[Short but sweet] Of men and monsters
by Guest Beanie
The KBS Drama Special White Christmas is, in my humble opinion, an absolute masterpiece. It’s one of those dramas that really pushes its story and characters to the utter brink, bringing them face to face with their inner ugliness and forcing the audience to question if perhaps we all have a monster hiding inside.
Enter seven stereotypes: The Perfect Boy (Moo-yul), The Geek (Kang-mo), The Bully (Young-jae), The New Kid (Jae-kyu), The Genius (Ji-hoon), The Loony (Yoon-soo), and The Girl (Eun-sung). These stereotypes all attend an elite high school in the remote mountainside, referred to as Alcatraz for its intensely strict rules and prison-like atmosphere. The only freedom from their educational plight is offered by a paltry weeklong winter break, a break these seven students decide to spend at school after each receiving a mysterious letter with the threat that they will see a corpse on the school grounds on Christmas Eve.
Each student has their own darkness and traumas bubbling beneath the surface but also the capacity for humanity. The bully can genuinely worry about another kid, the model student can join a mob hunt, the self-imposed loner can fight for the group, the cold and distant genius can protect someone who needs it. The students are more than their stereotypes, more than what they think of each other.
We spend a little time getting to know the students, particularly Perfect Boy Moo-yul, before their first night of the winter break is interrupted by the arrival of an injured man. They learn that the man, Kim Yo-han, is a psychologist and the only survivor of a car accident on the desolate mountain. Unable to leave thanks to a terrible blizzard, the doctor genially puts up with the students’ antics and takes interest in a little debate they take up after hearing about a serial killer on the radio: are monsters born, or made?
Rather than just good or evil, the story deals with walls. The literal walls of the school keeping them safe from the blizzard but also trapped with a much more pressing danger. The walls between the able-bodied and those with disabilities. The walls of status, prestige, and the need to fit in. The walls we build because of grief, because of betrayal, because of guilt and rejection. The walls we must tear down to face ourselves.
The protagonists are trapped by these walls but for some of them, freedom is a greater curse. Most of them have truths they are simply unwilling to admit, truths that are pried out of them in exchange for their safety, and the results are ugly. They turn on each other. They turn on themselves. They uncover the darkness within their hearts and fight not to be consumed by it.
White Christmas doesn’t soften its blows. The characters cut at each other with words and actions sometimes calculated, sometimes instinctive. They try to protect themselves and even each other with lies, deals, and new alliances. Some of them are radical enough to try using the truth; some of them abandon it altogether.
But it all trickles back to that mysterious letter, concealing its own devastating truth. As the danger mounts and the students discover just whose body will be found on Christmas Eve, we must confront the question they so innocently posed: are monsters born, or made?
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Tags: Theme of the Month