24 July, 2013

You're the Best Lee Soon Shin: What's in a Name?

This scene was actually quite lovely
Up until this point, I have not really been super engaged in online discussions about this drama. Occasionally I've tweeted, or stopped by a blog thread somewhere and dropped my two cents, but nothing significant. My frustration though with the drama has now reached a point where I have to blog about it.

I only started the drama because it promised a sweet loveline between Lee Soon Shin (IU) and Shin Joon Ho (Jo Jung Seok). It was also billed as a family-romance-comedy. So far it's been incredibly light on the comedy, and high on the drama - mom drama to be specific. I know that people have advised me to fast forward scenes, but I am not a person who can do that. I just can't. So I have two choices (1) stop watching or (2) suffer through for the cute parts - be they few and far between. I'm also only at episode 25...so maybe in about 12 or 13 episodes I will get the cute I want. Or at least that's what I've seen rumoured. And while the drama has been pretty badly executed as far as writing goes, there have been some lovely parts. I did want to write about two main aspects of the drama though that are bugging me to no end though.

The first one is about communication. This has long been an issue for me with film in general, but especially with Korean dramas, which seem to think that plot development has to rely on poor communication (it can be used to good effect, it just often isn't). It's always incredibly refreshing when a drama has forthright characters who actually say what they feel, and don't hide the truth until it's revealed painfully by some third party. At least in You're the Best Lee Soon Shin, Soon Shin's mom did tell her first that Song Mi Ryung is Soon Shin's birth mother. I am also glad that Joon Ho actually said "sorry" to Soon Shin, and you could tell it was sincere.

So first, this could have been a really different drama if Soon Shin's dad had actually told his wife who Soon Shin's birth mother was, and that he knew Song Mi Ryung and that they had history. Then she would have also have known that Chang Hoon is not Soon Shin's biological dad, thus sparing us episodes and episodes and episodes of anger and meltdowns from everyone involved. This would also allow our resident villain Song Mi Ryung from being able to be so emotionally abusive with withholding that little gem of truth from the family, and making them suffer so much. I would also think that in a marriage, one could expect a lot more communication. I know that this drama is not representative of Korean culture as a whole, but boy is it propagating some really screwed up models of communication in a marriage. I think that what also frustrates me a lot is that I know it's not outside of the realm of possibility for men to be unfaithful to their wives, but the ease with which they all readily believe that it's possible, even though they know Chang Hoon is a good man, shocks me. I know that culturally South Korea has some major issues with prostitution domestically (and prostitution abroad as well) and sexual fidelity in marriage, and that some amount of infidelity is often accepted and expected. I know that it's not everyone, but statistically 1 in 5 Korean men pay for sex four times a month. That is an incredibly high statistic. And that's not only single men, that number includes married men. That means if you meet/know 5 Korean men, one of them is paying for sex once a week. And then according to those same statistics 1 in 25 women in South Korea are prostituting themselves. People that's problematic for the healthy sociology and well-being of a family. This isn't really about whether or not prostitution should be legal or not, but really, it is not psychologically healthy for women in a culture to expect their husbands and boyfriends to be having sex with other women. So I guess the drama has some props for even bringing up (a) the dad's supposed infidelity, which we know at this point isn't and (b) Hye Shin's husband's infidelity. Let's just hope it says something meaningful about them. It's been really interesting to watch the grandmother's really backwards attitude that somehow Hye Shin is to blame because her husband was a scumbag. It makes me want to punch Grandma, who I wish would just die of a heart attack already. Yeah, she's not exactly my favourite character.

As far as the other screwed up communication stuff between keeping Chan Woo and Yoo Shin's relationship secret, I can understand that. And from some spoilers I've seen, I think that one eventually gets out in the open. I can also understand (though it irritated me to no end) the lack of communication that Joon Ho was using Soon Shin for his bet with Yeon Ah. And probably a host of other instances that I'm not thinking about right now. The baker dude's inability to communicate his feelings towards Hey Shin has been at least a source of comedy, and for the most part he's actually pretty direct and expressive towards helping people.

The second major issue I have with the drama is how they deal with the idea of family (and it's sort of related to the first topic). I am a HUGE supporter of adoption! I think it provides so many children with the option of life in a loving family instead of being left in an institution, as well as helping young women who've had a child and are often young, unmarried, and not able to provide for a child. It also seems that South Korea might struggle with promoting domestic adoption. Apparently they have the most international adoptions worldwide, though they are working to promote more domestic adoption. I think though that what really irritates me about the drama, is that Soon Shin was never told. I know that some parents wait until their children are older before telling them they are adopted, but Soon Shin is an adult. This seems a rather important piece of information to not tell her. I cannot imagine what that must feel like to someone who is adopted to find out so late, but it seems so unfair towards everyone in the Lee family. The drama also seems to be focus on the idea that somehow because Song Mi Ryung gave birth to Soon Shin that she's her mother. She's not. She gave birth to her. Jung Ae is Soon Shin's mother, her mom, in all the ways that count. Yes, blood can mean something, but family is not only about blood. When two people get married, they are not blood related, and yet they are family. I don't know what the legal process for rights of blood related parents who abandoned their children are, but even that Song Mi Ryung thinks that she has a right to take Soon Shin away from her family is absolutely bizarre to me. Maybe the drama is just being free with legality or something, but at least according to the drama, adoption laws seem really screwy in South Korea. I am just really struggling to feel the conflict in the drama when it makes absolutely no sense to me. Soon Shin is Jung Ae's daughter, she's Hye Shin and Yoo Shin's sister (though the latter is a complete brat about it). Song Mi Ryung has no claim on her. None. None. None. She cannot call herself Soon Shin's mom just because they share DNA. It drives me bonkers! This is how I feel about it for huge chunks of the drama.

The drama just seems to think that somehow blood trumps all. It doesn't. Yes, people who are related by blood can feel deep connections etc. but that doesn't mean that adopted children and parents of adopted cannot feel that exact same way with the same intensity. Okay, now that that's all out in the open. The drama's conflicts make no sense. They are poorly executed plot points to barely move the story along. Somehow I am still watching. Really it's just for Jo Jung Seok. Sad as that may sound. Okay, and maybe a little bit for IU as well. She's doing a great job.

◀ dewaanifordrama's playlist #6: Mix-Tape for Kfangurl Edition


  1. Man, I am just happy that I was (and am) not attached enough to any of the actors or actresses to start this drama. Family dramas are kind of a big no no with me, since they always use drawn out silly family drama crap. I did like "Family's Honor" enough, but mostly because there was some interesting commentary on the traditional Korea family vs. a more modern type, and all of the couples were interesting and totally adorable, if all a bit frustrating for their various reasons. But even that drama gave me a lot of grief, and looking back, there were some really dramatic developments: I think it helped that I watched that drama with my seester.

    Maybe that's the key to watching these stupid family dramas: watch them with someone.

    There is cute ahead!!! But more than enough crappy filler stuff.... sorry chingu. It happens to the best of us.

  2. hahahaha - I guess I am not made for the family dramas then. There have to be good ones out there though, right? Please someone tell me that there might actually be a good one!?

  3. I will honestly say that I skip pretty much everything that doesn't involve Jo Jung Suk and IU together. And the baker guy. The rest has become so frustrating and tedious to watch. But I can't quit either because I love the interactions between our main couple.

    The family drives me nuts, especially the moms and grandma. This is the problem I've had with family dramas, they're supposed to show you how important family is, but I always hate how the family members treat each other. Soon Shin should just leave her family and all that mama drama behind, marry Jun Ho, and live together with him, far away from Mi Ryung's reach. The end.

  4. That sounds like a super great idea! It really is driving me crazy how they portray families in this drama. I know that there are wonderful and loving Korean families in Korea, but when I watch this drama, I start to wonder. Perhaps I will have to learn the skill of fast forwarding...

  5. *gasp* You don't fastfoward?! Oh poor you, how do you watch this show without fastfowarding?

  6. Hahaha - in small doses? I normally watch it in 10 minute or so chunks while eating lunch at work...Also, I am just weird that I don't fast forward, or something like that ^^

  7. Oh, I applaud you. Once the crazy hit in, I started skipping big chunks because I just couldn't stand the mama drama. I feel that fast-forwarding parts that I don't enjoy makes me less bitter about the show, ha :P