[Hey, that’s me] A college admissions monster
by Guest Beanie
The reality of modern teenage life in high school Korean dramas is almost always either blatantly ignored or exaggerated in excess. Students suffer through unbelievably traumatic pasts or bully each other with sickening violence. Studying is left on the sidelines as students are swept up in love triangle heaven. As a high school student, I related more to career-oriented women in their 30s than the actual high schoolers. Maybe I just wasn’t watching the right dramas, but over time, I became unsatisfied, restlessly counting the years until my life truly started, until I could live like the unnies on screen.
Editor’s note: This post contains spoilers.
SKY Castle was dramatic to the fullest extent, but somehow, within the drama’s chaos, I finally found myself. At its core, SKY Castle was always focused on high school students competing to get into the best universities. The past four years of my life have been consumed by a competition with myself to earn the best grades in the hardest classes, to win the highest honors in the best extracurriculars. I go to a high school that many consider the best in California, and I was constantly working to stay afloat at the top. Almost all the pressure came from myself. I took the initiative to discipline myself, never losing sight of the ultimate fulfillment that would come from acceptance into one of the world’s best universities.
In that way, I am Kang Ye-seo. I’m brutally honest, isolating myself partially because I love being too busy, but also because it makes me feel superior in some ways. Ye-seo had dedicated her entire life to a single goal, a purpose that had been engrained into her existence until any action or thought that didn’t bring her closer to achieving it was foreign and almost disgusting. She was selfish and bratty, but worked impossibly hard. Most viewers probably despised her, but I was almost jealous of how successful she seemed. When my parents suggested a college counselor, I embraced the idea with open arms. Although my college counselor never dictated my life (or murdered people) like Kim Joo-young did, I was eager to follow the directions of a professional in an industry that was all too real.
“Kang Ye-seo is human after all. I thought she was a machine.” Cha Ki-joon made this observation in episode 16, and it embodies why I love Ye-seo so much. Her greatest fear was breaking down the machine because being human meant failure. When Ye-seo was forced to confront who she had become after Hye-na’s death, she discovered how terrible and miserable she actually was, and then her world really came crashing down. But she confronted this reality with admirable dignity, proving to herself and the machines around her that being human also meant overcoming the failure.
In other ways, I am also Cha Ki-joon and Cha Seo-joon. The twins’ family mirrored my own. I have always been much closer to my mother. Our friendship is defined by many dynamics – mother-daughter, mentor-student, best friends. But she’s also a mediator between my dad and I, often putting her foot down against my dad’s sometimes infuriating irrationality and taking my side. I respected Seung-hye immensely throughout the drama. She brought up Ki-joon and Seo-joon to be kind, just, and independent, a comforting neutral force within the walls of SKY Castle, despite the mental torture their dad put them through. I saw my mother within Seung-hye, and I realized she had tried to raise me to be more like the twins, but I had decided instead to live like Ye-seo.
Ever since I finished SKY Castle, I’ve been working on changing the foundations of my identity. I pay more attention to the possibilities in life outside the only one that exists in my own mind. I am slowly learning to gain fulfillment from non-materialistic sources. A university education is a privilege and an opportunity, not a name or number to stick on my forehead for everyone to see. My own opinion about myself is always the highest priority. SKY Castle was able to reach me in a way that no other drama has been because it finally reflected my reality. Just like Ye-seo, I stared at how painfully I lived until I couldn’t bear it anymore, so I’m leaving that way of living behind.
- [Hey, that’s me] To all the women I’ve loved before
- [Hey, that’s me] Hell Joseon international
- [Hey, that’s me] A mirror to my future
- [Hey, that’s me] I wish I were her
- [Hey, that’s me] Pieces of me
- [Hey, that’s me] Me in the trap
- [Hey, that’s me] Scissors and locks
- [Hey, that’s me] The mouse in the sharehouse
- [Theme of the Month] Hey, that’s me
- [Theme of the Month] Villains
Tags: Theme of the Month