The Global Village and Its Others

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Squid Game
Marshall Mcluhan
Global Village
Media Economy
Libidinal Economy

How to Cite

Stekl, M. (2022). The Global Village and Its Others. Galactica Media: Journal of Media Studies, 4(4), 17-29.


This paper opens a dialogue between Marshall McLuhan and Squid Game, the hit 2021 Netflix series. I argue that Squid Game both exposes and reproduces the repressed libidinal economy that underwrites media studies’ understandings of political economy and of the global circulation of media. Many media theorists after McLuhan have extended his “global village” thesis, according to which globalization has birthed a nascent universal consciousness. What are we to make, then, of McLuhan’s affirmation that “it is no longer possible to adopt the aloof and dissociated role of the literate Westerner” when, roughly six decades later, “we” in the West are witnessing a decidedly “aloof and dissociated” VIP audience spectate, alongside us, the suffering of South Korean subalterns (4)? My paper critically questions McLuhan’s “global village” by reflecting on the contradictions inherent in Squid Game’s anti-capitalist desire to expose the suffering of subaltern masses for the pleasure of bourgeois voyeurs, given that the show’s own audience is composed of many such Western bourgeois voyeurs. If “we,” like “Gganbu” in Squid Game, seek pleasure and above all fun as we consume the violent objectification of the Other, perhaps the “global village” is not so peaceful after all. After considering how the show may be read both through and against McLuhan’s analysis of violent “retribalization” in “our” (post)modern electric age, I conclude that the political economy of the global village runs on a hidden structure of desire that only produces an elite few (VIPs) as full human subjects by brutally reducing subaltern masses to objects. It is this libidinal economy that Squid Game forcefully brings into view, so forcefully that its own mass appeal may feed the violent desires of Netflix audiences rather than vanquish them. The question, ultimately, will be: can subaltern media(lity) speak?


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