Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thinking Too Much About K-Drama: "Dream High"

I've settled nicely into my new job at Cassandra Academy (not the school's real name, obviously!). I feel like I owe you an update on that, but everything is so mundane it would make for trivial reading.

The one perk is that my schedule involves a lot of science classes. I get to spend about half of my day geeking out at small Korean children (although they all seem to be on a "rocks and soil" unit that is literally as boring as dirt; nothing about volcanoes and the rock cycle and minerals to be found!).

The other perk is that I have grown-up Internet this time around, so I've been torrenting entertainment with abandon. Abandon! In addition to some old-school Star Trek and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (don't judge), I have the Korean Dream High.

It ran for 16 episodes on KBS2 from January to March of this year. At the outset, it is at least nine merciful episodes shorter than Boys Over Flowers. But it seems no better in terms of...anything. I've only made it through the first episode but I wanted to articulate my expectations and thoughts so far.

It takes place at a "performing arts" high school that is exclusively devoted to churning out pop idols (in-story justification for intricately-choreographed dance routines and heartfelt ballads? check! excuse for all kinds of K-pop star leading roles, cameos, and performances? check! chance to market new musical material and further solidify pre-existing hits in the public consciousness? check!). I can't imagine a place like this exists in Korea; or rather I should say, I hope it doesn't.

Do K-drama writers realize that they're coming up with absolutely ridiculous premises? Boys Over Flowers deals with wealth that's absolutely obscene; Winter Sonata (the king of all K-dramas) brings on the amnesia, brainwashing, and identity confusion; in Dream High one of the protagonists is blackmailed into attending said school because loan sharks are after her father. She is coerced into repaying his debt by becoming a K-pop sensation.

Doesn't that seem like a roundabout way of getting money from a teenaged girl? Send her to a school and bank on her becoming an idol in a few years? I mean, I can think of at least one obvious alternative, especially if you want the money, like, now (but pimpin' ain't easy). In the first encounter with the loan sharks, he even makes some creepy comment about her paying "with her body" which sounds a lot more sinister than "become a member of the next Girl's Generation."

The first episode ends with the main female protagonist (played by singer Suzy from the relatively new Kpop group "Miss A") dropping to her knees in front of the head director, a man we're instructed to believe is pretty much some kind of sorcerer when it comes to scouting and nurturing talent, begging him to "save her." Something about that just skeeves me out and makes me kind of sad/frustrated, because you know a male character would never do that.

(Aside: I wouldn't be surprised if the raison d'être of Dream High was to garner a fanbase for the freshly-produced girl group Miss A and solidify their media presence. The other leads are well-established in the K-Pop world: 2PM, IU, T-ara, etc.)

There's also an "overweight"/"ugly" girl who struggles with body issues (who is honestly adorable and it's appalling that the show treats her terribly), which are magically solved by losing weight (though this happens later on the series, not in the first episode); that whole situation is so broken and so enraging I won't even comment on it.

All right, time for a manicure and episode 2!

No comments:

Post a Comment