In the last year and hundreds of episodes, I noticed when a show provides a healthy amount of learning, justice, and mercy, and it morphs from a good show to a spectacular one. There is something wonderful about a not-so-good person experiencing remorse, correcting his or her mistake, then finishing as a better version than what they started as… or better yet, a character learning to forgive and EVEN love the not-so-good person. It's almost like... like… I’m a better person, too, growing right alongside the character.
Can a TV Show Teach Us Something? I think so…
There are several shows I’ve completed over the last year that exemplify this characteristic. Each reminded me of a forgotten truth or perhaps a new one. Today, I suggest Splash Splash Love, Falling for Innocence, and Hotel Del Luna, which are three such shows with those precious teaching nuggets… and I’ll explain why.
Splash Splash Love Message: Yeah, just because someone appears ordinary doesn’t mean they aren’t extraordinary!
Fun during math lessons with Se Jong Yi Do and Dan Bi
If you have a couple of hours to spare, please consider the two episodes that make up THIS INCREDIBLE SHOW!!!! If possible, please watch this with a young girl. (Are my nieces reading this?) This incredibly touching and thought-provoking k-drama is only about two hours or so and tackles the issue of education and women. I’m embarrassed to say that my analytical geometry teacher was right. IT IS all about math.
Splash Splash Love is the story of Dan Bi played by Kim Seul Gi, a teen about to take the Korean version of the SAT’s. She struggles with math and hates the very idea of taking the test and fears for her future. Like many who are frustrated with their lives, she wants to run away. And… she does... from the SAT’s EVEN! Our feckless heroine jumps into a puddle… yes, a puddle - a plot device that works very nicely in this story. That special puddle transports her to the Joseon Kingdom, into the ever-so-wonderful clutches of King Se Jong Yi Do (Yoon Doo Joon). Said king appears to be the most intelligent person around, and he wants to learn more... queue Dan Bi.
First off, the relationship that brews between Dan Bi and the king is… so… so… so compelling and enlightening all at once and with just the right amount of romance for only two episodes. This poor monarch is so starved for education that Dan Bi (with her low self-esteem and backpack full of school books) is the most educated person in all the land. Adding to the fun, there’s an arc involving rain and concubines that leads these two to push themselves and everyone around them intellectually, leading to conflict: both bad and good.
As Dan Bi spends time as an educator, she starts to challenge herself as much as she’s challenging the king to learn. The pinnacle of Splash Splash Love culminates with a water clock using physics and mathematics. (Okay, I almost cried here because I hated math so much as a young girl and wish I had that type of “aha” moment in my own pre-college life.) This show is not just a two-episode historical romp with some comedy and romance. It beautifully illustrates the importance of education, encouraging growth, and recognizing intelligence in everyone, including young girls… especially the seemingly ordinary ones who have soooooo much to offer. Thank you Splash Splash Love for reminding us of that truth!
Falling For Innocence: Being sorry isn’t enough and thriving through adversity is much sweeter.
Jung Kyung Ho and his portrayal of Kang Min Ho’s Journey… so witty and worthwhile
Falling for Innocence was the first K-drama I EVER watched and found it touching and witty (thanks to Jung Kyung Ho… very amusing). The show starts with the super evil Kang Min Ho, played by Jung Kyung Ho… ok, so not THAT evil, but the guy truly is terrible. With a nickname of the serial killer, he isn’t pleasant. Well, nasty Min Ho is out to destroy his uncle’s company. The very same company his uncle stole from his father decades previously just after his father died from a tragic heart condition. Several episodes have Min Ho plotting and doing terrible things to everyone and anyone despite his own heart disease and it's all funny because it's Jung Kyung Ho!
After receiving a heart transplant… hint: fun foreshadowing (who thinks this stuff up... ’cause it was entertaining), Min Ho starts to change and is dragged towards redemption albeit reluctantly by Kim Soon Jung played by Kim So Yeon. Soon, Min Ho finds himself in the very same position that his previous business victims experienced and is humbled, humiliated, and raked over the coals by his enemies. What I love about this whole story is Min Ho learns, grows, and begins to self-reflect and understand what he did wrong and what he needs to do to atone for all his misdeeds. He doesn’t just learn to love but learns how to be a good person.
As Min Ho evolves towards the end, he is faced with the choice to sacrifice big and save the company (i.e. people’s livelihood) or cut his losses and move on, leaving the company in ashes. Well… all I can say is this show was fabulous illustrating that good things come to those who are willing to pay for their mistakes, who shed themselves of their bad habits, and who are always willing to learn and improve. Thank you, Falling for Innocence for reminding me to think of how my actions affect others.
Hotel Del Luna: So many lessons… whew… where do I start?
Was there a character that didn’t learn to be a better person?
As far as morality plays go, Hotel Del Luna is right up there with Everyman and Condemnation des Banquets (a little deep huh?). First of all, what is a morality play? It is a form of entertainment that teaches a moral and some of the characters represent virtues or vices.
First and most obvious is the character of Ma Go Shin (really God) in Hotel Del Luna who has six distinct characters or faces in the show: nurturing, angry, loving, healing, good fortune, bad luck. All five of these characters were portrayed exceptionally well by Seo Yi Sook. As these six faces of Ma Go Shin interact with another character, they teach one type of lesson or another: its never too late to change your evil ways, its better to make the hard sacrifice – even when it hurts, don’t gamble (that one was funny), and so forth.
Just when I thought there wasn’t another life lesson that could be squeezed into the 16 episodes, Goo Chan Sung (Yeo Jin Goo) is here to save the day, nurturing Jang Man Wol (IU), protecting Sanchez (Jo Hyun Chul), and mentoring Hyun Jeung (Pyo Ji Hoon) and Yoo Na (Kang Mi Na). Through the influence of the Ma Go Shin’s and Goo Chan Sung’s efforts, many characters developed beautifully like a blooming a spirit moon tree (yes… alluding to Jang Man Wol’s)... very moving… I did tear up episode 14 thru 16… and entertaining along the way.
Don’t get me wrong, Hotel Del Luna was witty, sad, eye-popping gorgeous, and scary, but there was that something extra, a feeling that when all is said and done, I learned something. My heart and my brain were challenged watching the room manager grapple with her hundreds of years old grudge, Mi Ra becoming a much better person the second time around, and most notably, Jang Man Wol struggling between a thousand-plus-year-old path of vengeance or love cultivated (literally… there’s a tree) over a few months. I adore you Hotel Del Luna for reminding me that divine love (i.e. agape – charity or brotherly love) is still the most potent force in the universe.
Watching an Asian drama? Is there a hidden life lesson? A bigger picture?
Now, please note, watching these shows does not negate our responsibility to the world around us, and we should be doing our part giving back to the community in which we live (and yes I practice what I preach). But… often, I find myself pessimistic when looking at that same world around me… almost unhappy, witnessing the ick people inflict on each other… ahem, internet trolls or worse. When completing shows like these three, a tangible feeling of hope swirls around my muddled brain, and I think better of the human race. Perhaps we’re not so bad after all, and maybe... just maybe, I want to be a better person. I can do more, help more, be more.
Entertainment that fascinates AND makes us think. Does TV get better than that? From my perspective… HECK, NO!
Over the last year, I have experienced dramas with marvellous characters, diverting dialogue, heart-stopping conflict, and life-affirming lessons. Wow! How cool is that? I live in a world that provides all these entertainment choices and then a forum to share my thoughts and ideas about that very subject (thank you, MDL). I’m a self-professed newbie to Asian dramas with only one year of these shows under my belt... and I’m just getting started. Whew… so many shows… so little time.