Some of you may be watching this kdrama remake of a jdrama remake of a tdrama adaptation of an anime adaptation of a manga (OK it’s probably just an adaptation of the manga, but it’s way more fun to say that way). To be honest, I wasn’t a big fan of the manga; I dropped it pretty quickly and only know the basic outline of the plot. The thing that made me watch this version is simple: my undying affection for Koo Hye Sun. Sure, Pure 19 was sweet and all, but it’s her wide range of absolutely adorable facial expressions that endears her to me. With visions of her in my mind, I plunged into the first episode of Boys Over Flowers.
What I found was a new kind of rage inside myself.
The show begins innocently enough, with Geum Jan Di, daughter of a dry cleaner, delivering laundry to the most elite escalator school in S Korea, Shinhwa School. At the same time she is on her way to deliver the clothes, a boy enrolled in the school is facing a brutal attack by the hands of several students, so severe, in fact, that he decides the only way to end the ridicule is to take his own life. Jan Di, realizing that this man, Lee Min Ha, is the designated recipient of the laundry, tries to get him to pay first, before jumping (lol). Min Ha tells her to bill it to his family, then jumps, but it a daring move, Jan Di manages to catch him before he can fall.
The whole scene is captured on camera and film by a crowd of student onlookers, and Jan Di quickly finds herself at the heart of a national debate on bullying in elite schools, and the powerful Shinhwa Corporation decides that the only way to save face in this is to offer her a spot in the prestigious school.
Reluctant at first, Jan Di decides to attend Shinhwa. Soon after her first day, she realizes that the boy she saved was being bullied by a group of students known as the Flower 4, or F4. Apparently, these boys are the sons of the richest and most powerful families in S Korea, and they practically run the school. If you get on their bad side, they can make life a living hell for you simply by placing a card with their symbol in your locker. The would-be jumper Min Ha found one of these in his locker that fateful day.
Sounds great, right? Off to a neat start, with lots of promise. Let me tell you what I hoped might happen:
Strong-willed Jan Di, who was brought up to respect others and herself, is the first person ever to stand up to the sadistic and sociopathic F4. Galled by her arrogance, the F4 sets to make her life just as miserable as every one else who crosses them. As it turns out, the leader of the F4 is none other than the son of the owner of the Shinhwa corporation, and he is every bit as cruel and soulless as you would imagine. Though hurt by their cruelty, Jan Di refuses to be embarrassed by what she sees as the fault of the F4. Feeling sorry for them, she decides that they should learn a lesson in humility.
During the first few weeks, while dealing with constant ridicule from the other students, she finds a friend in Min Ha, the man she saved from a suicide attempt. Her bravery led him to find it within himself to stand up to F4 himself, saving Jan Di from a brutal attack by a group of beautiful but sadistic girls in the locker room. Grateful and impressed, they begin a journey to teach the students of Shinhwa academy that it is personal integrity and kindness towards others that is the way to get ahead in life, not birthright and pettiness.
Through many adventures together in the school, a romance grows between our heroine and Min Ha, who as it turns out is the heir to a modest but substantial fortune that his parents made in the textile business, leading to a partnership between Jan Di’s father and Mr. Lee, wherein Mr. Guem becomes the president of the dry-cleaning branch of the Lee empire. Jan Di and Min Ha fall madly in love, and together they are ale to turn the student body against the F4, showing them for what they really are: spoilt, cruel, unhappy people. Some of the F4 are able to find redemption, but the worst one, ringleader heir of Shinhwa, so disgraces his family that the show ends with him taking his own life, just a few blocks from the wedding of Jan Di and Min Ha.
What really happens:
Jan Di does in fact attend Shinhwa Academy, and her independent attitude does draw the ire of the sadistic and cruel F4. However, Min Ha is nowhere to be found, and is replaced by a weak-willed girl who drops Jan Di like a bad habit at the first sign of trouble, even though just days before Jan Di stood up for her in front of F4. The things done to Jan Di are more than most people could bear, but her can-do attitude allows her to stay on top of her emotions and not give in to the F4.
Here’s where the problem comes.
F4 is known throughout the school, and they are seen doing such unreasonable things are: pouring juice on someone’s very expensive shirt with little or no provocation, slamming a cake in a girl’s face in from of the school for simply offering them a bite, and strong-arming students into licking their shoes when they are dirty. Jan Di knows all of this.
The first thing the students do to Jan Di once she is marked for unreasonable cruelty, under the demands of F4 of course, is steal her desk. Fair enough; even the horrible things they write on her desk when she finds it are ok with me as far as pranks go. Then, though, they hit her with a barrage of eggs and summarily douse her with flour. I felt it it my soul when she started crying, and I really have to give it up to Koo Hye Sun for her excellent performance during this scene. Afterward, she goes to her quiet happy place on the school grounds, a stairwell she has visited every time she needs to vent about the harsh treatment handed down to her by the F4.
Who should be there but one member of F4, the kindest member Yoon Ji Hoo. Remember now, this is the kindest out of the 4 pricks, so he’s like the Mussolini of the Axis powers. He so kindly gives his handkerchief to Jan Di and tells her not to worry about returning it. Now I know from knowledge of the plot that this becomes her first love interest, but I have to ask: why? Why does this man, who though admittedly attractive failed to stop the abuse Jan Di suffered, appeal to her as a potential mate? Where is my spunky and strong-willed heroine? Who replaced her with a cowering, timid coward?
To make matters worse, Ji Hoo participates in the fouling of the school swimming pool; one of the only reasons Jan Di wanted to come to school at Shinhwa was their excellent pool and her desire to swim again. After she single-handedly cleans the pool, she it attacked in the locker room by a group of boys. The 1st ep ends with the boys engaged in a full-on sexual assault that looks to be leading to rape.
I have no doubt that the second episode will begin with Ji Hoo stopping the rape from happening, and that their romance will begin there. What the fuck, women of the world? How could you ever harbor any emotion other than repulsion and hate for a member of a group that basically organized and condoned a gang-bang on your ass? I fail to see how any one member of the F4 can find redemption enough in the eyes of Jan Di to be worthy of her, and I think that the horrible things they have already done precludes them from any redemption in my own eyes, so I can never be happy with a conclusion that pairs my beloved Jan Di with the cruel and heartless leader of F4.
Unfortunately, it is that very conclusion towards which we are racing in this show, and I wait with bated breath for my next glimpse of Hye Sun, though her talent is wasted in this psychotic fantasy. I leave you with a gallery of the only redeeming part of this show: Hye Sun’s adorable, exaggerated facial expressions ^_^
Also, after a longer holiday than I had planned, I’m back ^_^;;