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Squid Game Masks, Explained

MovieWeb 12/2/2022 Sarah Kepins
© Provided by MovieWeb

This article contains spoilers for Squid Game.Last year on September 17th, Netflix’s survival/mystery/thriller series Squid Game hit the streaming service and took the world by storm, making history with its Emmy wins. The show follows the lives of indebted participants or 'contestants' as they compete in a series of games in an attempt to win billions of dollars. Sounds fun, right? The only catch is if any of the participants fail in any of the contests, they are killed as a result of the game or by guards wearing strange uniforms. Despite being a Korean show, Squid Game was an instant hit in America and everywhere else, becoming one of the most-watched Netflix originals ever and was quickly renewed for a second season.

In addition to being shocking, haunting, and disturbing to watch, there is a dark mystery that is slowly unraveling. We got some answers at the end of season one, but fans are still hoping for more. As is the case with any popular show, fan theories are rampant online, especially when it comes to the show’s symbolism, specifically, the meaning behind the masks and the people who wear them.

The Front Man

Like any organization, Squid Game has a mastermind behind it. That title belongs to Oh Il-nam, or 001, who does not wear a mask but “masks” his true nature by posing as a willing participant in the games. Elderly and well past his prime, none of the other contestants look twice at 001 or even remotely consider him a threat when they meet him alongside all the other contestants at the start of the games. However, while Oh Il-Nam is the man behind the games, his identity as the host isn’t known until the last episode. Instead, we see someone called The Front Man, who acts like he runs the games, and we assume so until the host is revealed at the end of the season.

Related: Squid Game Director Releases a Deleted Scene During Netflix's Tudum

As the presumed mastermind, The Front Man’s mask is more impressive, and perhaps more sinister than the others. That could be because his mask is black and angular and looks very robotic. Plus, The Front Man wears all black, including a hood, robe, and gloves. The Front Man’s mask could represent power, as he is above all the other masked guards and there is something dark and eerie about him. Yet, despite his position, The Front Man is still a pawn in the game and keeps his identity a secret just like all the other guards and VIPs.

The Guards: Circles, Triangles, and Squares

The participants are monitored, murdered, and herded from room to room by a group of guards clothed in identical red jumpsuits and hoods. Additionally, each guard’s face is covered by a mask with either a circle, triangle, or square. These shapes denote the guard’s rank and responsibility. The guards with the circles are the lowest rank. Some even consider them to be equal to the participants. They are tasked with the most basic jobs such as cleaning, serving food, mopping up blood, removing corpses from the playing areas, and incinerating the bodies. These guards are not even allowed to speak unless they are spoken to first by a superior.

Next up in the rank are the guards with triangles on their masks. These guards lead players to and from the playing areas, enforce the rules of the games, and eliminate unsuccessful players by shooting them. Moreover, these guards can give orders to participants, which they often do when something goes amiss and they need to keep things under control. Lastly, the guards with the squares have the highest level of authority. Their main task is to supervise the triangles and the circles. They receive direct orders from The Front Man and pass them down to lower-ranked guards, ensuring those orders are followed.

It’s implied that the guards don’t make much income, because some try to break the rules in attempts to get more money. Furthermore, every guard must always keep their mask on under the penalty of death. We see this play out during episode three, The Man with the Umbrella, in which Player 119 tries to rebel against the guards after he failed to successfully remove his umbrella shape from the honeycomb. Player 119 tackles a guard, grabs his gun, then shoots another guard in the arm before forcing him to remove his mask. The guard does so and when The Front Man emerges to handle the situation, he shoots the guard in the forehead, killing him, and says, “Remember, once they find out who you are, you’re dead.”

Related: Squid Game Creator Tells Fans Not to Worry About Reality Series Spin-Off

In addition to classifying rank, the symbols also bring to mind buttons on old video game controllers, especially from Playstation. Most importantly, they relate to the theme and title of the series; Squid Game is a popular Korean children’s game where players try to invade each other’s space. It’s been reported that the circle, triangle, and square are derived from the Korean alphabet (written in Hangul) and represent an “O,” “J,” and “M,” and “OJM” makes up the initials for the children's 'squid game,' or Ojingeo Geim in Korean.


Unknown to them, participants play for the amusement of the host (who we later find out is a participant) and the VIPS who get to watch the games in real-time in a luxurious room filled with plush couches and sofas, with alcohol, food, and servants at their disposal. Plus, they have the power to make requests of The Front Man to alter the games and make them harder. The VIPS are wealthy men who wear masks, and while we hear them conversing, they too keep their faces hidden. The VIPS hide behind their fancy gold animal masks. We see a deer, a bull, a tiger, a cat, and a bird, as well as several other animals. Every VIP sports a different one which perhaps relates to their personality, job title, or status in life.

After a haunting first season and a shocking finale twist, so much of Squid Game still remains a mystery, and we can only wait for more answers with the brand-new upcoming season. What will season two entail? Fans can only speculate at this point, as no concrete details have been released yet and the show likely won't return until 2024. However, many people are hoping that season two will explore more of the behind-the-scenes of the games, and how the guards got their positions wearing the mysterious masks with their symbols.

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