The other day as I was browsing through Hulu I stumbled on the Korean show Playful Kiss and I got hooked. I found it to be a sweet, fun, quirky romantic comedy about a less-than-smart high school girl (Oh Ha Ni) who has feelings for a genius boy (Baek Seung Jo) who thinks he is superior and shows it.An earthquake destroys Oh Ha Ni’s home and she and her father move into Baek Seung Jo’s home (because the two fathers were close as children). The show, based on a Japanese manga, reveals those roots (at least in the first 2 episodes) with some moments of pure fantasy.
After watching episodes 3 and 4 last night, I thought about the cultural differences that are reflected in the show. Doing research this morning, I recognized those differences are even greater than I thought. Insight into what others are thinking really made me see that we all perceive things differently. In those differences lies the complexity of our world.
I saw Playful Kiss as a comedy. I’ve even experienced the ever so rare laugh-out-loud moments watching this show. BUT, it is billed as a drama (and I believe that is how it was billed in Korea). If it is a drama, then some of the objections to the show might be legit, but if it is a comedy it looks at the world through quirky rose-colored glasses.
Some of the complaints I read this morning surrounded the idea that the 4th episode showed the Oh Ha Ni as drunk, and because Baek Seong Jo made a sexist (or harassing) comment about her small breasts. This is where culture comes to play. Yes, she was drinking, but under the supervision of the adults. They were celebrating her grades and offered her one drink which, of course, went straight to her head. Now, I’m not saying that parents should hand drinks to all there children. But, how often have American audiences watched as the parent figure on-screen (and in real life) turned a blind eye as their perfect child throws a wild party that included enough alcohol to poison half the town?
As for the comment about small breasts, it seemed natural given the circumstances (Baek Seong Jo was carrying the drunk girl home by piggy back) especially as girls at that age worry about breasts and boys are fascinated by them. What I found more interesting (and reflective of culture) were the clear expectations that females should clean up and take care of males. Evidence of this appears throughout the show. Of course I notice these things, as I still reflect on remnant sexism that exists in American culture today, but I recognize it for what it is–different cultural values.
I think the show is interesting for the contrast it makes to American values in that the hero is the smartest kid in school (in addition to being cute and talented in every way). Yes, he is wealthy as well, but he is the heart-throb at school because he scores 100% on every exam. Wouldn’t it be nice if that happened in American high school dramas more often?
It seems to me that, in this time of technology providing so much access to other cultures, we should really spend time evaluating the things that make us different as well as the things that make us human. Meanwhile, I’ll keep watching Playful Kiss and enjoying ever sweet moment.