So a few days ago I recommended watching a Korean Drama called My Love From Another Star. It’s all the rage in China, I had just started watching it and it wasn’t bad. Now that I’ve finished it I want to say…
I TAKE IT BACK!
Don’t watch the show! Watching paint dry or grass grow would be a better use of your time because then it would only be boring, but watching this show can put some dangerous ideas in your head, and therefore is more detrimental. And here’s why… (Spoiler alert. I’m gonna talk about the whole series.)
Wait, before I start I just want to reiterate how popular this show is in China. These past few weeks I’ve been talking about it and everyone knows what I mean. Students of the other foreign teachers have been talking to them about it, and the lead actor (who IS totally hot no matter how much I don’t like the show) is a huge star here even attracting 4,000 people to an outdoor event on a rainy weekday.
And based on my knowledge of Chinese culture I can understand why people like it so much. But it’s for all the wrong reasons. First off, the guy is basically asexual. He’s an alien and can’t mix fluids with humans. That means that even with a small, closed mouth kiss, he gets sick for hours. That takes away all hints of anything sexual and therefore comfortably sanitizes the show for all the young girls who are scared of sex. And older women as well I suppose.
Then there is the main actress. In the beginning she starts off as a bitch which was fine. I recognized the character arc of a bitchy self-centered actress who softens and becomes “real” throughout the movie. Only, she doesn’t. I think people “think” she does, and I think the show tried to do that, but in reality they failed. Even when the couple finally gets together as boyfriend girlfriend she does that ridiculous “baby voice” thing and asks him horrible questions like “If me and your best friend were drowning who would you save first?” You know, making sure that she outranks his friend (his only other friend by the way. In this show he has no life outside of her–he has a job in the beginning which quickly disappears, and only one friend who is more his servant than anything else. He’s also filthy rich on investments. So he has all the time in the world for her, and yet she still gets jealous about his one friend he sees sometimes.)
Which isn’t to say he’s blameless. While I like his character more, as soon as they get together he gets insanely jealous. Telling her things like she couldn’t act in a movie because it would require her to kiss someone, cover up her body because he doesn’t like her showing skin (“You’re more beautiful covered up,” he tells her in a stroke of master manipulation) and not letting her drink a beer (her favorite) because he decides he doesn’t want her too, regardless of her feelings. (And she accepts it all giggly as a sign of love, not abuse, which it is.)
The other characters are just as bad. The main character is supposed to be close to 30 and yet when she sleeps at the guys house one night (to take care of him ’cause he’s sick) she is slut shamed by her little high school aged brother. And instead of telling him to piss off, she’s an adult and can do what she wants, she sits there meekly and acts all “cutesy” like a little kid caught doing something naughty. The slut shaming happens several times throughout the show despite the fact that they can’t even kiss, much less have sex. I get Korea (and China) have a more traditional culture, but this is just too over the top for me. Especially because she never does anything bad and yet accepts the criticism.
She also does the whiney girl “pouty” thing when she is supposed to be the nicer girl. For instance she forces the alien to take her to this fancy restaurant she has always wanted to go. Then, when they get there, and he doesn’t propose to her in an over-the-top, outlandish way (because, ya know, they’ve been going out all of 3 days) she gets all pouty and wants to go, skipping the meal. Later in the car he asks what’s wrong and is she mad and she spits “No, you took me out to eat in the restaurant I wanted, what could be wrong?” Leaving him to try to placate her, even though she never says what she really wants.
The man always has to comfort her, always has to save her and make her happy. When he’s sick she’s even demanding, forcing him to answer her, or help her. There’s one scene where she’s washing her hands and he’s standing behind her, waiting. She finishes and he hands her a napkin he has prepared for her, and while she’s drying her hands he puts a coat on her shoulders to keep her from getting cold.
And that’s why I feel this show is dangerous. It creates such a false sense of relationships and love. China is still traditional, but young people watch, and learn, from these shows and expect something impossible. Sure, in the west our romantic movies and TV shows give us unrealistic expectations, but then we go out and have relationships, and love, and loss and ex’s and we fall in love several times, and we know what to expect. But in china, they don’t do that. Many young people marry the first person they ever kiss, and some will even marry people they have never kissed. (I have one student who is engaged to a women he hasn’t even seen a picture of. His mom decided, and his mom told him she was “beautiful” and he believes her. He told me that he doesn’t want to, but he can’t go against his moms wishes. When he marries his wife it will be not only his first relationship, but his first kiss as well.)
And the ones that end up getting hurt the most are the girls. The majority of my students are girls and I know how raw and pure their hearts are. They watch shows like this, and dream of the future with an attentive man who will take care of her, hold a napkin for them while they wash their hands and put a coat on them. Only, reality is the guy (even the best guys) will be off at work all day and night trying to deal with the overwhelming societal pressure of “taking care of his family,” buying a house and a car and moving up in the world so they can buy a better house and better car. And that’s a best case, “true love,” type scenario.
But what about the common relationship? More likely the man will have a girlfriend on the side (or several if he’s rich), or just sleep with prostitutes, and give the wife money to live, but no emotional support and care so she’s lonely and miserable. But divorce is still frowned upon, and anyway the man owns the house in his name only, so divorce would leave the woman with very little other than shame.
So that’s why I feel like shows like this are unreasonable. I know, you could make the same argument about western culture and our Twilight movies, or romance novels. But most of us know it is a fantasy, an escape from the everyday. But young girls here in China don’t have the experience or critical thinking skills to recognize the same. They think, and expect, that shows like this are markers of what’s in store for them. What’s coming due to them for being a good girl. And sadly, many will be disappointed.
I know this is a rather long review of a show most people will never watch. But I recommended it the other day and so I just want to go on record as saying I take back my recommendation!
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