Thing vs. Thing: High school hell
javabeans: So, with two dramas recently airing that were set in high school (Who Are You—School 2015 and Angry Mom), dealt with gritty topics, and had secret identities in play, it makes you wonder…
girlfriday: Which school had the worst bullies? Which teacher perpetrated the most morally egregious abuse of power? Which school had the cutest uniforms?
javabeans: If by cutest you mean shortest, I think Who Are You wins, hands down. Which they would have to be, to keep those things from flying in the wind.
girlfriday: I was actually amazed at how much running around they did in those tiny tiny skirts. How about, which school would you rather go to?
javabeans: Um, I’m gonna vote for the one that didn’t crumble under my feet and cripple me. So Who Are You—School 2015. Both dramas had characters passing themselves off as students with other names. Who’d you rather be?
girlfriday: Kim Hee-sun. I’ve wanted to be her for most of my life.
javabeans: Okay, let me rephrase: Which secret identity would you rather perpetrate?
girlfriday: Well, not that doing some twin swapping wouldn’t be fun, but I guess I’d still rather be the adult who’s pretending to be a high-schooler, because you still have some power. And you can also go home and have a drink.
javabeans: Also, Kim Hee-sun was way better at it. Come on, she was thirtysomething who got legitimately taken for 19, whereas Kim So-hyun had the same face, and she still couldn’t convince people.
girlfriday: Yeah, that drama really underutilized the twin premise, to a wasteful degree.
javabeans: Which ineffectual-but-well-meaning teacher would you rather have as your teacher? One tried but could do nothing, whereas the other one could have done something but didn’t try.
girlfriday: Ji Hyun-woo was way wimpier than Lee Pil-mo, but he had the better heart, and even though I had less faith that he could do anything, he at least tried for the sake of his students. He had the bigger mountain of baddies to overcome too, which counts for a lot.
javabeans: And clearly, he got better as the show went on—he learned how to be savvier and tougher. Lee Pil-mo just kind of seemed to give up in defeat. I still don’t understand why he had to quit. I get that he was disappointed in himself, but as a teacher, I want the guy who’s willing to go to the mat for me. Even if he loses a lot.
girlfriday: Well, I guess since this question is probably going to dog them for the rest of their careers, we may as well ask: Is it better to be Kim So-hyun or Kim Yoo-jung?
javabeans: Well, Kim So-hyun had the badass unni defending her, but Kim Yoo-jung had a pretty badass mom.
girlfriday: I would agree that badass mom was tougher and better, but also that much more embarrassing, yunno, from a teenage daughter point of view.
javabeans: Yes, Kim So-hyun’s mom was way more respectful of her adolescent privacy. But if Kim Hee-sun had been that hands-off as a mother, Kim Yoo-jung would probably be dead.
girlfriday: That’s true, although I think that Kim So-hyun had it worse in the bullying department. Jo Soo-hyang played the meanest psychopath eighteen-year-old EVER. The drama is over and I still have chills over how creepy she was, at least at the start.
javabeans: I agree that there’s a certain terror in being targeted by someone who’s a sociopath who simply hates you. In Angry Mom, there were more logical reasons for the bullying, because bad people had bad secrets to protect. I… don’t know that this makes them less scary though, because they’re also threatening you with death.
girlfriday: True, they were grown-up gangsters and stuff.
javabeans: And while School’s bully sorta led to a death (sort of), Angry Mom had hit men and shit, who threatened your family on top of your own self.
girlfriday: I dunno, it’s a tough call. Kim Yoo-jung got sent to the mental ward and whacked off her own hair, but Kim So-hyun jumped off a bridge. I feel like psycho eighteen-year-old is scarier.
javabeans: Is it worse to lose your best friend because the bullies killed her and covered it up as suicide, as in Angry Mom? Or is it worse to lose her because you could have helped her but ignored her because you were weak, and then she died and left you with a lifetime of guilt?
girlfriday: Yikes, well the guilt is way worse in the latter case, so maybe that one is worse overall. I do think that the school board director in Angry Mom takes the cake though. He had an affair with a student, covered up her pregnancy, and killed her. Then threatened to kill her best friend for talking about it. Then threatened her mom for digging around.
javabeans: I’m not going to argue your point, but at least he got punished!
girlfriday: Oh I’m with you there. I couldn’t believe that they just left Jo Soo-hyang to continue living out her days as a teenage sociopath. WHO CARES IF SHE FEELS SORRY?!
javabeans: Sometimes sorry needs jail time to make it worth anything!
girlfriday: On to the important stuff: boyfriends!
javabeans: Is it worse to have the perfect boy do all these perfect things for you, and then for you to pick the stupid wrong one? (Ahem, School.) Or…. is it worse to end up with Baro?
girlfriday: Okay, this is a tough one. Because both girls end up with crappy boyfriends, for totally different reasons. Baro is supposed to be reformed by the time Kim Yoo-jung dates him, but… he also was the main bully who ruled the school by tossing around his money and power, and making other guys do the actual dirty work.
javabeans: Didn’t he also sort of see his bullying as courtship?
girlfriday: YES. YES HE DID. It’s still problematic, no matter how cute he is by the last episode. He did end up doing a heroic thing though, so there is that.
javabeans: Now for the truly tough question: Which boy-who-didn’t-get-picked’s heart got broken the hardest?
javabeans: You’re gonna have to be more specific. I can’t interpret that brand of rage.
girlfriday: Well okay, let’s back up first. I would definitely rather that the cute awesome boy love ME, and not my mom. So Kim So-hyun wins on that front.
javabeans: Except if you HAVE the awesome boy declaring eternal devotion to you and you don’t take it, aren’t you the real loser?
girlfriday: You’re right. That makes her stupid. ARGH. I still don’t know why she picked Han Yi-an. I mean, I know, but I don’t know.
javabeans: He wasn’t a terrible person, but he was just so… blah. And if you’re putting him next to the shining sweet attentive devoted boy who just wants to do things to make you happy, how could you even see him?
girlfriday: It’s the true mystery of the show, not the twin identity stuff.
javabeans: So Kim Yoo-jung may have gotten a flawed boyfriend, but Kim So-hyun may be blind.
girlfriday: When you put it that way, maybe it’s better to be the forgiving, kind girl who gives the bad boy a second chance. Not the blind girl who has bad taste. Poor rejected puppy. It’s the heartbreak of the year.
javabeans: Yet of the rejected boys, Bok-dongie (Ji Soo) sometimes feels more tragic because he can keep hoping, but honestly, that train’s not going anywhere.
girlfriday: Yeah I think his is a sadder one-sided love in that it’s purely fantasy. And there is something about Go Bok-dong that’s inherently sadder — it’s the first time anyone’s ever been nice to him, the first time he’s ever been part of a family and known human warmth, and it feels like he’ll just love Kim Hee-sun forever.
javabeans: Oof. I mean, before her, he lived with no hope, no love (other than a brother in prison), constant abuse, and lived with his abuser guardian in an abandoned warehouse, kind of like Healer without the ninja skills. How can you not cry for that?
girlfriday: Whereas, Gong Tae-gwang (Yook Sung-jae) has a broken home, but is still a relatively well-adjusted kid, with money, a giant room full of arcade toys, and people who love him, including his housekeeper, chauffeur, and butler. Plus, he still has a shot at love if he follows Kim So-hyun to college, then to producer school, then the broadcast station, then into the same apartment… so he’ll get the girl in 15 years, give or take.
javabeans: I CAN’T WAIT THAT LONNNNNNNNG.