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Hong Gil Dong is a Korean drama about the disgruntled son of a slave* and a government minister who almost accidentally becomes a Robin Hood figure. In the course of trying to just really do nothing good with his life he falls in with and saves a band of thieves, kills many thugs oppressing the common people, and is believed to have blown up the royal palace because it was built on the backs of the working people.

It's at turns funny and heartbreaking. Actually, a lot of the time it's really pretty dark because it doesn't hold back on the humiliations that people without status and money face. And worse than humiliation, the ultimate denial of any worth. Because it's got wuxia roots there some flying through the air fights but much of the writing has its feet firmly on the ground.

So far (episode 7) here are my thoughts:

1. I hate emo prince. I'm sorry but I do. What does he do really besides have ridiculously good hair and look emo? NOTHING, I SAYS.

2. I love Hong Gil Dong and his desperation to belong somewhere and to be at least seen as a person. And I've got to believe that the writers saw Robin of Sherwood at some point. The scene where he's surrounded in episode 7 and they shot arrows at him? The view of the essential horrible fixity of aristocratic privilege? It's so Robin of Sherwood.

3. I want to have the writers' babies for making me both laugh and cry in quick succession. And for feeding my horrible kink for heroism when people know all is lost but still fight on anyway.

*Who, to make his life thoroughly miserable, was beaten to death trying to run away with him so he could have a decent life.

Date: 2008-04-09 08:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alexandral.livejournal.com
I think you and I are dorama opposites. :D When I read about a drama you hated (Kim Sam Soon) I notice I loved the drama to bits and thought it was one of the best. When I read about a drama you love (like Hong Gil Dong) I notice I am very lukewarm about it at least. For me it was a drama that didn't know what it wanted to be and gave confusing messages ( a comedy? a tragedy? ) and which had the main hero I liked but not terribly (because he had bad hair :P and was an accidental hero rather than a true hero).

The opposite-ness of our drama tastes can be very handy in the future. ;D

PS: I just realised that this is a terrible kill-joy comment. Please tell me off and I'll delete it.

Date: 2008-04-09 08:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lesbiassparrow.livejournal.com
You may be right. But I think we both loved My Girl and Capital Scandal, so perhaps sometimes the stars align? :)

I did like that he was an accidental hero because I felt it just said that anyone can be a hero - they just have to somehow have the right moment. Also, in episode 8 I felt better about emo prince. And he does have lovely hair - perhaps the best I've ever seen. :p

PS. Don't worry about the comment. It makes things interesting when we all like and enjoy different things!

Date: 2008-04-09 09:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alexandral.livejournal.com
You may be right. But I think we both loved My Girl and Capital Scandal, so perhaps sometimes the stars align? :)

** sighs in relief ** Ooh, TRUE! Though I must say that the flippancy "Capital Scandal" dealt with the terrorism issue worried me a great deal. This drama could have been in my top 3 if not for that, everything else was just AMAZING in it.

(And thank you :D)

Date: 2008-04-09 12:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dangermousie.livejournal.com
Hmmm, now I am trying to figure out what kind of 'drama relationship' we are in :) We are not polar opposites (though I hated KSS :P) but I do think that while we often like the same dramas, we also often like them for different reasons. (E.g. it was the politics bit in CS that was a part why I loved it so). Hmmm...

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Date: 2008-04-09 08:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lesbiassparrow.livejournal.com
Also! I didn't hate everything about KSS and I agree with you on Hyun Bin's prettiness (even evident in the terrible Ireland). But I really didn't like his character very much. :(

I suspect I will also enjoy Legend very much because of the yummy people involved.

With Capital Scandal I forgave them a lot because they did actually make a good attempt to portray most of the Japanese and the collaborators as people rather than just making them monsters. And if they were monsters you could see that it was the situation rather than their character that made them so. And I suspect being Irish probably made me more sympathetic to their cause.

We should compare notes some time about what other ones we have liked or disliked. Did you like Mawang? I thought you did and I remember really loving it too even though I never finished it because of issues getting subtitles.

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Date: 2008-04-09 10:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] miss-dian.livejournal.com
I really like your thoughts on HGD so far :) This is my happy pill of a drama after The Legend. After I finished watching The Legend I was in a pretty slumpy dorama mood coz nothing came close to being as good. But HGD made me so giddy happy :D I do agree with you that it's actually pretty dark and painfully hard in the way it looks at those without status and/or money. I feel so much for HGD.

I ADORE Kang Ji Hwan. He's not even hot in the typical sense, but he's got sooooooooooo much charm. I just love him as Gil Dong. And I wanna squish Sung Yuri coz she's just as adorable. Eeeeee my ultimate OTP! ^^

Solemn Prince (I don't wanna call him Emo Prince since he doesn't really seem emo to me, just pretty solemn all the time, everytime, LOL) is OK for me. I can sorta see where he's coming from. I'm up to ep 7 as well :) I'm so glad someone is watching this around the same time as me. I thought I was the last person to watch, LOL.

Date: 2008-04-09 08:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lesbiassparrow.livejournal.com
I was predisposed to love Kang Ji Hwan because of Capital Scandal, I think but I think I love him even more in this.

I do find HGD very dark - that scene where he is watching those men being beheaded! That might be the bloodiest scene I've ever seen in a kdrama. And it's really awful watching all of these powerless people who can just watch. There are moments of comedy but they're always double-edged for me because I suspect something terrible will happen.

Date: 2008-04-10 01:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] miss-dian.livejournal.com
Yeah, I loved KJH in CS too :) One of the few actors who has really captured my heart through his on-screen charm :D

I do find HGD very dark - that scene where he is watching those men being beheaded!
Eeeeeeeeeek! I know. I thought that scene was pretty harsh. All the blood splattered and all. I'm glad they didn't show the heads falling off (*meep*) at that very scene as well.. (o_0)

Date: 2008-04-09 08:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lesbiassparrow.livejournal.com
Plus - is that a Mars icon? That's perhaps my favourite dorama.

Date: 2008-04-10 01:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] miss-dian.livejournal.com
Yes it's Mars. I love it. My fave Taiwanese dorama to date :)

Date: 2008-04-09 12:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dangermousie.livejournal.com
I've been getting the RoS vibe as well, and it only got stronger as the drama went on.

I love this.

Also, because this must be said:

1. I hate emo prince. I'm sorry but I do. What does he do really besides have ridiculously good hair and look emo? NOTHING, I SAYS.

Yes. I love you.

Date: 2008-04-09 08:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lesbiassparrow.livejournal.com
Well, I hated him more in episode 7 than 8 because in 8 he seemed to be aware that other people also had it rough but he still just really doesn't do very much. But I know that I am being influenced also by the spoilery developments later. (Woes!)

The RoS vibe makes me love it more and more. For all it's 80s big hair, that show is one of my favourites and I love it even when it's at its most melancholy.

Date: 2008-04-09 08:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dangermousie.livejournal.com
I loved RoS, which was one of the few childhood shows of mine that held well on rewatch.

Chang Hwe never really learns, past a certain point. He is too hampered in and hemmed in by his class. He is not a horrible person, at his core, but he is not the type to overcome his upbringing or even the circumstances.

In a way, even if they become temporary allies, he cannot understand Gil Dong's language any more than Gil Dong could ever turn his back on all the injustice to become Emo Prince's right hand man in comfort. Their worldviews never match.

I can't wait for you to finish because I want to discuss all the class and politics issues in this.

Date: 2008-04-09 03:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] calixa.livejournal.com
Gil Dong: he starts off as an anti-hero but has an epiphany. It's so well written.

Emo Prince: he is a role reversal/mirror image of Gil Dong. What makes him interesting (besides his cuteness :P) is that unlike Gil Dong, who gives up on birthright, he's determined to attain what should have been his. I love the actor more than I love the character, but still!

Date: 2008-04-09 06:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dangermousie.livejournal.com
HGD is this rare drama (rare for me) where much as I like the love story (and I do, it's 18 kinds of adorable), it's not primarily or even secondarily my favorite part of the story. I find the politics and the social commentary the most interesting things in the bunch.

Also, I think I have finally been able to clarify to myself why I never warmed up to Emo Prince even before various spoilery things made me hate him. He is not the fictional type I enjoy at all: I hate characters who wallow in their 'woe is me' attitude and make moping into an art. Same reason I never warmed up to Yul in Goong. All that moping smacks of narcissism and ineffectiveness and makes me want to smack the character upside the head. They pity themselves so much and dwell in it so much, why should I do the same? They are adequately covered. So absent moments of secondary benevolence (i.e. liking him because he saved a character I actually actively liked) or one moment when they utilized an iron-proof kink which would make me like any character, even if he was a toad, I never felt the thing for Emo Prince. Especially not when compared to GD who does have nothing and is viewed to be nothing.

Date: 2008-04-09 06:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sajia.livejournal.com
Hmm. Did you like Devdas? From what I recall of that mythos he strikes me as having a similarly Byronic attitude. Coming to think of it, that might be why you didn't like the Sandman so much, although most people love Death and Delirium more anyway.

Date: 2008-04-09 06:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dangermousie.livejournal.com
Hmmm, I think you are mistaking me for [livejournal.com profile] lesbiassparrow, but I'll answer anyway.

I liked Devdas the movie because it was gorgeously shot and with some mind-boggling dance numbers. Also, IMO, well-acted. But no, I didn't like Devdas himself, and didn't really see any good end for him. I wanted to yell at him to snap out of it for most of the movie.

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I don't get the Chang Hwi hate...

Date: 2008-04-09 07:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] calixa.livejournal.com
This is purely my opinion, and is only informed by the first 9 episodes, so I don't know whether any of it holds true later on, but...

I think Chang Hwi just has nothing to be happy about, really -- he's not as emo as people make him out to be. Unlike Gil Dong, who can bounce back because of his personality and circumstances, Chang Hwi has huge burdens. I don't see how he can avoid dwelling on his situation, when he has Madam Noh and an entire faction behind him waiting for him to pull off a coup.

The comparison with Yul is unfair, IMO. Chang Hwi's older brother killed his mother and tried to kill him, too. My impression from the King's crazy hallucinations is that they were close, enough for him to offer to teach Chang Hwi to write (or w/e the promise was). More or less he was horribly betrayed by someone he loved; a little self pity isn't out of place.

Like I said, I haven't watched past ep 9 yet, but while he does come off mopey, he isn't ineffective or narcissistic: after his confrontation with Gil Dong, he really does seem to question why he's doing what he's doing. And you can see that Madam Noh's tactics and ploys don't sit well with him, but his hands are tied. He does try, though - he doesn't kill Yi Nok after she saves him, and he gives Gil Dong the Sa Yin sword, which was a big sacrifice for his cause.

TBH, I don't think the problem with Chang Hwi is the character... but the actor. He's young and not a hugely effective actor; in the hands of someone more skilled I bet Chang Hwi would come off more nuanced. But what Jang Geun Seuk does right is that impression of youth: Emo Prince is just a teenager, after all, he's a puppy trying his hardest to do incredibly daunting tasks.

Re: I don't get the Chang Hwi hate...

Date: 2008-04-09 08:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lesbiassparrow.livejournal.com
Actually the first scene in episode 8 with him where he is questioning himself mad me like him more. I think the problem might be the actor (though he has lovely hair!) and also that compared with HG's life his doesn't seem all that horrible. And he's a lot more mopey. Maybe if we had more flashbacks to what it was like for him in his youth (like the scene with Madam Noh being beaten for stealing food) I might get him a bit better.

Plus, I think in this being connected even tangentially with the aristocracy is going to make your character harder to like - they're all such wankers.

The noble poor

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Re: The noble poor

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Re: I don't get the Chang Hwi hate...

Date: 2008-04-09 08:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dangermousie.livejournal.com
If the rumors are correct, initially Joo Ji Hoon was supposed to play Chang Hwe (and Jo Hyun Jae was set to play Gil Dong). If that is the case, based on Goong and Mawang, I think it would have been a better choice: JJH is not only older (which I think the character is supposed to be, being roughly in HGD's age bracket), but he is excellent at portaying an icy, intellectual type who can be frighteningly ruthless and yet still make me sympathize with him somehow (I mean, if I cared for him in Mawang, I'd definitely care for him in HGD).

JGS is by no means a bad actor, but he is relatively young and inexperienced and it shows. I think Dramabeans was the one who noted that in scenes with Kang Ji Hwan, KJH is emoting all over the place and JGS looks wooden by comparison. To be fair, KJH has a decade on him (and is one of my fave actors in any case), but that relative lack skews me even further in having a lack of investment in him.

I don't know if a Yul comparison is unfair. Yul, too, had a horrible life. Not only was his birthright taken, but his mother is a total warped psycho who uses attempted suicide as a means of control. They are both not monsters or anything, and certainly don't have a cheery background, but they do come across as mopey to me.

I also disapprove of Chang Hwe's complete capability and lack of concern for collateral damage, even that of his allies. Unless you are someone of the very few he cares about (Yi Nok, Madam Noh), it does not bother him and that tendency never goes away. The scene where he gets HGD to die (in ep 7?) just has never gotten me to forgive him. GD, in contrast, cares for people he doesn't know.

Date: 2008-04-10 01:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alexandral.livejournal.com
I am largely semi-cold to Gil Dong. I was trying to think why and I think I am just not that keen on the actor's acting skills. I kind of like the way he looks (not the awful hair, though) but not his acting style and please don't kill me - Kang Ji Hwan acts in the way they used to act in our school theatre, totally OTT. His angst doesn't move me. This worked much better for me in "Capital Scandal" where he is supposed to be a drama queen of sorts. He played that better for me.

The prince: love love love him and I think the actor does a most splendid work because I saw him in other things where he is very much of a smiley puppy. So he means to act reserved and does a good job at this. I guess I just prefer morally ambiguous characters who know what they want over accidental hero ones who doesn't know what they want.

Look how upset KJH is in my icon! :P

Date: 2008-04-10 03:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dangermousie.livejournal.com
*clutches chest and weeps: 'How coooooould you'*

LOL

KJH is my very favorite kdrama actor (yes, even more so than Bae Yong Joon *gasp*)

But to each their own :) Tons of people adore Ryu Shi Won and he makes me want to kill someone. Probably the someone that let him near a spotlight in the first place.

Date: 2008-04-11 05:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] miss-dian.livejournal.com
Eeeee! I think in doramas and eye candy we have very similar taste but I have to disagree with you on Kang Ji Hwan. He's the very few actors who I think has such a big on-screen charm and can convey emotions through his eyes. I loved him in Capital Scandal (I've also seen him in Fireworks but I didn't care much about the drama so I didn't pay much attention to his role there) and even more in Hong Gil Dong :D

I like the Prince and he's also got such a nice voice (am a voice ho') but I find his acting rather bland. Which other dramas have you seen him in?

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Date: 2008-04-11 06:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] miss-dian.livejournal.com
Okay I am having so much fun reading/commenting/replying to comments to this post. I am getting a headache from looking at the hidden/compressed threads, though :D I wish there was no limitation in the number of comments that could be shown in full :/

Date: 2008-04-11 06:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lesbiassparrow.livejournal.com
I know! Even with all the email notification I am getting confused!

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