In praise of the Hong sisters

I mentioned my recent tragic addiction to k-drama, in particular those written by the Hong sisters. And yes, I've only seen the two (My Girlfriend is a Gumiho and You Are Beautiful), but they are awesome, and I hope that other shows of theirs become available to watch. (And I've just discovered that you can watch You Are Beautiful in it's entirety, with (frankly, fairly minimalistic*) subtitles, on YouTube, which I guess is both good and bad news for me. Hopefully watching it a second time will get it out of my system somewhat.)

Anyway, I mentioned that Gumiho is kind of like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and that's not just because it has supernatural elements (a gumiho is a kind of spirit), including a kick-ass goblin hunter, or because it combines drama with humor. Gumiho is also really good at imbuing these supernatural elements with real meaning, which was something Buffy excelled at.

Another thing that I really liked about Buffy was that even the funny or wacky things were meaningful. Joss Whedon is somewhat notorious for turning everything into tragedy, but honestly, I think that helps because nothing is ever genuinely fluffy--even if it seems like vapid fun at the moment, you know that in a flash, it could all turn to ashes.

Everything mattered in Buffy. Take the musical episode "Once More With Feeling." Typically when a show decides, Hey, let's do a musical episode! that's all the show does--people sing and dance, and that's it. What makes "Once More With Feeling" a truly great episode is that the plot moves forward in leaps and bounds--VERY significant things happen in that episode, along with the singing and dancing. It's not just fluff.

And that happens in You Are Beautiful, too.

I don't want to give out spoilers here (because you REALLY should go click on that YouTube link and watch that show), so I'll go with a minor example. The show is about a successful boy band, and there's a very funny scene where the leader of the band, Tae Kyung, goes out into the countryside and gets chased by a pig.

Watch it here--there are no English subtitles, but it's physical comedy so you don't need them. (If you must know, he's thinking about how peaceful and beautiful it is out here in the country, away from the fans and paparazzi, and how country people are so darned friendly that they'll even wave hello to strangers. And the other guy is basically saying, "Run! A pig! Ruuuun!")

Funny-funny, right?

But, believe it or not, that scene is also really meaningful and pivotal to the narrative.

How? Well, Tae Kyung is one of the most tightly-wound people imaginable. He's a neat freak and a control freak, and very aggressive about it. He lives with his bandmates, and his three household rules are:

1. Don't touch me.

2. Don't come into my room.

3. Don't touch my stuff.

This scene is actually the first time we start to see chinks in his armor--his hidden desire to be a happier, more relaxed guy. (He ran off impulsively to go stand in that field, which says volumes about his mental state.) And the pig is just the most comical of the many, many outside threats that make him feel that he can never let his guard down.

Tae Kyung is the male romantic lead in You Are Beautiful, and for me at least, up until this point he was just kind of a self-centered asshole who was being foisted on me as someone who deserves the (very sweet) female lead's love. This scene (and the rest of the country interlude) was really a turning point for me, allowing me to see Tae Kyung as vulnerable and capable of positive change--which made the pairing something I could root for, as opposed to something I thought was a really bad idea.


*ETA: And in that pivotal going-to-the-country Episode 7, totally-screwed subtitles. I don't know how this happened, but in the first five-or-so minutes, you see the subtitles for both what is going on AND the last five-or-so minutes of the episode. Rather confusing, and then you hit the last five-or-so minutes, and there are no subtitles at all. Oy vey. Or, you know, Aigoo!