Exploring Korean Drama: Boys Over Flowers

I’ve ignored it for too long, but I can’t do so anymore.  It’s time we talked about Boys Over Flowers (also translated as Boys Before Flowers).  Despite Lee Min Ho, this is one of my least favorite kdramas, but it deserves a spot here.  That’s because Boys Over Flowers is one of the most popular and influential shows of the new wave of Korean dramas and anyone looking to get into kdramas needs to know about it.

fancy vacation

There’s at least one tropical trip and one skiing trip.

I can definitely see the appeal: BoF is a Cinderella story starring a bunch of gorgeous men, and the normal girl who manages to break into their clique and win their friendship (and the romantic affections of two of them).  Geum Jan Di is lavished with gifts and flown away to exotic locations.  It’s wish fulfillment at its highest.It’s also entirely crazy.  I don’t know where to begin on that front, so I’ll just start with a summary of the premise.  An elite private school is run by F4, the four richest and handsomest students there.  They’ve been friends since childhood, and they’re lead by Goo Joon Pyo, the wealthiest of them all, heir to giant conglomerate Shin Hwa (which just so happens to own the school at which they attend).

All of the girls want to get with F4, and all of the guys want to be in their good graces.  Everyone at the school toadies to F4 to the extent that if you earn their ire, a literal black mark is placed upon your locker.  Once the study body sees it, you’re toast.

Geum Jan Di is an average teenage girl.  She helps with her family’s dry cleaning business, so one day she’s making a delivery to F4’s school.  That’s when she saves the life of her customer: a student who’s about to jump off the roof.  He earned F4’s black mark, and now his life has been made so miserable that he just wants to end it all.

flour prank

At one point Jan Di is hit with bags of flour and her bike is set on fire. And that’s one of her better days at school.

To cover up the bad press, Joon Pyo’s mother (who runs the family company) offers Jan Di a scholarship to the prestigious school.  That’s right: a kid tries to kill himself due to the intense bullying he endures at school, and all it takes to smooth that over in the eyes of the outraged public is to give the girl who saved him a scholarship (not, you know, changing school policies about bullying or anything).

Of course Jan Di immediately gets blacklisted by F4, because she refuses to kowtow to them.  Joon Pyo won’t send his lackeys to attack her because she’s a girl, so he arranges a series of increasingly elaborate cruel pranks to get her back.  Because this is a romance, he ends up falling for her: the one person who stood up to him and always said what she thought around him.

The insanity really kicks in once the two start to date; Joon Pyo is nothing compared to his mother.  She fires the father of Jan Di’s best friend, destroys the Geum family business, and even kidnaps Jan Di, all in an effort to keep the poor scum away from her precious son.  The best part is that she gets away with all of it.

If I were Jan Di, I would have called the police.  If that didn’t work, I would have gone to the press (because the show premise establishes that if nothing else, Joon Pyo’s insane mother fears the opinion of her public shareholders).  But that’s just the world of BoF: this crazy lady can get away with anything, and we’re just along for the ride.

Joon Pyo and Jan Di have all of the typical kdrama obstacles in their path: his coo-coo bananas mother, the other students at the school who just can’t accept her, (these people follow Joon Pyo’s every word, apparently until it relates to a poor girl they think is trying to infiltrate their lives), a sudden!fiancee, and, in the most hilarious finale ever, an absurd case of selective amnesia.

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