Sungkyunkwan Scandal, episodes 9 to 14

These couple of episodes have been interesting because it gives me new things to think about. I’m not really clocked into what’s happening in the overarching political storyline, nor am I really invested in the romance between Seon-joon and Yoon-hee, but I think the side characters are shaping up to be more interesting than I thought they’d be.

First is the relationship between Yong-ha and Jae-shin, and then second is the relationship between Cho-sun and Yoon-hee. (The girl who plays Cho-sun was also in Bad Guy as the girl who jumped to her death, which I completely did not even realize until a second ago.)

Lots of gender/sexuality ramble after the jump. Yay!

First, the relationship between Yong-ha and Jae-shin.

For some reason, fangirls really like homoeroticizing male/male relationships in whatever fandom, whether or not there exists any kind of evidence of any actual sexual attraction. I never really understood why girls (because fandom is mostly comprised of females) — and straight girls at that — liked to do that, especially in fandoms in societies that really frown upon homosexuality. And then I read something about a year or two ago that blew my mind, lol, and that’s that fangirls may enjoy homoeroticism, but can still be homophobic. Just exactly why this is, I’m not really sure, and I would love to read up more on it.

Anyway, my point initially with Yong-ha and Jae-shin was that I felt fangirls of the drama were just hooking these two up just because they happen to be both in the same story and happen to interact in a way more affectionate than others, which in my opinion does not give license to put these two together in a coupling based out of attraction.


In the last few episodes, I definitely felt like Yong-ha is a little less straight than I thought him to be, though I doubt this is the true intention of the writers. There is nothing explicit, minus the one scene where Seon-joon asks Yong-ha, as a hubae to a sunbae, what the connotations are of maybe being attracted to someone of your gender. Essentially, Yong-ha says that he used to question that too, in regards to his relationship with Jae-shin, but I mean he ultimately dismissed it saying that he was just a friend, but this spawned the seed in my mind that there is more to Yong-ha than this simpleton drama makes him out to be.

I doubt it’ll ever come up again, but it’s really the combination of that scene, and how Song Joong-ki acts the part that really gave me impetus to even think this. By how Song Joong-ki acts, I mean the deliberate dilly-dallying, and you just feel that Yong-ha is much more concerned and affectionate towards Jae-shin than others. And plus, now I’m starting to think that his playboy image is just to throw off the gaydar. But again, this is all speculation and I don’t usually make speculations like this, but after that talk Yong-ha had with Seon-joon, and then subsequently when Yong-ha went to convince Jae-shin not to masquerade as Hong Byuk-seo for the night (the tears! oh, the tears), I just couldn’t shake it off.

And then second is the relationship between Cho-sun and Yoon-hee.

Another possible same-sex couple that 100% will not play out in fruition. Obviously, Cho-sun is attracted to and thinks well of Yoon-hee, but does so because she believes Yoon-hee to be a man. It’s not hard to see why she would fall for Yoon-hee, because Yoon-hee has the ability to recognize that a woman does not deserved to be treated with anything less than respect. Maybe it’s because she’s a fellow woman that she shielded Cho-sun from the perverse gaze of the men in her company, but I mean, Yoon-hee is just a good person in general.

Now I’m just going to wax on poetically as a liberal left-winger who watches too much TV. Once Cho-sun learns that Yoon-hee is a girl, her initial good feelings towards her probably won’t just vanish because she is suddenly not attracted to her anymore, it’s more that her society dictates that she shouldn’t feel attraction to another girl. I guess this all depends on the semantics of things, because while I think that attraction can be socially constructed, attraction in the most basic, intangible form is based on an idea and an ideal, and you don’t really just drop ideas and ideals, it’s more that society is still at a place where the gender of the person possessing those ideals is a contributing factor to whether or not you can be attracted to that person.

I know there are plenty of flaws and slidey holes in my argument, but I just wanted to get that out there, because I’ve been thinking about just the idea of relationships amongst all genders, whether they be romantic or platonic.

And now completely unrelated to the relationship stuff is just my overall enjoyment of the drama.

I’m sure if you’ve read my SKKS posts, you know the reason why I’m watching this at all. And they are still the reasons why I watch, and now it’s gotten to a point where I can’t not watch the rest, heh.

But on a holistic scale, this is a pretty forgettable drama. I don’t think the characters — all of them, not just the ones I don’t like — mesh well with each other. There seems to be a certain distance from all the characters, despite them being a pretty tight-knit group of people. And while I like Moon Jae-shin’s character the most and I think Yoo Ah-in is doing a great job with the role, I just don’t think this is the kind of drama where a character like Jae-shin will shine or grow beyond what we’re already given. There is depth to the character, but that’s thanks to Yoo Ah-in, not the writing. Yoo Ah-in can be as angsty and angry as he wants to with his character, but if that character isn’t even given the story space to finesse those emotions, it doesn’t matter if the character is good. It’s the idea that you can dress a bear in a princess’ clothes, but at the end of the day, he’s still a bear. In a princess’ clothes. The drama is so ham-handed and sloppy at times that it really doesn’t matter how good Yoo Ah-in is or isn’t, or how well-written Jae-shin is or isn’t. It’s a potentially good character in a frilly drama. Give me a Jae-shin-type performance in something like “Cinderella’s Sister,” then we’ll talk.

There is also something very clacky and campy about the drama. Clacky is not even a word, but I guess I mean the drama as a whole feels kind of obvious and heavy-handed. There are so many moments where more subtlety could’ve done wonders to the scene, but instead, they choose the most contrived and obvious scenarios ever. Like, whenever we need Seon-joon to feel really jealous, we’ll just catch him walking in on a little cozy moment between Yoon-hee and Jae-shin. This happens so many times that I’ve really lost count. I guess you readers who have read enough of my drama rants already know I’m a huge fan of the showing-not-telling in storytelling. I hate it when I have to be told how I should feel towards a scene based on the stupid song that plays in the background. I hate it when characters’ successes are shoved in my face with a bajillion smiles that go from one person to another to another to another and we’re basically given a 5 minute montage of people smiling victoriously at each other.

You get my drift??

  • oreoreo

    lol i think the ‘clackiest’ part of the drama (and i spose potentially all kdramas) is the enemy characters, in this case the school captain and his family – the ambitious but always one step behind dad, similar son who glares and throws his soju glass in response to everything and the silly yet kind daughter – a bit of subtlety really wouldn’t hurt here
    and i felt the same way about yong-ha’s sexuality – i thought the whole playboy thing was a facade to disguise the fact he was actually gay and in love with jae-shin.. but then i figured the writers wouldn’t be smart or brave enough to do that :S
    but yoo ah-in, song joongki, kim kapsoo and surprisingly enough yoochun have enough pulling force to keep me watching till the end

  • tiacosas

    “You get my drift??”

    Yes! A thousand times yes!

    I’ve honestly stopped with the over analysing gender issues because I would end up bald (I kinda thought that Yong Ha was always shown as an ambiguous character sexually speaking, by the way).

    That being done, I can’t be on board this ship completely (after all, I’m still watching). I find its writing sloppy, its editing weird, its music distracting, its acting average. Not that we haven’t seen all those things in dramas, it’s just that the characters developments are my main problem. I was hoping for these four scholars to find a common goal, to go past their differences, to “amalgamate” into an awesome friendship that went beyond all barriers. That could’ve made me forget the “stylish” problems. Instead, we got four individuals who randomly find something that makes them support each other for brief periods of time. And we’re in episode 16 already.

    Yong Ha was interesting, but his antics are a bit boring now, his character needs more depth (one good scene was the one in which he cried, I admit that). Jae Shin could stop it with the emo whining on the tree and start kicking some major ass like in the beginning. Yoon Hee was never attractive as a character, her forced deep voice distracts me sorry. And Sun Joon, well, I kinda pity him, he’s always left out the big secrets.

    If we’ve got here, it’s late to abandon it. Maybe after episode 15 things will change a bit for the best? Episodes 11-14 were a torture, episode 15 can give us some inter-relations changes in the future… I hope so.

    By the way, I love this kind of analitic posts. The interwebz is all about squealing and ship wars, at least you give another point of view that I find extremely refreshing and thought-inducing. Thanks.

    • Amy

      “Instead, we got four individuals who randomly find something that makes them support each other for brief periods of time.”

      That’s exactly how I feel. I just don’t think the four really jibe with each other in a way that convinces me of their real Sungkyunkwan brotherhood, y’know? I feel they’re very superficially “together” when the story requires them to be, but outside of that, it’s more the friendship between Yong-ha and Jae-shin, and then Jae-shin with Yoon-hee, and maybe Yoon-hee with Seon-joon.

      And yes, I meant to also rant about how Jae-shin’s angst and anger are getting a little bit on my nerves, as is Yong-ha’s constant cheekiness, but I refrained :P Too much ranting.

      • esther

        Oh me three! The four were touted as the F4 of the Joseon period, except I never got that friendly feeling between them as I did in BoF. I mean, as much as BoF was a mess, I was still able to see that each of the four had each other’s backs in times of a crisis and were actually friends for life. In SKKS, it lacks that underlying friendship relationship thing (…I don’t speak well) which ultimately makes it fizzle.

        Also, I don’t know why, but I never entertained the possibility of Chosun and Yoonhee having a relationship. Ever. Maybe it’s because I’m so used to the bromance in kdramas that I look at Yongha and Jaeshin and think nothing of it, but if it were two girls getting together then I’d be like “woooahh what just happened!”

        But these are just minor points. I love watching this drama. XD

        “Jae Shin could stop it with the emo whining on the tree.” just LOL.

  • holycow!

    i must be one of the fan girls.
    From somewhere around episode 8 onwards I basically fast forward the video to parts that have goo yong ha.
    And i wouldn’t say i’m homophobic, but indeed, being receptive to “homoeroticism” (psst i think it isn’t that homo at least for me, because basically if he sticks his face up close to any other person who is aesthetically pleasing, I will squeel also, girl or guy)might not necessarily equate to being receptive of homosexuals irl.
    probably cos people know that this is a show meant to induce fangirldom and at the end of the day, these boys will still go home straight. like how people used to like to pair up the boys in shinhwa and then there was dbsk.
    i would like to see when dramas start hinting at lesbianism though. but i doubt it would ever see the light of day.

    • Amy

      i definitely don’t mean to generalize about all fangirls who like to ship people together, but i do think there’s a pretty big gap between fans who ship guys together within the constraints of fandom, but don’t view homosexuality as a viable thing, y’know? don’t mean to offend!

  • anna

    umm did you know that yoo ah-in was inthe korean version of the man that can’t marry, as the geeky assistant.

    • Amy

      yep! i thought about watching it for him, but i don’t know if i can, since he’s so sad and in love with kim so-eun and she’s so not that it makes me feel like i’d be watching “triple” all over again and substituting song joong-ki with yoo ah-in, heh.

      • tailorstitch

        the only thing I’ve watched yoo ah-in in before SKKS was the man who can’t marry and i did find his character really cute, but sort of annoyingly wimpy at times. I was really surprised when i realised belatedly by ep 5 or so that it was the same guy lol. not sure if I could re-watch that show now as it would totally kill the sexy for me, humm i could re-watch just for the cutiepatootiness though…

  • aj

    I’m totally this show’s bitch, but I think it’s mostly due to the fact that Yoo Ah-in and Song Joong-ki are honest-to-goodness talented and sososo frakkin’ gorgeous. In the insane magical land known as my mind Gu Yong-ha is bi (or possibly pansexual XD) and repressing his socially unacceptable and one-sided love for Moon Jae-shin…

    I’m not homophobic (obviously), though I rarely ship male characters together in a fictional fandom seriously. I’m all for the bromance and ho-yay, which I will participate in because it’s frankly hilarious and fun to appropriate whatever the either brave or naive writers are trying to slip under the radar. For me, how far I go has to do with the story, characters, their orientation, and whether or not I get too invested in gay relationship of my own imagining that the writer(s) will eventually smash to pieces. (Wow. That’s real healthy…)

    That being said, I do feel that Gu Yong-ha’s enigmatic personality and ambiguous and androgynous behavior lends itself to the interpretation of him not being quite as straight as his SKKS professors and the network bigwigs would like him to be. The writers are probably not aiming for this; Song Joong-ki might not even be aiming for this. They’re most likely repressing everything they could do with these awesome characters. (Except for Song Joong-ki who I think is doing a fabulous job interpreting his character within the confines of the script. Same goes for Yoo Ah-in and, surprisingly, most of the cast.)

    I also feel that, and when I say this, I mean in my mind, Cho-sun is a repressed lesbian who fell in love with Yoon-hee because the part she has unconsciously denying herself has recognized her ideal in Yoon-hee. Hey, it’s possible. Or she could be bi. I really wish this drama could have touched on gender and sexuality more than it has. Oh well. I always have fanfic. If only the drama writers could source my brain; the untapped potential of this drama kills me. *sighs* AMC, Showtime, and HBO have all spoiled me too much in the meaty (tofuey? I’m a vegetarian) television storytelling department. Even some network shows here in the States. Damn you adventurous tv producers and writers…

    At the end of the day, this is a trendy rom-com. It could be sooo much more, but it was ordained in the beginning to not reach itself as far as we’d like it to. Personally I think the show is doing a damned fine job of fulfilling its purpose and is better made and acted than a lot of the trendier shows out there and many people would like to give it credit for. It’s no Joseon X-Files, my favorite K-drama of the moment, but then again cable often trumps network nowadays. It’s not perfect (what the hell is?), but I’m still in love with it.