Continuing with my challenge, this time I talk about further six dramas in which more than one character is likeable. In this post I also reflect a little on some issues inspired by the article I’ve recently dug up on MyDramaList: A Male perspective. The significance of Gender.
Kim Soo Ro
As always with historical dramas (in this case more legendary I think), I am evaluating only what I see, as a period piece can only offer a colorized interpretation of historcal figures and events. Much to my surprise, this drama abounded in likeable characters. SoRoo is a charming, very agile rogue with a kind heart; this, is how I could describe him in a nutshell. And I like him because this is attractive. To be honest I was very wary of beginning this drama because I felt that Ji Sung is overhyped and cannot do well in a saeguk. I was proven wrong. Ji Sung projected the character’s warm impishness in a very persuasive manner and made me like him. And because I liked his character in this saeguk, I have become more open to seeing him in other roles, from now on.
The reason I started Kim So Ro is because I am drawn to saeguks in general. Icame to the drama with little expectation and I certainly was not driven to watch the drama by a wild love of Ji Sung- it was on the contrary, as I just said. Yeona did encourage me to give this a try nonetheless. And I was not particularly disappointed by the story. On the contrary. It wasn’t badly put together at all. While I felt there was some imbalance in the way some of the events played out in endless succession with much too short breaks between them, it was overall “my kind of story” in the way the plot coincided with character portrayal as well as how some of the conflicts were resolved. Especially family conflicts, there were some really heart-warming moments. The brother was pitiful, angry and jealous but not until the very end. The mother could be arguably seen as strong, father was also definitely a likeable figure. There were several father figures in this drama, all of whom were very likeable. One had a very ironic fate. But in the end loyalty and devotion to Kim Soo Ro were somehow decisive; he was also a sort of a reluctant teacher-mentor figure and a man of few words.
The drama also had two leading females. I liked one more than the other: the Indian Princess was kind and dignified. The other female lead was open about her feelings, and perhaps more similar to So Roo and their romance would be perhaps considered more “romantic”, but her schemes were manipulative and she gained his affections due to and while aspiring for her ulterior motives and goals. She was not frank and the way things became was her own faul. I was annoyed with her a little but… well…the rest is a major spoiler. The Indian princess was in a good position, through the workings of fate of course, to be honest and to demonstrate willigness to support him, rather than merely seduce him. She was also practical and to my mind made a good counterbalance to So Roo’s personality.
My Bratty Princess
In this Chinese comedy period piece, Jang Na Ra plays a cross-dressing woman with a lot of spunk. Not your nice composed lady type at all. She’s kind and energetic, has lots of crazy ideas and schemes which go beyond breaking accepted protocols and never hesitates to implement them. She’s actually a lot of fun at the start. She’s pretty too, and has two high positioned gentlemen longing for her affection. There are a number of cliches and certainly a lot of cheese ( I rolled my eyes at least a dozen of times) and not all characters are very sound (most of them are a little bland to me) but overall the drama is a little bit of fun. The other place in the spotlight goes to the Emperor’s sister, Ahning. Her spirit is similarly boisterous and keen to experience a little adventure.
My favourite transition period drama about the beginnings of Jejoongwon hospital, the first western hospital in Korea (founded in 1855). Features an entire host of likeable characters. First and foremost Seok Ran- a progressively minded, strong woman determined to train as a physician. I believe it’s because of this character that I started to like Han Hye Jin- I now associate her with the strong female type. She also portrayed Seo So No in Jumong, an equally strong woman, a great and reliable partner for prince Jumong. Seok Ran’s father is warm and supportive, encourages heading towards change.
Hwang Jun, the main hero of this drama is endearing. He is a type of an underdog that surprises everyone with his talent and is pitiful because of stupid social limitations- he is of the lowest social classes, so there is not much he can do. He is a serious person with a lot of dedication and determination himself, once set on his path. It s a bit similar to Horse Doctor in this respect- where everyone looks down on a super talented rookie because they envy him and cannot fathom that someone low born can be better than they are. The other male lead in this drama is immature and jumps to conclusions. Consequently, he may be unlikeable at first but he gradually grows up to see the mistakes of his ways. There are also several historical figures in this drama that are given a very sympathethic treatment, notable mention should go to Horace Allen and Lilias Horton (MD), as well as the Queen.
The King of Dramas
I liked the lead female character here. The drama writer. She is pretty, has some spunk is quite determined and doesn’t give up easily, she also maintains a sense of optimism and enthusiasm. Anthony Kim is a problematic case. He constructs himself through a fiction, a lie for the most part. It’s not a likeable character per se, only later as he reverals his softer side, the perception somewhat changes. SiWon’s character is a goof ball. He could be perhaps classified as likeable – he is there for comedy.
The Princess Man
Is an example of a drama where I really liked the secondary copule more than the leads. I’m not too fond of The Princess Man in general because it tries to be overly dramatic in a very imposing way-there is too much emphasis put on an extremely grave tone which eventually simply gets old. It’s like watching a storm that doesn’t let up. I got tired of the way the story progressed. But these two are somehow likeable. Their romance started with some bickering, breach of decorum and reluctance (so much wasted time, too) but turned into something more tangible and somehow more mature than the romance of the main couple. I guess I like the more responsible, dutiful types (the older princess here). Her love interest was something of a jester who liked to keep up the spirits of those around him and generally gave off a very positive vibe from the start. The love was hard-won in a different aspect than the main couple.
God of Study
In this teacher’s galore drama, a group of VERY special teachers are working with several kids who are considered academically hopeless by the school’s incompetent teachers. Somehow, I like such stories, beginning with Sidney Poitier’s “To Sir With Love”. I guess it reflects on my need to see a teacher trully care for a student and to be dedicated to their work because of vocation rather than just money or in more general terms to see someone genuinely help others look towards building a future.
There are plenty of cheesy animation sequences, and some cheesy motivational speeches. But I really found myself liking all the special teachers, even if their portrayals were exaggerated, making them somewhat into parodies of teacher stereotypes. They added colour to the series. Teacher Han showed the most promise, while the science teacher was adorable. Teacher Han was somehow relatable to in the way she struggled with being a teacher. She has the right kind of personality from the start but has some problems thinking outside the box. However, by the end of the series she developed a sense of where she wants to be professionally. I liked her dedication.
The science teacher is a shy, but clearly hard working genius type. There is also Seok Ho’s teacher he invites to help these students deal with maths- a sort of a strict old-fashioned mentor type that nonetheless has passion for his subject. Seok Ho was the heart and soul of it all, the tough guy with a soft side who pretends not to care but really does care. The kids are all well portrayed.
To Be continued…
I have been inspired lately by an interesting article I dug up on MyDramaList, in which the author competently questions the issue of gender bias in soap operas. After reading it, I thought, hmm, okay: my previous post contained more male figures that females. It is perhaps an interesting coincidence. I point out qualities like kindness and wisdom as those which draw me to a character. But the same can be said about female characters which are presented in a trully dignified way, like Dae Jeum Gum. Therefore, I do not think this is a gender bias on my part, at least not entirely.
My assumption has always been that I do not look at the characters through gendered perspective at all, but through values that appeal to my own values. It is both partly escapist and individual based on my unique personality and experience of the world as well as what I would want to see more of in general. Also, HOW I want such idealised values to play out within the story is also dependent on my values. I am disappointed when the vision in the given story departs from it. It is an individual process in this way, different for each case, but however unique it may be, it is tripartite. It consists of
Expectation allows me to enter the fictional work. The fictional domain is already made up of set stadanrds I’ve known before. So I am prepared for it. For instance, I will roll my eyes at villains doing their scheming or at second leads plotting to get back with their ex but they are needed within the fictional framework to generate the “drama”. It’s how well this is handled that determines reflections and evaluations later.
Experience itself, which is dominated by feelings and value, where it’s just taking in all that’s happening.
Finally, reflection where experience gets processed. Once I “leave” the fictional world behind and gain some distance to it through experience of reality- not only values get readjusted. That’s when I reflect on the fiction, too. Stripped of the same ideals that allowed me to love a given story whilst I was watching it, I eventually come to the conclusion that, for instance, Yi San may have been oversentimental in comparison to Jumong, consequently the story itself wasn’t perhaps too well crafted. But that doesn’t change my opinion of the character- I still like him anyway. Reflections are crucial for determining how much the overall story appealed to me in order to assign it a value. Reflection is not necessary for me to know that I liked a given character, no matter what is my reaction to the story on the whole.
Another issue is that the more I like a character, the more I am likely to appreciate the actor and choose his or her other works in the future. It was like this with Kim Soo Ro and Yi San.
But this works in reverse as well. The more I like an actor’s acting, the more I will believe the character and I will find him or her that much more likeable. And I will want to find a similar feeling, so a similar character in another story, because I’ve grown accustomed to it and I know it’s what I like.
Hence I do think that typecasting is a major factor in choosing soaps to watch and even liking a given story, or actor, or character. And that’s why a lot of dramas will in fact have that in the first place, obviously.
Some elements have become somewhat obligatory in order for the soap to sell.