Meems wanted to restart Itaewon Class (she was on episode 5) and so we picked up in the middle and it’s definitely interesting to like… realize the limitations in “progressive” Korean dramas? It reminds me of how other dramas with progressive elements like Mine (closeted lesbian main character) or Extraordinary Attorney Woo (autistic main character, queer minor characters) handle the marginalization through a kinda… frustrating lens hinged on oppression?
One of the main things about Itaewon Class is that supporting character Ma Hyun-yi is supposed to be a trans woman. Beyond how Hyun-yi is played by cis actress Lee Joo-young (Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo), it’s very frustrating that the episode Meems restarted her rewatch on… has Hyun-ji deal with transmisogyny… from our second main character Jo Yi-seo. There’s a reveal when their coworker at the restaurant DanBam, Choi Seung-kwon, is dancing all up on Hyun-yi and once he realizes that she’s his coworker we get a traditionally transmisogynistic reaction… but not from him?
It comes from the main character?? And it’s just hard to keep watching a series where the main character - whose defining traits are that she’s super smart and “worldly” (because she lived in New York for years) - takes a turn as a transmisogynistic bully that has to be told that Hyun-yi is a person worthy of care, respect, and guidance.
And the complaint on my end is that, this is kind of… how it goes? Increasingly, Korean dramas are doing subplots around marginalized identities where those characters are main characters. But their plots constantly revolve primarily around… oppression. Around suffering. And some of it is because of how trans people, autistic people, etc are normally treated in dramas and beyond that… but also… it’s weak writing.
Itaewon Class is a good drama. I mean, reviews consistently have been great. But it’s just frustrating that storytelling there [in dramas we know to be progressive] still relies on presenting marginalized and vulnerable characters through how bad things are for them first and then getting better.