Soap Report: “Boys Over Flowers”

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.

Boys over flowers dance

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?

Jan Di the maid

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.

Jan Di attacked

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.

Jan Di and Ji Hoo


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?

Ga Eul deserves better

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.


13 thoughts on “Soap Report: “Boys Over Flowers”

  1. Haha, yeah Boys over Flowers is sooooo bad. But for many people it was their first drama that got them addicted to kdramas. Like…what? If this was the first drama I ever watched, I wouldn’t have watched another….let alone finish it.

    The water ‘situations’ puzzled me too. It was like 4 ft deep water…she wasn’t in like the ocean or anything. You don’t need to use a bum shoulder to just stand up in a pool, haha.

    Which dramas are you wanting to complete reviews for that you’ve seen?

    • I think the thing that irritated me the most was there was a compelling story buried under all the bullshit, so I kept watching, hoping it would get less gross. But it never, ever did.

      I’m hoping to get Coffee Prince and Sungkyunkwan Scandal reviews done this weekend.

  2. I would say that the Japanese drama and manga this is based off of is better, though a lot of the initial premise is the same. The anime has a lovely classical music soundtrack. There are two seasons of the Hana Yori Dango drama so there’s more time for the psychotic lead male to learn his lesson and to become a basic human being. The Japanese version tries to show more growth and personality. And the Japanese boy band Arashi members are half of the cast.

    But no matter what, I love this story. I just love other iterations a bit more.

    • Yeah, I did wonder if one of the other versions might work better for me… I know lots of people love this one, but it’s just not for me!

      • That’s fair! Keep me posted on your next drama. I’m trying to get through Rooftop Prince on Hulu and it’s both hilarious and ridiculous. It’s about a Prince whose Princess is murdered…he gets in an accident and somehow travels through time to the modern day where there are modern incarnations of his Princess and other people. Meanwhile, his liegemen also manage to travel through time and the girl who finds them is a very nice, very business, no-nonsense kind of gal.

        • I’ve seen Rooftop Prince! I felt kind of meh about it, not in love enough to write a review, but not mad enough to write a big rant. I remember I liked the lead girl but found the dude kind of boring. But he was also the lead in the last one I watched and I liked him better, so maybe it was just the role…

          • That’s fair!

            Here’s one of the most interesting drama’s I’ve seen. It’s Japanese. The moment I saw these credits, I knew it was gonna be something!

            Here’s the wiki description of the series: The series follow the life of Michiru Aida, a beauty parlor assistant who returns to Tokyo after 4 years. Bullied by her seniors at work and abused by her boyfriend, she is reunited with her best friend during high school, Ruka Kishimoto, a skilled motocross racer. Takeru, a make-up artist, is introduced to Ruka by her housemate, Eri and thus begin a journey of friendship.

            If it intrigues you, I found this page with the whole series, I think it’s run out of Tonga, near Australia.


        • I get full sized notification emails, so it doesn’t matter for me. :)

          (But yes, the last line squeezes way too much. I hate it, but I also hate not being able to group replies together. I wish wordpress handled threading better.)

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