Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I'd Still Be Watching Entourage If There Was A Character Named Johnny KDrama

As you may have read, I recently fell in love with KDrama after watching Boys Over Flowers. I watched all 25 episodes AND the short epilogues showing the F4 five years after the end of the series. I was truly obsessed with the ridiculosity of this television masterpiece. I was kind of sad when I reached the end of the series, and I found myself thinking, "Well, what do I do with my life now?"

Answer: Watch more Korean Dramas. 

There were so many to choose from, but I chose Playful Kiss because 1) The actor (and boybander) that played Ji Hoo in BOF was the lead (It's always nice to see a familiar face) and 2) It was available on Netflix, so I wouldn't have to watch commercials (Hulu has a huge collection of KDramas, but they have ads galore). 

Playful Kiss centers on the relationship between Oh Ha Ni and Baek Seung Jo. They go to school together, but while Seung Jo is a perfect student and the star of the school, Ha Ni is in the lowest class possible. Apparently in Korean schools they will divide classes by the students' intelligence, so the smartest kids are in class 1, and the dumbest kids are in class 7, with all others falling inbetween in classes 2-6. 

Anyway, Ha Ni has been in love with Seung Jo since their freshman year of high school. Seung Jo rejects her because she's stupid. Really. All characters in the show feel perfectly comfortable mentioning how unintelligent Oh Ha Ni is. And they do this all the time. At one point she writes a love letter to Seung Jo, and he returns it with grammar corrections and a D- grade. 

Ha Ni's father owns a noodle shop, and his business becomes successful enough that they can move into a nice new house. Sadly, the house was not constructed very well, and it is the only building to collapse during a 0.2 earthquake. One of Papa Oh's old friends sees the tragedy on the news and invites  Ha Ni and her father to come live with his family while their house is being rebuilt. They agree, and when Ha Ni arrives she discovers that one of the family's sons is Seung Jo. The basic premise is: She loves him, he hates her, they live together, antics ensue. 

This show was (at least in the first half of the series) a lot more comedic than Boys Over Flowers. There are a lot of kooky characters, including Seung Jo's mother who dresses in disguises so that she can spy on her son and Ha Ni in hopes that they will fall in love. 

But, just like Boys Over Flowers, the show was packed full of crazy things that I didn't really understand (or just couldn't believe were actually happening), and loved even more because of it. 

At one point Ha Ni has her shoe stolen by a flasher, who will only give her the shoe back if she keeps her eyes open while he flashes her. Seung Jo shows up in the nick of time and turns her around, but we still get to see the flasher in all his glory. The best part is that his chest hair is shaved into a heart. 

I don't understand why, but at the end of every episode, there is a scene from that episode depicted in a teddy-bear diorama. It always reminds me of the teddy-bears-in-Rome display that was in the Las Vegas FAO Schwarz window. Anyway, they clearly put a lot of detail into these - even the bear has a chest hair heart! 

Ha Ni may have an unrequited love for Seung Jo, but she has her own unrequited lover in Bong Joon Gu. Or as I call him, Korean Danny Zuko.

One of the show's sponsors is "Hotdog Coffee." I found this funny after imagining cut up hot dogs floating in a bowl of coffee, but they go there in the show and it's just a place to get hot dogs. And I guess coffee. 

Some people are really into hot dogs. 

Speaking of food, Koreans have, in my opinion, an odd view of eating. Food is clearly important, and when anyone serves food they tell everyone to "Eat it all!" or "Eat a lot!" I get that this may just be a way of telling them to enjoy the food, but they seem really insistent on forcing food on people.  On the other hand they are also concerned with staying thin and healthy, as evidenced by this little girl who refuses a snack (a snack!).

At least they keep their food in the most AWESOME refrigerator I have EVER SEEN. 

Just in case you didn't believe me when I said that people take every chance to tell Ha Ni that she's stupid and ugly, this is what Seung Jo says to Ha Ni ON THEIR HONEYMOON. Oh, spoiler alert, they get married. And Seung Jo still treats her like shit. It's like a one-way Pride and Prejudice with a less happy ending.

Overall, I give Playful Kiss a B-. It was entertaining at first, but once the characters went to college it lost that slapstick vibe that made me like it in the first place. I'll be honest with you - I was pretty bored near the end of the series. But I'm a completist and I wanted to make sure I didn't miss any blog-worthy stuff. See what I go through for you?

One thing to note: A lot of the reviews on Netflix talk about how this show is anti-feminist because Ha Ni is shown to be completely dependent on Seung Jo, even though he's horrible to her. She's also constantly called stupid and unattractive. I call bullshit on this theory, mainly because in the same show that shows Ha Ni, a woman, in this negative light, we have Joon Gu, who is basically a male Ha Ni. Ha Ni decides to be a nurse because Seung Jo wants to be a doctor, but Joon Gu decides to train as a chef under Ha Ni's father solely to be close to Ha Ni and make her fall in love with him. So clearly male and female characters in Playful Kiss are depicted as equally stalker-ish.

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