Rebuttal #2: A case against My Love Patzzi and the delusions of Samsooki’s Jang Nara obsession
Once upon a time there lived a wee little goldfish. From her little plastic castle inside her little glass fish bowl she often glimpsed views of a television screen that housed human beings, many of whom cried rivers of tears due to something called “cancer” and sometimes bowed down to bearded men in red robes, intoning “Jeon-haaaaaa!”. At the time, she gobbled down Korean dramas by the truckload, swallowing each one like fish food, not caring about the taste or any possible health benefits. She just enjoyed watching them. Brainlessly. Forgetting them the instant her three second memory span was up.
She watched the 2002 MBC drama My Love Patzzi in this way. Alas, this drama turned out to be a puzzling one. Why was Jang Nara acting so ghoulish, and contorting her face into such strange expressions? And Kim Jae Won! Had he always been this boring? Why hadn’t she realized this before? And who was this young upstart Kim Rae Won, with his angsty ways? Was she supposed to be feeling sorry for him? What was going on here?
Ten episodes passed, and she was suddenly faced with the ending. She waited to see it all get wrapped up in a satisfactory manner. But she waited in vain. The little goldfish realized that the drama was over, and that nothing had happened. She realized for the first time the bitterness of feeling as though one has just been cheated of ten hours of her life. She realized, with a sudden booming lightning bolt from the heavens, that not all K-dramas are good. In fact, this one…well, this one was actually BAD.
The little goldfish was literally thunderstruck. Her scales sizzling, she eventually rose from the ashes of her former self to be reborn, this time with a long, bitter memory span and a perpetual wrinkle between her eyes. Today, she is still swimming around her little plastic castle, her fins constantly sharpened in preparation for attack. She has only one dream, to have these five words written on her tombstone:
“DAMN YOU, MY LOVE PATZZI.”
The End…Or is it?
Okay, so that was a bit of an exaggeration. And I’m pretty sure I’m not a goldfish, no matter what Samsooki may say (at least, I wasn’t the last time I checked). But the gist of the above story is true, and the reason I’m recounting it to you is to parry the bold attacks from Samsooki the Deluded, he who is the self-proclaimed ultimate defender of Jang Nara. He has thrown the metal mitten onto the ground, and I have picked it up. How could I not, when my interest has been so piqued? (Besides, metal mittens are cool.)
I have been called very picky and harsh in my critiques towards Korean dramas today, but it wasn’t always that way. I, too, have experienced a K-drama newbie’s fresh obsession and enthusiasm for dramas. When someone tells me they liked a drama even though it was technically mediocre, I know exactly how they feel. Hell, even today, I will watch a bad drama just for the sake of fangirling over some actor or other that I like.
However, even back when I was a mere eyelash of a baby fish and ready to veil my eyes to a drama’s every fault, I could not bring myself to like My Love Poo-Poo Patzzi. It’s not like I had anything against the actors or anything. I’d seen Jang Nara in Success Story of a Bright Girl previously, and I owned a copy of one of her CDs – it was one of the first K-pop CDs I ever owned, in fact. So I kind of liked her. Besides, I’d thought Kim Jae Won was rather cute in the 2002 drama Romance. I didn’t have any kind of opinion on Kim Rae Won, either. So I was completely open to liking this show.
But there were several problems with this drama that I just couldn’t get over. This was supposed to be a twist on the traditional Kongzzi and Patzzi story, to make the audience sympathize with Patzzi. But I didn’t think it did a very good job of getting that twist across. Sure, Song-yi is loud and abrasive and violent and inexplicably an outsider (for what, being loud? This is never explained), but she’s no Patzzi. She hangs out with the Traditional Evil Girl Of Dooooom (aka Hee Won) even though she is aware how evil she is and is constantly going on about how she can’t be trusted. And then she gets herself, over and over, into these scrapes that Hee Won places her into. I remember watching each EVIL PLOT and wanting to strangle Song-yi for falling for it every single time. She was supposedly so honest and tough and strong, but at the end of the day, she was nothing but a Victim, a Cinderella who never went to Manners School. She’s no different from the traditional K-drama heroine in that way, and for that, I found her annoying. All of this is augmented by the fact that, miraculously, she gets two good-looking men to fall for her at the same time. She spends her entire life overlooked by men and even used by them in order for them to get to her friend, and suddenly one day, out of the blue, two perfect men realize her charms and fall for her simultaneously? Puh-leeze.
But there is a different reason I could not bring myself to like her. The main reason, alas, was Jang Nara’s acting. Samsooki argues that she was acting as herself, and thus not acting, not really. I argue that she WAS acting – and that it was horribly evident that this was so. She over-exaggerates in everything she does, from the contorted facial expressions to the overly loud grunts of anger to the wild flailing of arms. And yet I am still expected to find her cute. I’m afraid I find that impossible.
Samsooki may try as hard as he can to argue that My Love Patzzi is this deep, heartwarming drama, but I respectfully beg to differ. Like Javabeans stated, it’s a “lightweight” of a drama, one that never delves really meaningfully into its themes, and is content to sit back on its haunches and fail to resolve anything or come to any real conclusions. By the way, did I mention how stupid the ending is?
As for the suggestion that I am somehow missing out on something by being so discerning in my taste in K-dramas, I would just like to say that, as someone who has experienced and who remembers those early days of K-drama obsession, I honestly don’t miss it. Oh, there have been times when I’ve wished I couldn’t see some of the little flaws I do in some K-dramas, but I think the end rewards are exquisite enough to make up for it all. When I find a drama that is truly well-made, and that says something about the human condition that truly speaks to me, I feel a kind of bliss that cannot be explained. And as this sense of bliss comes around at least twice a year, I’m more than satisfied. Besides, it’s not like I’m immune to liking dramas that are less than stellar – my enjoyment of dramas like last year’s The Accidental Couple (aka That Fool) or the currently airing Pasta prove that.
There is nothing wrong with liking technically “bad” dramas or defending them. Of course I recognize that taste is highly subjective, and that everyone is entitled to what they choose to like and watch. I applaud those who speak out on behalf of the masses. But let’s not hyper-inflate the influence that professional critics have on people’s drama-watching habits, and let’s not imagine that these critical opinions are running rampant in the K-drama world. I can count on less than one hand the number of people in the English-speaking K-drama internet community who can be counted as true professional critics of Korean dramas (most critics tend to concentrate on Korean films). Even in Korea, I’ve noticed that dramas tend to be critically ignored, and assumed to be of a lower overall quality than films. Ratings and overall popularity are considered to be very important in judging whether or not to watch a particular drama, and as a result, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find true diversity in K-drama content. The things that have been proven to be popular continue to get recycled, while dramas that try something different, like Conspiracy in the Court or Mixed-Up Investigative Agency, fall by the wayside. How is that a healthy K-drama environment?
Forgive me for falling off-topic. I tend to talk too much, I know. (See what you’ve done, Samsooki?) Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go dig up my copy of that Jang Nara CD. I know it’s gotta be around here somewhere. I will only pause to add:
WHO’S YO DADDY?