The Heirs Inherits From Boys Over Flowers

Heirs, Main Poster
Heirs, Main Poster

Heirs is a worthy successor to Boys Over Flowers as  the ultimate “rich kid” Kdrama. It takes the theme of romance across class lines from Boys Over Flowers to whole new levels.

It’s (Still) a Chaebol World!

Heirs shares the context of the chaebol world with Boys Over Flowers.  Both are stories about romance that crosses class lines within Korean society.  It’s not just that Jun Pyo and Kim Tan‘s families are wealthy; they are wealthy Koreans.  Korean business and family dynamics drives so much of these Kdramas. It’s the reason why Jun Pyo can only defy his mother so much, and why Kim Tan can only give his father so much sass.

It’s even more so the case in Heirs because it affects so many of the relationships. The tension between Kim Tan and Kim Won coms from the way their father introduced Kim Tan into their household. The loathing that Jung Ji Sook has for Han Ki Ae, Kim Tan’s mom, is directly related to their position within the chaebol family.  Ji Sook knows that Ki Ae’s position is precarious because she is not an official member of the family. For most of the Kdrama, people don’t even know she is Kim Tan’s mom.

Like Boys Over Flowers, Heirs does a good job of flaunting the wealth of the chaebol family and showing class disparities. There’s no school bus for these kids! Kim Tan goes to school in a car driven by a chauffeur.  He lives is a house so big that you could not see other people who also live in the house for days.  Despite the size of the house, Eun Sang and her mom are reduced to living in a room that charitably could be called a closet. Their circumstances are even more dire because of Park Hee Nam‘s disability.  Wardrobe also plays a large role. Kim Tan’s “fabulous” sweaters aside, we know the upper class are the upper class because of what they wear. Heirs is even more global with the “exotic locations.”  While the guys  in Boys Over Flowers play in Venetian Macau,  Kim Tan stays in the Hollywood hills in huge house with a pool overlooking Los Angeles

Multi-Dimensional Snottiness

Heirs extends the upper-class snarkiness we find in Boys Over Flowers. While Boys Over Flowers focuses on the antics of Jan Di and F4 in a school setting, Heirs gives us a tour of class arrogance. Because the characters are aware of their class position all the time, we get to see its impact.  The kids each have their own issues and insecurities.  As a viewer, you despise their behavior but also see the pressures that cause that behavior.   Rachel’s obsession with Kim Tan is probably related to how her mother treated her father (and herself as an object to be used in business negotiations).   Young Do‘s bad treatment of others comes from the loss of his mother. Being the heir to a hotel conglomerate and having everything does nothing for that sense of loss.  Ye Sol can be one of the mean girls, but worries (rightly so) about her reputation, as she is the daughter of a hostess.  Lee Hyo Shin cannot convince his parents, even with a suicide attempt, to let him opt out of being a lawyer.

In Boys Over Flowers,  we rarely venture beyond the world of Jan Di and F4.   Kim Bum‘s errant father makes rare appearances, Ji Hoo is an effective orphan (despite his grandfather) and who knows what’s going on with Woo Bin‘s family. In Heirs, the adults are key to the class dysfunction experienced by their children.  The relationships in Kim Tan’s house, the dynamic between Rachel and her mother and the dynamics between Secretary Yoon and Rachel’s mother, shows that the snotty apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  With more characters and more characters whose stories intersect, we get a deeper view of the upper class. It’s not one we want to join.

Brothers!

Boys Over Flowers, Woo Bin and Yi Jung
Boys Over Flowers, Woo Bin and Yi Jung

The relationships between guys is central to both Boys Over Flowers and Heirs.  The tension between Jun Pyo and Ji Hoo drives the plot of Boys Over Flowers. They may compete with each other and  get angry at each other, but in the end, they rely on their friendship. You also care about the dynamic between the other members of F4, like Yi Jung and Woo Bin, which deserved more attention. Remember who got Woo Bin to stop walking on the edge of that bridge!

Heirs complicates this male camaraderie.  On one hand, the blood-related brothers, Kim Tan and Kim Won, have a cold relationship. Kim Tan constantly expresses his affection for his brother, while Kim Won gives him the cold shoulder. Kim Tan is the emotional brother who takes courage to defy their father, while Kim Won gives up on his happiness.   As the Kdrama goes on, you want them to reconcile. You want Kim Won to give Kim Tan just a little bit of recognition, and he routinely just keeps you hanging.

On the other hand, the hyungs, Kim Tan and Young Do, have a complex, love-hate relationship. They do real harm to each other, but they also help each other out when the chips are down. It’s really interesting the way that they do not reconcile either. Kim Tan notes in the final episode that they were not strangers, but they also were not man enough to reconcile.

The Relationship

At the center of both Boys Over Flowers and Heirs is the relationship between the “rich guy” and the “poor girl.”  Jun Pyo has a long way to go to learn how to treat Jan Di properly, but he eventually gets there.  However, for reasons that aren’t exactly clear, Jan Di becomes less likeable as part of that couple. She loses all of her spunkiness and becomes a shadow of her former self.  She doesn’t participate in the relationship, and doesn’t grow as a character. This is in contrast to her side kick Ga Eul, who becomes more interesting because she is willing to pursue her dreams and take chances.

Heirs, Eun Sang
Heirs, Eun Sang

The relationship between Kim Tan and Eun Sang has a different dynamic.  It’s Kim Tan who has to overcome his background and a grouchy and vindictive father to have a relationship with Eun Sang.  When he leaves the United States, his mind is set. We don’t have to endure a process where he has to decide to like Eun Sang.  For her part, Eun Sang has more important things to worry about than Kim Tan, and she is understandably wary of his attention. But I like how she navigates Kim Tan’s attention, Young Do’s “attention,” the mean girl dynamics at school and the dysfunctional Kim family antics at home.  She doesn’t always win.  She endures some nasty behavior.  She sometimes takes too long to appreciate what Kim Tan is doing for her, but she does an impressive job of standing up to the mean kids at school.  Her relationship with her mother is a great addition to her backstory. When both Kim Tan and Eun Sang end up on the apartment floor crying, you feel for both of them. You are rooting for both of them.

In many ways, Heirs is Boys Over Flowers 2.0, taking the themes of class-defying romance and building on them.

Images: 1, 2, 3 & 4, 5 & 6, 7

Boys Over Flowers: Episode 3

Oh my! I think this episode does a lot for character development and interaction.

So, I love the interplay between Jun Pyo and Jan Di (I’m not totally against her….yet…she still has her moments). You can tell that when he calls her a punk and a gangster that it is done from a place of LOVE. He’s so cheeky, that Jun Pyo. He was completely enjoying getting his life saved!  Jan Di has a positive effect on him, he smiles much more, even if he still hasn’t gotten down the correct way to share his feelings of affection. Did you see how tickled he was when he put the ducks in the swimming pool? I thought he was going to fall out of his chair from cackling so much.  He clearly cares about her, but he also relates to her in a completely different way than Ji Hoo. He’s kinda real with his. He insults her, and she gives it right back to him. For some reason, I enjoy this back and forth. Whereas Jan Di’s interaction with Ji Hoo is weird (girl, get off your knees! you could have totally bandaged his finger standing up!)

Ji Hoo and his emotional state, now that’s a different story. I know you think I’m always on Ji Hoo’s side because of his fabulous wardrobe choices, but this time I think that while Ji Hoo is a man responsible for his own choices, I wonder if his association with Min isn’t entirely healthy. I know we briefly mentioned this last time, but I’m with Ji Hoo, “Exactly who are you to him?” Are you the motherly figure, are you a potential girlfriend? Have you been playing Ji Hoo all these years, feeding your own narcissism to have an incredibly rich and attractive man at your beck and call? Min can’t be all, I’m a little jealous of Jan Di, but then continue to STRING JI HOO ALONG!!!! Ji Hoo is a MAN, with MAN feelings, you gotta treat him like a man. So her own kind of vagueness doesn’t help. Is she dumping Ji Hoo on Jan Di? Is she now supposed to fulfill this mother/girlfriend freaky role for him? I’m not really buying that Min is all that torn up about leaving Ji Hoo. C’mon! You know how emotionally fragile that man is!

This is also the episode where I get more interested in the interplay among the boys. Jun Pyo clearly knows that Ji Hoo has a thing for Jan Di, even if Ji Ho doesn’t, so he’s taking every opportunity to throw his ‘relationship’ in his face.  Look, I’ve got my arm around Jan Di!  Look, Jan Di’s in my room!  Yet, they all rush over when there is an emergency, and that emergency is JUN PYO’S WITCH OF A MOTHER!!! You need to prepare yourself, there is a reason why they are all afraid of her. You know it’s bad when Yi Jung can barely pull of his charming wiles. SHE. IS. BAD. Although it tickles me that Jun Pyo refers to her as “the hag,” you notice he doesn’t do it to her face.  She is a piece of work. Even when things are rocky, they rally to each other’s side, and this is why the Boys become more interesting to me than Jan Di.

I also find the class dynamics getting more pronounced: Jan Di is a dry cleaner’s daughter with a ‘commoner’s pride.’ They talk about her like she’s an alien. And yet Jun Pyo is cool with crossing that class barrier.  Interesting.  I wonder if Jan Di’s inability to be feminine is supposed to be yet another marker of her class origins. Do you notice just how uncomfortable she is when they dress her up (and yes, I realize that it is problematic that she is getting dressed, Pygmalion-style, by these boys who try to transform her)? You would think Jan Di never wore a dress in her entire life. What, working-class girls have no femininity? In her drunken state, we do get some insight into her low self-esteem. She really doesn’t think she is smart, pretty or has any redeeming qualities whatsoever.  But I also think that she can be stubborn when it comes to her pride.

Jun Pyo, working on getting into Jan Di’s heart. Did you notice how closely she held those goggles? She just doesn’t know it yet….the problem is, even when she knows it, she will act the same way!

Thoughts?