Dtay's video expressed how funny the parody series is or how much they anticipate season two of the original Squid Game. Some comments compare their own parody videos with Dtay's in terms of acting, storyline, or humor.

Both RDCworld1's and Dtay Known's parody videos reflect the Black reception of Squid Game by recreating racially distinctive games or emphasizing typified images of Black people. These Black parodies foreground racial stereotypes as humor codes while conversely revealing unbalanced representations of Black people in the mainstream media. Many international fans embraced typified Black images in these parodies as enjoyable humor. Still, some of them raise questions about whether such Black parodies reinforce the represented stereotypical images of Black people. At the same time, most international fans do not reveal their racial identities while engaging in online communications, particularly when responding to YouTube videos with comments.

Whether stereotypical humor can paradoxically subvert stereotypes has been a question among scholars who study Black humor and minstrelsy in literary texts and art forms.13 On the surface, stereotypical humor depicting Black people tends to fix Black images. On the other hand, the subversive humor code arises from yet often critically engages with stereotypical Black representations, bringing about ambivalent effects. This Black humor allows Black people to reconfirm their racial identities while laughing along with others in their community, offering a complicated response to stereotypes as a basis for making jokes. Some fans who identify as Black in their comments reveal this kind of ambivalent reaction, saying, "As a black person, I feel liberated as well as uncomfortable." This humor also makes non-Black fans laugh at the racial stereotypes or laugh with other non-Black fans, adding yet another uncomfortable wrinkle to the problem. At the same time, both Black and Non-Black fans realize how racial stereotypes are prevalent while laughing at the ridiculousness of the continued racial stereotypes. Seemingly non-Black fans' comments like "I need to see this with different games for different races," or "Since we're having fun with stereotypes, it would have been hilarious if they announced the next round was a math competition against Asians," or "Remember that Squid Game is supposed to be FAIR for all contestants," illuminate the prevalence of racial stereotypes. In this sense, Black parody videos of Squid Game skillfully delineate racial stereotypes while attacking the continued media currency of these stereotypes. International fans who laugh at the typified racial images also self-consciously laugh at themselves, who have contributed to the reification of those images. 

Among the endless parody videos of Squid Game, some animated music video responses reveal a queer subculture of international fans. Reflecting respondents' wishes for an alternative interpretation, the YouTube fan creators often depict Ji-yeong and Sae-byeok relaxing together on Jeju Island. Trenyce's anime music video, titled "Sae byeok & Ji yeong/ Squid Game AMV <The Blue Night of Jeju Island> (SPOILERS),"14 narrates an imagined happy ending: the two women go to Jeju Island together after winning the game. The cover song, "The Blue Night of Jeju Island," is a Jeju Island-themed Korean ballad and is closer to fan-fiction tha parody, making the two women's lives in Jeju peaceful and heavenly an important part of the video, given its reminder that the two women died during the games. Baroness Von Something's compilation of fan art into an animated music video invites the audiences of the compilation to co-construct narratives related to their queer imaginations by sharing prismatic ideas of different counternarratives and romantic arcs.15 This video is constructed with many other LGBTQ fans' animation pieces. Also, LGBTQ fans participate in creating narratives through comments such as "They'll jump off of the clouds in heaven and fly right down to Jeju Island drinking mojito[s] together all day long" or "They'll be seeing each other in heaven," suggesting that once these LGBTQ fans find spaces, they are ready to share their imaginations and connect to each other. They discuss the desirable stories of Ji-yeong and Sae-byeok in particular by putting them on Jeju Island or making them a married couple.

On the textual level, the two women, Ji-yeong and Sae-byeok, share their life histories during the tense survival marble game, unlike the other contestants desperately trying to deceive their partners. Even if unbearable life conditions led these two women to the survival game, Ji-yeong made an ethical choice to yield the game for Sae-byeok, and they spent the last time sharing their tragic life and unattainable hopes. Fans encounter a unique bond between the two women; they want to create specific meanings that the original episode could not explicitly deliver. International fans, especially LGBTQ fans, who could not make their voices heard under the heteronormative fandom environment, invite each other through videos and comments to project sexual desires onto the animated characters and imaginative subtexts.

Importantly, the animated music videos do not recreate the signature scene of "Red Light Green Light." Even if "Red Light Green Light" is one of the most common traditional Korean children's games, it has a disciplinary structure that reflects the brutal logic of survival of the fittest in capitalism. Instead of recreating endless game scenes, animated videos focus on alternative narratives, mainly depicting "what if" narratives such as "what if Ji-yeoung and Sae-byeok were the final winners of the game?" or "what if they were married and created a happy family?" These videos trigger LGBTQ international fans' imaginations and make them engage in creating similar subtexts and fan art.  

Affective responses to these animated music videos suggest that once LGBTQ international fans find spaces to express their interests, they collaborate and co-construct their marginalized but visible agencies by sharing similar stories and fan art. For instance, comments like "They won the final game together and went on the honeymoon to Jeju Island," or "That sounds fantastic but don't forget Sae-byeok's brother. They built a beautiful home in Jeju Island and have lived an ever-happy life with Sae-byeok's younger brother," illustrate LGBTQ fans continuously adding alternative endings that focus on these two women characters. They also share information about the fan art drawn by themselves or other LGBTQ fans. Alternative happy endings and additional storylines are ways of realizing these LGBTQ international fans' queering desires in counter-hegemonic, collaborative ways. Describing the two women's romantic relationship and honeymoon on Jeju Island is a utopian imagination that these fans cannot express in most heteronormative fandom environments; thus, the videos form supportive and voluntary spaces of participation and connection. 

Overall, parody videos of Squid Game and comments by international fans reveal transcultural fan appropriation and resistance. Not all pop culture phenomena bring about such adaptations. The disciplinary logic of survival games on display in Squid Game is critical to racially underrepresented audiences. Racial parodies tend to gravitate toward a disciplinary structure by changing the game rules, while queer responses adopt a "what if" structure and create alternative endings. These different adaptations imply that the violent logic of survival games reflects contested social hierarchies, including racial hierarchies. Yet, fluid gender differences require another logic, especially of futurity, as they do not fit well within a disciplinary structure. 

These popular parody videos and animated fan-art engagements illustrate how international fans make sense of globally circulated drama content by appropriating themes and characters, making continued self-referential and cultural connections. For YouTube creators, transcultural appropriations are practiced through contextualization within their local culture.Multi-ethnic international fans' engagement with online discussions suggests international fan communities have the appropriative power to twist original themes, characters, settings, or tones to realize their own "popular cultural capital" in the uneven hybridity a blend of receptions, tasted, and desires of online fandom.16 In this sense, Squid Game becomes multiple texts, "Squid Games" that emerge through fans' wildly creative parodies and responses.

Acknowledgments: I want to thank the editor of this special forum, Yin Yuan, who provided invaluable comments and feedback on earlier drafts of this essay.

Young A. Jung is Assistant Professor of Korean at George Mason University, teaching modern Korean literature and Korean popular culture. She is completing a book manuscript with the provisional title Emplacing Mothering: An Ethnography of Placemaking and Belonging among Korean Kirogi Families.


  1. Lori Morimoto, "Transcultural Fan Studies as Methodology," in A Fan Studies Primer: Method, Research, Ethics edited by P. Booth & R. Williams (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2021), 52.[]
  2. Jean Burgess and Joshua Green, YouTube (Cambridge, UK, and Medford, MA: Polity Press, 2018). See Michael Strangelove's Watching YouTube: Extraordinary Videos by Ordinary People (University of Toronto Press, 2010) for YouTube's function as a "social space."[]
  3. Henry Jenkins, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide (New York and London: New York University Press, 2006).[]
  4. Ien Ang, Living Room Ward: Rethinking Media Audiences for a Postmodern World (New York: Routledge, 1996), 9. []
  5. Henry Jenkins, Textual Poachers: Television Fans & Participatory Culture (New York, NY: Routledge, 1992) and Convergence Culture.[]
  6. See Golding, P & Murdock, G., "Culture, Communication, and Political Economy," in Mass Media and Society edited by J. Curran & M. Gurevitch (London and New York: Edward Arnold, 1991), McGuigan, J., Cultural Populism (London: Routledge, 1992), and Morris, M., "Banality in Cultural Studies," Block, 14 (1988): 15-25; reprinted in Logics of Television: Essays in Cultural Criticism edited by P. Mellencamp (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990).[]
  7. Purposive sampling is a non-probabilistic, non-randomized method of gathering data.[]
  8. RDCworld1, "If Black People were in Squid Game," August 24, 2022.[]
  9. Cilvanis, "If Black People Hosted Squid Games," October 13, 2022. Cilvanis's version also adopts racially stereotypical humor by using "Cupid Shuffle" for the game and "free child support for life" for reward. []
  10. loveliveserve, "If White People were in Squid Game," October 13, 2022.[]
  11. Invented in 2007 by Louisiana singer and songwriter Bryson Bernard, following his stage name, Cupid Shuffle became one of the representative Black line dance singles.[]
  12. Dtay Known's Squid Game parody video series consists of the trailer, episodes 1, 2, 3, finale, and afterparty. The most viewed one is Episode 1. Dtay Known, "Squid Game Parody-Season 2, Episode 1," March 14, 2022.[]
  13. See Juliette Bowles, "Stereotypes Subverted" International Review of African American Art 15, no. 2; Mark K. Burns, "A Slave in Form but Not in Fact: Subversive Humor and the Rhetoric of Irony in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass" Studies in American Humor 3, no. 12; and Glenda R. Carpio, Laughing Fit to Kill: Black Humor in the Fictions of Slavery (New York: Oxford University of Press, 2008).[]
  14. Trenyce, "Sae byeok & Ji yeong/ Squid Game AMV <The Blue Night of Jeju Island> (SPOILERS)," September 28, 2022.[]
  15. Baroness Von Something, "Sae Byeok/67 X Ji Yeong/240 (Squid Game) Song: Without Me By Halsey," September 28, 2022.[]
  16. John Fiske, "Cultural Economy of Fandom," in The Adoring Audience: Fan Culture and Popular Media edited by Lisa A. Lewis (London: Routledge, 1992).[]