Critically acclaimed and veteran Hollywood director Steven Spielberg is being criticized for his remarks in regard to the cast of Squid Games, whom he referred to as “unknown people” while at a panel as one of the nominees for the PGA Awards. When the topic of casting film stars in movies or series came, Steven Spielberg commended Netflix’s hit show Squid Game for pioneering a change which streaming services are now adopting when it comes to casting. He expressed that streaming platforms are paving the way to cast unknown actors in leading roles, “Squid Games comes along and changes the math entirely for all of us.”
As per the filmmaker, earlier casting was concerned with putting bankable actors in leading roles, however, now the “star system” has changed. Spielberg added that although he thinks big names are needed for projects, he is optimistic that streaming platforms will let the directors cast unknown actors, “A long time ago it was domestic stars that brought the audience into movies. Today, it’s interesting, unknown people who can star in entire miniseries, can be in movies.”
His comments attracted anger from netizens online, who view it as patronizing and prejudiced. Squid Game’s actors were already popular long before they were cast in the top Netflix series. In fact Lee Jung Jae, who is the main character in the series, is a remarkable personality in the Korean entertainment industry and has a successful career which spans about thirty years. Similarly, HoYeon Jung, another actor in Squid Game, used to be model. But a few netizens have come to the defense of Spielberg saying his statements were misconstrued and argued that he was talking about actors with whom American viewers are not familiar with and he didn’t meant unknown generally.
This is not the first time for the cast of Squid Game to be the targets of condescending and patronizing behavior from Western figures and journalists. During a special screening of the K-Drama in California, Lee Jung Jae was asked by a reporter whether starring in the series has been the biggest change in his life, “I’m sure you can’t leave the house anymore without people recognizing you. What has been the biggest life change for you since the series came out?” Both Jae and Yeon have been commended for dealing with questions on their popularity with professionalism and grace. After the cast won at the 28th Screen Actors Guild Awards with Lee Jung and HoYeon winning best actors Male and Female categories, they were asked, “Now that you’re SAG winners, what are you going to miss the most about being anonymous?”
There is no absolutely no doubt that Spielberg was not patronizing when praising the cast and the show but just like the journalists’ questions, he could have expressed his remarks better.