Under the pen name “Richard Bachman,” Stephen King let his darker side out to play. One of the grim stories he published under that name was “The Running Man,” a dystopian sci-fi novella in which ecological disaster and extreme poverty drive people to risk their lives on game shows for money. The film adaptation, which stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, softens the premise — but only a little. In the movie, these reality murder games are a method of execution aired live to entertain the people living in a world of extreme poverty.
“American Gladiators” premiered in 1989, two years after the film was released. According to the NY Post, one of the producers later admitted to Steven de Souza, screenwriter for “The Running Man,” that the reality TV competition show was pitched using clips from the movie, but without the murder. That’s the sort of thing “Black Mirror” warned us about. Meanwhile, reality TV game shows like “Survivor” continue to thrive, and now, Netflix is getting ready to produce a “Squid Game” reality show, based on the hit Korean series in which nearly everyone has to die in a monstrous battle royale. The irony is the first challenge our contestants must survive.