Under the pen name “Richard Bachman”, Stephen King let his darker side play out. One of the dark stories he published under this name was “The Running Man,” a dystopian sci-fi short story in which environmental disaster and extreme poverty drive people to risk their lives on game shows to money. The film adaptation, which stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, softens the premise — but only a little. In the film, these reality killing games are a live-streamed method of execution to entertain 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 “The Running Man” screenwriter Steven de Souza that the reality competition was presented using clips from the film, but without the murder. It’s the kind of thing that “Black Mirror” warned us about. Meanwhile, reality TV shows like “Survivor” continue to thrive, and now Netflix is preparing to produce a reality TV show “Squid Game”, based on the hit Korean series in which almost everyone must die in a monstrous battle royale. Irony is the first challenge our competitors must survive.