Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Delightful Silliness of Prime Minister and I

  Only in Dramaland could you find the following, and completely unironic, conversation. (Spoiler alert: this happens in episode 11 of Prime Minister and I.) 

  The players:
    Prime Minister Kwon Yul
    His wife, Da Jung
    Her Dad, who suffers from Alzheimer's (Or something called Alzheimer's, anyway. Just remember that this is Dramaland we're talking about, and diseases are mere plot devices with only some small semblance to reality.)
    Kwon Yul's young children Na Ra and Man Se

  In this scene, Dad is concerned about the state of his daughter's marriage to Kwon Yul and is trying to help them reconcile. Somehow this leads to him questioning whether the marriage is even real. 
  Dad: Are you cheating on my daughter? If not, then why has she been staying with me?
  Da Jung: Of course we're okay! Haven't you been missing me Prime Minister?
  Kwon Yul: Aaaah, ahem, yes, of course I have! I couldn't call you because I'd miss you more if I talked to you!
  The Kids: Of course they're okay. They even kissed once!
  Dad, uncomfortably: A kiss?
  Da Jung: These kids, saying things they shouldn't. But wait, Dad, did you hear that? We've kissed, so we have That Kind of a relationship. 
  Dad, outraged: Well, no matter what kind of relationship, you should be more careful in front of the kids.
  Kwon Yul: Of course. We will be more careful.
  Dad: Well, then, you should go in to bed.
  Man Se: I miss having Ahjumma sleep in my bed with me. (Since she sleeps there when she's fighting with Kwon Yul.)
  Dad, even more outraged: What?! You have separate rooms?! Even when you have lover's spats, you shouldn't sleep apart. Now, go to bed. Together.

  I love how Da Jung points out that they've kissed once, so clearly they have a healthy and thriving marital relationship. I'm sorry, but one kiss in the 4 or so months you've been together doesn't really constitute proof that you're happily married. (And for the record, they've actually kissed twice (unromantically) by this point and neither of those kisses is the one Man Se and Na Ra think they saw.) 
  It's also hilarious to me that Dad accepts this as reasonable proof of the legitimacy of their marriage. "One kiss? Okay, I can see that you're happy and in love because of one kiss. Congratulations on your joyous life together. Now, let's all go to bed. But first, I need to make sure you're sleeping in the same room." I swear his intentions are completely innocent, and they're shown to be in the drama, but I'm sure my retelling of them makes them sound a bit. . . creepy. They're totally not, but it is funny. I mean, Dad was married before, and even had a child, so I'm sure he understands that there's more to a good marriage than one little kiss. And plenty of bad marriages have lots and lots of kissing.
  But this is all one of the aspects of Dramaland that I adore the most, and one that keeps me transfixed by drama after drama: that innocent ideation of relationships and love that is so prevalent in Asian dramas and so lacking in Western fare. Yes, it's simplistic and unrealistic, but it's also so earnest and such a positive point of view. As a cynical, sarcastic, and romantic-in-the-deepest-most-secret-part-of-my-heart American, I find such guilelessness and innocence to be refreshing, endearing and lovely. It's not something we see often in Western media anymore, which I find to be very sad.
  Another aspect of this drama that I find refreshing is the attitude towards the whole arranged marriage thing. Especially the attitude of Kwon Yul's greatest political opponent, Park Jun Ki. Although most story angles of the contract relationship in this drama are typical of romances with contract marriages, Park Jun Ki points out something that gives it all a sense of unexpected reality. 
  He discusses his plans to overthrow Kwon Yul and talks about finding proof of the contract marriage. But in the process, he points out that it's not the fact of it being a marriage of convenience or political gain that is the problem. Plenty of marriages are based on mutual benefit instead of love or romance (he would know, as his marriage is a purely political union), and that's not a problem. The real issue is if the marriage is a fraudulent marriage designed to appease public opinion and allowed Kwon Yul to gain and keep his public office. 
  I find it interesting that it's the villain of the piece who seems to be the only one who remains unconcerned about the marriage being contractual. Everyone else, from Da Jung, to Kwon Yul, to his staff who are in the know are alway worry about what could happen if word got out. Yes, they stress out about the fraud side of things a bit here and there, but mostly it's concern over people finding out they didn't marry for love.
  In some ways, I think it would be nice if Dramaland could remember this more. But then again, it would take most of the tension out of contract marriage plots, and Dramaland sure loves contract relationships in dramas—especially in its romantic comedies.
  Of course, so do I.
  So keep them coming, Dramaland! And keep up the beautiful, crazy, innocent, silly, and refreshing attitudes that keep us coming back to you again and again. We love you, and we wouldn't have you any other way.

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