You guys, I have so many KDrama reviews stacked up. And most of them are for shows I really loved! But good lord, this was not one of them.
Where to even begin? Boys Over Flowers is an insanely popular KDrama based on an insanely popular manga, which previously spawned multiple other popular tv adaptations. Basically, people love the crap out of this story.
My body was super ready to love this! High school rich kid drama! Baby Lee Min Ho rocking some ridiculous curls! Sadly, it was all kind of enraging and terrible.
What’s it about? A fictional Korean corporation has created a private school open solely to the one percent. The school is ruled by F4, a gang of four uber-elite seniors worshiped by the rest of the student body because they’re rich and hot and also will casually ruin the lives of anyone who looks at them sideways.
If this all sounds like a horrifying capitalist dystopia, then you are correct! In the world of Boys Over Flowers, class means everything, the rich are as cruel as they are powerful, and there are absolutely no consequences for anything they do. If the drama had been more interested in exploring that set up than the emotional constipation of rich douchebags, I might have been into it. But, alas, it was not.
Ew. Douchebag romance. Yup! Shockingly, the leader of F4 (Joon Pyo) falls in love with a spunky poor girl (Jan Di) because she’s the only one who will stand up to him. Of course, due to his secret manpain/mommy issues, he can only show his love by stalking and abusing her until she is Stockholmed into falling for him too.
I think may have heard this one before. Oh, yeah. This drama has never met a trope it didn’t love. You’ve got emotionally stunted snob who thinks he can buy love. You’ve got the cold, controlling career woman and the tacky, salt of the earth poor people. You’ve got stupid misunderstandings and last minute amnesia contrivance. It’s all here.
I’m not opposed to a certain amount of asshole in a hero. But this was waaaaaaaay over my asshole threshold. I mean, this drama made the asshole rich douche from Secret Garden look like a prince in comparison! We’re meant to think that Jan Di’s presence in Joon Pyo’s life has changed him into a better person, and it would at least be something if it actually had?
But fairly late in the series (after his evil mother has bankrupted Jan Di’s family, destroyed their business, and evicted them from their home, forcing her to work for her boyfriend as his personal maid, by the way) we see that he is still tyrannical and cruel toward the rest of his staff, verbally abusing the other maids and threatening to have them fired on a whim. In essence, being with Jan Di has not made Joon Pyo into a better person: it’s just made him an asshole who is a little less lonely and occasionally nice to her.
Despite her supposed independence, Jan Di basically flits from humiliation to disaster, constantly needing to be rescued. She is assaulted or kidnapped ridiculous number of times, and early on in the series, a ridiculous number of those incidents are either directly by or at the behest of our romantic hero.
Just a another high school mob attack. NBD.
The most egregious of which involves his security team kidnapping and drugging her. She wakes up, having been undressed while unconscious, in the middle of being waxed by a team of strangers as part of a makeover to make her classy enough to date Joon Pyo. And sure, she yells at him and storms out in a huff, but the scene is played for laughs and there’s never any sense that anyone involved is conscious of what an enormous violation it was.
Hilariously, Jan Di also — despite being a champion swimmer — nearly drowns on multiple occasions in about four feet of water. Basically, she is the kind of “strong female character” who can kick-box a dude to show she’s tough, but can’t cross the street without also needing him to rescue her from her own clumsy ineptitude. She is the Bella Swan of KDramas.
Are any of the dudes at all decent? Sadly, the rest of F4 are not much better. Although Joon Pyo is clearly the ring leader in their bullying, none of them ever displays any sense of true disapproval when he is humiliating others, and clearly all four of them enjoy their practice of targeting specific students for school-wide violence and harassment, to the point where the first episode begins with one victim being driven to the point of suicide. (Something the entire school seems to find hilarious, because it is populated almost entirely with sociopaths.)
Just look at these… GQ motherfuckers?
The bullying subplot mostly disappears as the drama continues, but there’s never a point at which we see any of the boys having any sort of realization that it was wrong. At the end, they’re still greeted with screams of worship when they enter a room, and they still accept this adulation as their due. If if they have learned anything, it feels like it’s only that some poor people are likeable, not that you shouldn’t abuse the ones you don’t have feelings for.
(Another fascinating aspect of the worldbuilding: this is a culture where you can have a high school cool guy/bully presented as sensitive artist who wows his many conquests with philosophical discussions about pottery. KDramas!)
The rival for Jan Di’s affections is limp noodle Ji Hoo, a loner/weirdo (and also sensitive master violinist, natch) who initially wins her affections by being nicer to her than Joon Pyo.
NOT HARD TO DO
This is such a low bar that at one point early on, Ji Hoo comes across Jan Di being assaulted by a group of Joon Pyo’s minions (in what certainly looks like the lead up to a gang rape, lol, boys will be boys) and stops to have a casual chat with her about pancake recipes while she’s being forcibly held down on the ground. EVERYONE IN THIS UNIVERSE IS A SOCIOPATH, BASICALLY.
Wow. Okay. Anything else? Well, there are several equally ridiculous subplots, including: Ji Hoo’s grandfather, the former president of Korea, who is somehow now a medical doctor that nobody recognizes because reasons. Like, imagine if you went to see your doctor and it was Bill Clinton. I THINK YOU’D NOTICE, YOU KNOW?
Girl, you can do better.
Also, Jan Di’s sweet BFF, who may be the only character I truly didn’t hate, has to deal with her a crush on douchbag man whore pottery dude, and the fourth member of F4 has a brief dark night of the soul over the fact that his family is in the mafia or something. I don’t know. It was pretty dumb.
So should I watch this or what? Did you unironically love Twilight? Did you spend the mid-2000s reading trashy fan fiction about Draco Malfoy and Ginny Weasely making out? (Shhh… you’re among friends, you can admit it.) Anyway, this one’s probably for you.