I jumped into this Korean drama a little after the hype and craze. I saw it and even though one of my all-time favourite actors, Park Seo Joon, was starring in it, I thought it was going to be weird- his weird haircut threw me off to be honest.
After I finished it – took me a weekend and 2 evenings after work – I went straight into watching this deep dive recap about the show and the cultural meanings and background behind some of the concepts from the show. So it was super insightful and I picked out most of the same themes mentioned.
No spoilers but here are some of the themes I noticed:
Father-son relationships – There were no mother figures in this drama except for Yi Seo’s mother, and she was not a main character or moral feature really. All the households in the show were single parent households as well. I think that was pretty modern and timely. Between the fathers and sons especially, however, there was a clear contrast in the lessons being passed down and demonstrated the importance of love, support and encouragement, attention, setting good examples, and praising and showing pride in your children.
Integrity – The main character’s moral compass remained strong and he always tried tomaintain his integrity and strong character even in the face of adversity and unpopularity. He believes in second chances, not doing harm to others – kinda.
Persistence and perseverance – Saeyori has no problem playing the long game to accomplish his professional goals and Yi Seo persisted with her feelings for Saeyori.
Race – Obviously, but I still wanted to acknowledge this. I won’t lie, seeing the black guy on the poster did make me excited and curious about his role. As it turned out, the treatment of foreigners of colour, Africans specifically, made me so sad. Notwithstanding things happening right now that even support this kind of behaviour or representation in the show, generally it feels like black or dark skinned people have no allies anywhere and that even without any actual experience or evidence, homogeneous cultures around the world like Koreans take their perceptions about black people from biased western media which paints black people in stereotypical negative or threatening light. It’s like inherited bias and prejudice. I was really glad and proud of the way the show dealt with it though and I hope this opens the door to seeing more of this kind of representation and reaction to racism in Asian media.
I tried really hard to not make it super deep or sound boring because it’s not all dry and heavy and emotional. It was refreshing and current, thought provoking and enlightening, romantic and tragic.
Next up, The King: Eternal Monarch!