The Crazy Wonderful of Princess Agents

Princess Agents

C-dramas can be uneven, given their length and complicated plots, but Princess Agents has achieved a paradox. Despite its absurdity, you are compelled to watch to the very crazy end.

First, let’s start with the wonderful.

The leads.  While the romantic triangle is not new, the trio of Chu Qiao (Zhao Li Ying), Yuwen Yue (Lin Geng Xin) and Yan Xun (Dou Xiao) is entertaining, especially before the Big Tragedy. Chu Qiao is a great female lead. At first, you wonder about her indifferent attitude, but then revel in the way she is totally not impressed with Yue or Yan Xun’s elite position. And I love her interaction with the Xiuli Army. Yue and Yan Xun are completely different, yet they are friends and share concern for Chu Qiao.  Even though I love a stoic, I was not feeling Yue at first. But throughout the series, he actually changes, even if his facial expression rarely does. That slow personality change is what makes him endearing. Yes, I’m #TeamYue. Yan Xun plays the leisurely, “I live in a manor and hang out with the elite but I’m a captive prince” really well. His happy-go-lucky demeanor brings levity to the politics of Chang’an. Because of their different personalities, Chu Qiao interacts with Yue and Yan Xun in different ways. The low-key banter and insults between Yue and Chu Qiao belie how much they care for each other. Chu Qiao does what no one else is able to do for Yan Xun after the Big Tragedy.

The villains. Any good melodrama needs villains and the more villainous the better. Yuwen Huai (Wang Yanlin) initially takes up the villain mantle out the gate: the human hunting ground, his repeated assassination attempts on Yue, his constant attempts to beat down Chu Xiao. He’s the type of villain that almost makes you sad to see him go.  But Princess Agents got you! No sooner than he is off the scene, Cheng Chi (Hu Chunyoung) takes up the villain gauntlet thrown down by Huai. His scheme-y shenanigans are unrelenting and bold. In the last acts of the drama, Yuan Chun (Li Qin) represents the ladies. Who else would steal a army to get revenge?

The sidekicks. Given the powerhouse main cast, it takes a special character to catch the audience’s attention. Yue Qi (Xin Shao Lin) is the man! At first, you think he’s just one of Yue’s many underlings, but he’s the closest to Yue and he knows him the best. This means that he’s not only trustworthy and dependable, but can also get away with throwing shade of his own and live to tell the tale.  Zhong Yu (Li Ruo Jia), Yan Xun’s martial artist aide, is always serious, which means she gets the job done. She also tries to tell Yan Xun what’s-what and keep his people in line.

The dilemma. The plot hinges on Emperor Wei’s (Tian Xiaojie) response to what he thinks is a potential rebellion by Yan Xun’s father, the Yan Sicheng (Li Haohan), Duke of Yan. The Emperor’s sworn brother, Yan Sicheng has been guarding the border for years, but because the Emperor is paranoid, suspicious and drunk on power, he plots to kill Yan Sicheng and his whole family for no good reason. It is this decision that alters the lives of all the characters, plunging them into a scenario that is difficult to resolve at best. It ruins all the relationships that Yan Xun has with Wei people, particularly Yue. You could kinda see why he’d want to get revenge. At the same time, his Wei friends know that the Emperor’s actions are wrong, but they are loyal subjects, and as loyal subjects they can’t do anything about it. What to do when your leader is crazy? Then again, Yan Xun’s revenge is all out of proportion, not directed at the right people and harms a lot of innocent people.  How to resolve?

The wonderful is what keeps you invested in Princess Agents. The crazy makes you want to beat your head against a wall.

The ending. What are you doing, Princess Agents?!!! You leave people who have invested 58 episodes with a cliffhanger!!! You wait until the eleventh hour to reveal that Chu Qiao has feelings for Yue! You drown Yue in the icy lake! You kill off Yue Qi! You end with Chu Qiao accepting that she is the heir to the Fengyun Order and then fade to black!! That ain’t right.

The subplots. Speaking of the Fengyun Order, this is only one of several subplots that were irregularly weaved through the drama. Audiences really didn’t care that Chu Qiao was the daughter of Luo He by the time they find out.  Hey, what about those Liang spies? They cause all of the trouble, yet are not brought to account. Why are they spared Yan Xun’s wrath? We really did not need another romantic subplot that is alluded to in the early episodes but only addressed in the last one. Who are these random people in Master Wu’s explanation of Chu Qiao’s background?  Why does she only literally find him in the last episodes? SHE’S BEEN IN NORTHERN YAN FOR FOREVER!!!! If Chu Qiao is supposed to take up the mantle of her mother, who was killed by he own people because she wanted to free slaves, how is Chu Qiao going to succeed? Who is the guy with the green ring? What is the significance of the guy who served Yan Xun’s father, had a hand in the fall of Yan, then serves Prince Xiang? WHO IS HE?! It’s not that you can’t figure some of this stuff out, but rather that it doesn’t make sense to the overall story. Too much stuff going on.

The (unbelievable) character development. That’s right, I’m looking at you, Chu Qiao! Even if my disbelief got an out-of-school suspension, your behavior would not make sense. Who else wanted to shake Chu Qiao? She is supposed to be righteous and helping the oppressed. But, she’s chilling in the cut with Yan Xun after he’s killed all these innocent people, left her to defend the city and let his generals talk smack about her TO HER FACE!! Why are she still giving him benefit of the doubt after what happened to Yuan Chun AND the Xiuli Army? Where is the dilemma? Yue told her that man had changed. What is even more unbelievable is that she immediately severed ties with Yue when she heard SOMEBODY ELSE saying he was using her as a death pawn. She never asked him. And while Yue did prevent Yan Xun from escaping, he never killed innocent people. But Chu Qiao drops Yue like he stole something and proceeds to spend an inordinate amount of time with Yan Xun and his doomed plan.

The pacing. While many long dramas have slow episodes, they irk you even more in Princess Agents because there is no payoff in the tend (see The Ending). Nirvana in Fire had 54 episodes, but moved the plot along at a much better pace. The Incarceration Arc in Princess Agents felt like the actual three years that Yan Xun was on house arrest. We get it!

There are many more flaws, but the thing is, you kinds don’t care. The plusses outweigh the minuses.  There were lots of scenes with Yue! And besides,  a drama that can raise your ire like this can’t be all bad, right?

Image: Wiseme. https://www.wiseme.com/play/ZPSJ358116. (19 Nov 2017).

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The Crazy Wonderful of Princess Agents by CeeFu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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The Increasingly Elusive K-pop Fan

At a time when K-pop is more easily found than ever, it seems like the K-pop fan is disappearing. Increasing division driven by single-fandom obsession is becoming the norm.

It seems strange to talk about back in the day, but not so long ago (2011), K-pop was hard to come by. So when K-pop fans found one another, they were just so happy to find someone else who knew about K-pop. It didn’t matter if their favorite groups weren’t your favorite groups. At least you had heard about their favorite groups, and that was good enough. A shared camaraderie formed as you exchanged stories of waiting for English subs and trying to figure out the members’ names.

There are at least two types of K-pop fans. There are people who are fans of particular K-pop groups, and that’s cool. Then there are people who are fans of K-pop, people who move beyond their first group and look for other groups. Sometimes they might be multi-fandom, but not necessarily. They like lots of different groups and the songs they make.

These days, there seems to be more emphasis on individual group loyalty. Fans are calling themselves things like “pure EXO-Ls” or “pure Carats.” They are excluding individuals who may be multi-fandom from activities like voting campaigns. They are insisting on not mentioning other K-pop groups in fan groups. They act like you aren’t even supposed to know about other groups, even as members of their groups are friends with, collaborate with and are seen with members of other groups.

Let’s be clear. We know that fan energy is indeed finite, so you can’t  like or support all groups in the same way or at the same level. But it is unrealistic to act like other groups don’t exist and groove to their music.  It is unreasonable to ask people not to be aware of other groups that are out there and possibly like them. K-pop is too small for this. And in the long run, it’s bad for K-pop, because K-pop is an industry. With people. And groups and artists. These groups do not exist in a bubble. they listen to each other, know the songs and can do the dances.

Even more sad, this also is causing some people to leave their fandoms or strenuously claim not to be associated with them, even though they like the group. People leave behind something they love because others create a toxic environment and spoil the fun.  Unless your brand of fan activity involves illegal activity or other harmful acts, there is no need to police how other people practice their fanship. The base requirement for being a fan is having affection for something. Everything else after that is gravy. I’ve never seen a group come out and say, “Our fans are sucky because they like other groups.”

Can we just all get along?  

 

The Daily Grind: Misaeng (2014)

Misaeng (2014) is a quiet K-drama that perfectly captures how a job can be soul-sucking and emotionally rewarding at the same time.

Jang Geu-rae (Im Siwan) is our intrepid protagonist, just a guy who spend a whole chunk of his life training to be a baduk player, only to find himself looking for a job after a family tragedy.  Geu-rae is very introspective (Siwan does a GREAT job staring into the camera!), so we get a lot of his internal dialogue. At first, it seems like he just isn’t the type to fight back or think that things should be better for himself. He just seems resigned to his fate. So, he looks….a long time, because he didn’t go to college (BADUK!), so he has missed out on an important credential. He takes a few part-time jobs before a family friend (why didn’t this happen earlier!), he gets a job at a company.

This is great! So you think. Sadly, Geu-rae has the worst co-workers on the planet. His fellow interns are back-stabby, and they take every opportunity to make him feel left out and inferior because he does not have a degree. Initially, they do not try to help him get acclimated. Chief Jerk is Jang Baek-ji (Kang Ha-neul), who seems to measure his self-worth by Geu-rae’s failures.  But slowly, Geu-rae’s strong work ethic and persistence wins them over (ok, some of them).  It turns out they have problems of their own. Not an excuse for them acting jerky, but at least it explains a lot. Together, Geu-rae and his colleagues show how corporate work dehumanizes individuals and forces them to make morally questionable decisions, all for the sake of profit.

Geu-rae’s supervisors make living in a cardboard box under the bridge look like a viable option. This workplace doesn’t seem to have any rules about emotional or physical abuse on the job. Intimidation is the preferred management style. Don’t get me started on the corruption.  But just as Geu-rae is the exception among his junior colleagues, Oh Sang-sik (Lee Sung-min) is the ray of sunshine. A veteran worker, he has managed to retain his humanity in this cutthroat office, even if this has meant that he has not been promoted. He is often the voice of reason among the managers. He doesn’t do things that bother his conscience. He treats the workers on Team Three well.

So you think you are just watching an office drama, but Misaeng tricks you into being all in your feelings. In the midst of the corporate shenanigans is the beautiful relationship between Sang-sik and Geu-rae. Initially, Sang-sik sees Geu-rae like others, but he is won over by Geu-rae’s persistence. He sees a chance for redemption over a mistake he thinks he made in the past. Against all odds, Sang-sik tries his best to get Geu-rae a permanent position.  Geu-rae comes to see Sang-sik as a father figure, a trajectory that starts over a drunk Sang-sik defending Geu-rae (awww). Even though people are awful at the job, Geu-rae draws close to his cubicle-mates in Team Three. So when you get to the last two episodes of Misaeng, you wonder how this little drama has you reaching for the tissues (I’m not crying, you’re crying!).

Misaeng is a delightful emotional rollercoaster that has become one of my favorite dramas of all time. Special shout-out to Geu-rae’s mom (Sung Byung Sook) and Sung-sik’s wife (Oh Yoon Hong).

Image: Top Star News. http://www.topstarnews.net/hd_photo_view.php?number=89144 (12 Nov 2017).

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The Daily Grind: Misaeng (2014) by CeeFu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

What Matters in K-pop?

Image: Pixabay

I have often viewed increased visibility of K-pop in mainstream American media with ambivalence. On one hand, increased visibility may mean more opportunities for concerts and access to K-pop-related media. On the other hand, it may mean significant changes to K-pop and its fandom that take away the things that drew fans in the first place.

One phenomenon that falls into the latter category is the centrality that awards and breaking records have taken in fandom activity. There is no doubt that winning an award, especially one that doesn’t cater to Korean or Asian music, can be seen as an achievement. But at what cost? I don’t know if this is happening in your fandoms, but I’m seeing a significant increase in requests that border on harassment to vote for this award or that poll or watch a video to increase views. To be sure, some people politely ask. But more often, other fans are implying or directly coming out and saying that you aren’t a ‘real fan’ unless you watch this video on repeat all day or create an account to vote on that website. I know this means a lot to some fans, but it doesn’t mean as much to others….myself included.  There are too many ways to be a fan and this shouldn’t be the measure of your identity as a fan.

These awards represent popularity. And yes, it says something if you can mobilize your fandom to achieve that for your group. But it says absolutely nothing about the quality of the music or group talent or whatever got you into the group in the first place. At the end of the day, what does all this activity even mean? Because when you view a video just to increase the views on it, it ceases to be a measure of how much a video is “liked.” It only says X number of people saw it.

This laser focus on popularity also has some negative effects. There is still a large number of  non-fans who believe that K-pop artists have no talent at all, so awards for popularity only serves to reinforce that idea. I feel like the time fans now spend on voting used to be spent on reaction videos and blog posts where they talk about how they got into a group, or their favorite song, or even the logic behind their bias choice.  These activities show what K-pop means to fans in ways that voting do not.

 

 

Strong Women and the Men Who Love Them: Strong Woman Do Bong Soon and Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo

Both Strong Woman Do Bong Soon and Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo place unconventional women in the center of K-drama in ways that do not diminish them for being strong.

Interestingly, both dramas have origins in the childhoods of the main characters, where the female leads disrupt the conventional narrative by being the saviors of the young versions of the male characters. In Weightlifting Fairy, Joon Hyun (Nam Joo Hyuk) falls out of a window at school, only to be caught (or land on?) Bok Joo (Lee Sung Kyung). Instead of being appalled by her chubbiness, he ends up laughing with Bok Joo. The incident stays with him, right up to the moment when he re-encounters Bok Joo, now a weightlifter, in college. And he has the same response: he is delighted.  It’s a memory that he cherishes. Similarly, Min Hyuk (Park Hyung Sik) is saved by a mysterious stranger when the bus he is riding is prevented from swerving off the road. Min Hyuk also encounters his savior, Bong Soon (Park Bo Young), later in life, and also has fond memories of the encounter. It is also interesting to note that both male leads lack a mother figure. Min Hyuk’s mother died and Joon Hyun’s mother abandoned him to his aunt and uncle. The lack of a mother figure may factor into their tendency to accept the female leads in their unconventionality.

Throughout both dramas, the male leads appreciate the women because they are strong. Both develop into the lead couple. Joon Hyun likes the fact that Bok Joo is a weightlifter and that she’s good. He cheers her on at her competitions and takes an interest in her life, meeting her family and friends and understanding her struggles. While Min Hyuk likes to tease Bong Soon, he does not run away once he finds out about her powers. Instead, he is endlessly delighted at the things she can do, and also does all he can to try to teach her to control them (often to his own injury).

These responses differ from the way other men react to the strength of Bok Joo and Bong Soon. Joon Hyun’s impossibly talented cousin, Jae Yi (Lee Jae Yoon), may be a good doctor, but he’s clueless about relationships, ignoring the girl who likes him and not realizing the crush that Bok Joo has on him. More importantly, as a weight loss doctor, he embodies all of Bok Joo’s insecurities and is of absolutely no help when it comes to understanding her plight. He does not understand why she is so upset when he comes to her competition, and has no clue about how she feels about her appearance and the way society views her.  He’s no help at all!  Gook Doo (Ji Soo) is worse in Strong Woman. While he is equally clueless about her powers as well as her crush on him (even though they grew up together) he only sees her as helpless, and yells at her! Once he finds out about her powers, he does not respond as positively as Min Hyuk.

What I really like about the relationships in both dramas is that the women are strong, but not invincible and the men are also keenly aware of their emotions. Both Bok Joo and Bong Soon need connection to other people, despite their strength. Bok Joo undergoes the trials of being a young woman in a difficult sport for women. She also has zero experience with dating, so she struggles with her relationship with Joon Hyun. At the same time, Joon Hyun has anxiety that holds him back from succeeding in his swimming career. In Strong Woman, Bong Soon has anxiety about using her powers, thinking they will forever separate her from other people. And Min Hyuk is never more vulnerable when he pleads with Bong Soon: “Please love me.” (I’m not crying, YOU’RE CRYING!).

K-drama is almost always about emotional men, but these dramas show that K-dramas can also complicate the narrative of the strong woman as well.

Images

girlfriday. “Bright and cheery posters for youth sports drama Weightlifting Fairy.” Dramabeans. 3 Nov 2016. http://www.dramabeans.com/2016/11/bright-and-cheery-posters-for-youth-sports-drama-weightlifting-fairy/ (6 Aug 2017).

“Strong Woman Do Bong Soon EP 2 Recap.” Abby in Hallyu-Land.” 27 Feb 2017. https://jediprincess.wordpress.com/tag/strong-woman-do-bong-soon-episode-2-review/ (6 Aug 2017).

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Strong Women and the Men Who Love Them: Strong Woman Do Bong Soon and Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo by CeeFu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

What I’m Listening To: “The Manual,” Eddy Kim

Eddy Kim

“The Manual” is from Eddy Kim’s 2014 EP, The Manual.

Image: “Eddy Kim Profile.” KPopMusic. http://www.kpopmusic.com/artist/eddy-kim-profile (14 Jun 2017).

Video: 1theK (원더케이). “[MV] Eddy Kim(에디킴) _ The Manual(너 사용법).” YouTube. 7 Apr 2014. https://youtu.be/Y4mH2KvzUQ0 (14 Jun 2017).

What I’m Listening To: “Tripping,” Hyun Seong

Boyfriend

“Tripping” is Hyun Seong’s solo from the Boyfriend’s 2012 album Janus.

Image: Jeff Benjamin. “Boyfriend to Bring K-pop to Middle America for Chicago & Dallas Shows.” billboard. 3 Jan 2014. http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/k-town/5820050/boyfriend-to-bring-k-pop-to-middle-america-for-chicago-dallas-shows  (9 Jun 2017).

Video: KookieCane13. “Shim Hyunseong – 이랬다 저랬다 (Trippin’) [Han & Eng].” YouTube. https://youtu.be/fsESKprKK1I  (9 Jun 2017).

 

What I’m Listening To: “Carnival,” B.A.P

B.A.P

 

“Carnival” is from B.A.P’s 2016 EP Carnival.

 

Image

Tamar Herman. “B.A.P Brings Party Baby Tour Stateside, Talks ‘Wake Me Up”: ‘We Are Part of the Current Generation.” billboard. 10 May 2017. http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/k-town/7752638/bap-interview-party-baby-tour-wake-me-up (9 Jun 2017).

Video

MBCkpop. “박정아의 달빛낙원] B.A.P – Carnival, 비에이피 – 카니발 [박정아의 달빛낙원] 20160320.” YouTube. https://youtu.be/CIA2h-dAEO8  (9 Jun 2017).

Why The BTS Billboard Win Is Only One Half Of The K-pop Fan Story

Unless you have been under a rock, you are surely aware of the win by BTS for Top Social Artist at the Billboard Music Awards. While the win shows the way K-pop fans can mobilize in the moment, the celebration of group anniversaries demonstrates the longevity of K-pop fandom.

Many have pondered what the win means. The BTS win comes in the wake of other instances where K-pop fans mobilize. In 2011, 2NE1 won the Best New Band award at the MTV Iggy Awards as a result of fan votes. In 2013, SNSD garnered the Video of the Year Award for “I Got A Boy.” These wins for BTS, 2NE1 and SNSD reflect the work that fans put in for the groups. It shows what K-pop fans already knew: K-pop fans are a force. Mainstream media outlets marvel at the win.  However, some have also questioned the BTS win.  Theo Howe argues that the win really reveals a “fetishisation” for Korean artists:  “K-pop is a deeply visual genre, and the artists are made to look pretty, but there’s a danger among international K-pop fans that this can create an echo chamber for saying how BTS or Twice are that much more attractive than people of any other ethnicity.” Helen chalks up the win to marketing:  “K-pop being recognised by big mainstream Western media sites doesn’t mean it’s somehow ‘made it’, and BTS winning an award at a music awards show that has nothing to do with music isn’t K-pop making it either. It means that mainstream Western sites have figure out that K-Pop is marketable, which of course it is.”

I argue that the win tells us something about K-pop fandom, but only half of the story. On one hand, it demonstrates, once again, that K-pop fans will mobilize for the opportunity to promote a K-pop group to the world. Such events work because for a brief, shining, moment, fans come together to achieve a task recognized by non-K-pop fans. But there are other measures of the global impact of K-pop on fans.

While many were fixated on BTS, Shawols were celebrating the 9th anniversary of  SHINee, whose popularity points to the longevity of K-pop. J.K. of soompi chronicled the way fans celebrated the anniversary, including a trending hashtag and Twitter posts. SHINee is not the only K-pop group celebrating multiple years of grouplife. 2PM also celebrates its 9-year anniversary this year, and F.T. Island celebrates its 10th. Shinhwa celebrated its 19th-year anniversary in March and Sechs Kies is currently promoting their 20th year (despite several years of inactivity). Even without the same level of fanfare and public recognition, these fans ensure that their groups can continue to have an audience and make music. This fanwork is more constant.

People have been declaring the death of K-pop for years. K-pop fans are both of the moment and here for the long haul. Even as newer fandoms groups like ARMYs break barriers, older fandoms like Shawols show the lasting power of K-pop.

Images

Adrian. “SHINee To Tour Canada With ‘SHINee World V’ in March 2017.” hellokpop. 9 Mar 2017. http://www.hellokpop.com/event/shinee-tour-canada-march-2017/ (9 Jun 2017).

J.Lim. “BTS Discusses The Secret To Their Global Popularity And Goals for 2017.” soompi 18 Feb 2017. https://www.soompi.com/2017/02/18/bts-discusses-secret-global-popularity-goals-2017/ (9 Jun 2017).

Sources

Helen. “Why Do BTS Fans Care So Much About That Billboard Award? Of Course They Won.” Beyond Hallyu. 22 May 2017. http://beyondhallyu.com/k-pop/why-do-bts-fans-care-so-much-about-that-billboard-award-of-course-they-won/ (9 Jun 2017).

Howe, Theo. “What Does BTS;s Billboard Music Award Mean for K-pop? Not Much.” Varsity. 5 June 2017.  https://www.varsity.co.uk/music/13129 (9 Jun 2017).

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Why The BTS Billboard Win Is Only One Half Of The K-pop Fan Story by CeeFu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

It Takes Two To Make A Thing Go Right: Unbalanced Romance in The General and I

General and I
General and I

The best romances are with people who are well-matched and help each other out.  In General and I, somebody’s not pulling their weight, and everybody’s losing out.

A good couple in an Asian drama is when individuals are well-matched. In General and I, Chu Bei Jie (Wallace Chung) and Bai Ping Ting (Angelababy) are both clever and observant. Bei Jie is treasured general of the Jin state, valued by his emperor and beloved by his people. He also has a bit of an attitude due to his success on the battlefield, but in time you just let that slide. Bai Ping Ting was originally a maid in the Prince of Jing An’s household in the Yan state, but as one character observes, they never treated her that way. She’s often compared to the famed military strategist Zhuge Liang. Both Bei Jie and Ping Ting are loyal to their respective people.

So when these two get together, you expect them to take the world by storm. But wait! It wouldn’t be a Chinese drama if it were that easy. They face obstacles. Everybody in Jin is giving Ping Ting the side-eye because she’s from Yan. They don’t trust her and wonder how she’s got Bei Jie wrapped around her finger. Bei Jie can never be friends with the Prince of Jing An’s household. The young prince, He Xia (Sun Yi Zhou), is holding the mother of all grudges, which is exacerbated by the fact that he was planning on marrying Ping Ting (although she never looks all that thrilled at the prospect). Bei Jie and Ping Ting are not much different from other couples in Chinese dramas.

Except…they are not contributing equally to the romance. Early on, Bei Jie throws down the gauntlet, defying even the Emperor on numerous occasions for his wife. What I like about Bei Jie is that he’s not shy about it. He tells his army, he tells the Emperor, he tells his nemesis He Xia: Ping Ting is his girl, and it’s his duty to protect her, always. It doesn’t matter what she’s done, what it looks like she’s done, what she might think about doing. That’s his girl. However, Ping Ting apparently did not get this memo. Her actions constantly show that she questions Bei Jie’s devotion to her. She claims that she doesn’t want to cause him trouble, but it’s actually her actions that cause the majority of trouble for Bei Jie by running away, constantly. Yet through it all, Bei Jie is constant. Dude is going above and beyond his duty in his devotion to her. Ping Ting also seems to forget that Chu Bei Jie is no dumb bunny; he can get himself out of predicaments without her help, even ones she accidentally has a hand in.

One of the biggest problems is that Ping Ting tries to change Bei Jie and deny their responsibility to the people. Ping Ting seemed content to run around the country to try to protect He Xia, but once she acknowledges her feelings for Bei Jie, she’s all ready to retire to the country. YOU CAN’T LEAVE! Bei Jie was a general for a reason: he feels a duty to his people. He was a general when Ping Ting met him: that’s who he is. But Ping Ting thinks it’s ok for them to peace out once they get married (formally). She’s no stranger to the battlefield. Heck, that’s where we first see her. Rather than avoiding the obvious, namely, that people as talented as they are should use their talents to help others, Ping Ting wants to live a quiet life and leave the people hanging. And trying to be out of the affairs of state does not work: problems will just come knocking on your door (literally).

But it’s not the actors fault, and here’s where the writing comes into play. Not a stranger to Chinese drama, high episode counts do not faze me. I’m willing to suspend my disbelief for the coincidences and chance meetings and implausible scenarios. But the writers of General and I tested my patience with an unnecessary and unprecedented separation of the leads that lasts nearly 20 episodes.  That was ridiculous! Moreover, the actions of Ping Ting after the separation made no sense. There were lapses in logic that, quite frankly, insulted the viewer. Bei Jie is doing his job as a devoted husband, and Ping Ting is acting like a fool. She’s making unilateral decisions and not even giving Bei Jie a chance to respond to their changing circumstances.  For 20 episodes, it’s all about Ping Ting.  So when they reunite, it’s kind of a let-down. There’s no discussion about what caused the separation in the first place. They just kinda pick up where they left off, which makes you wonder about the whole separation in the first place.

So why did I stick with General and I? Three words: Chu. Bei. Jie. You know your character is strong to overcome my initial wariness. At first, I thought Bei Jie was arrogant and a bit hands-y. But dude is devoted, not just to Ping Ting, but to his army. He appreciates loyalty and gives it in return, especially to his right-hand man, Mo Ran. He’s truly picking up the slack in this Chinese drama.

Image: 1

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It Takes Two To Make A Thing Go Right: Unbalanced Romance in The General and I by CeeFu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

What I’m Listening To. . . Niel, “그런 날 [Disappear]”

niel_kpopmusic
Niel

“그런 날 [Disappear]” is from Niel‘s second solo album, Love Affair (2016). A member of Teen Top, Niel showcases his vocals on this track. Who knew Niel could get down like that?

Source: YJzKP. “NIEL(니엘) – 그런 날(On that day)[LOVE AFFAIR…](MP3).” YouTube. 15 Jan 2017. https://youtu.be/ccAuU783NKI, (21 Jan 2017).