Relationships are not like Instagram, you can’t log in or out whenever it suits you

boys over flowers

Love risks degenerating into obsession, friendship is never anything but sharing.

Elie Wiesel

Boys Over Flowers  (2009)
Comedy, Melodrama,   Romance  
Written by
Yoon Ji-ryun
Directed by
Jeon Ki-sang
Country of Origin
South Korea

oh! … brief

While most people believe this kdrama is some grand love story, the reality is that follows the lives of four arrogant and self-centred teenage boys (Gu Jun-pyo, Yoon Ji-hoo, So Yi-jung, and Song Woo-bin). The boys belong to a group called F4 that they devised and are in the process of finishing high school at a fancy private co-ed school, that the ringleader’s parents’ business owners and run.

The boys are the most popular at school and known online, but they are also feared as they are obnoxious and bully others. In particular, the ring-leader of F4 (Flower Boys) Go Jun-pyo, is vindictive and relentless. He is an heir to a major corporation – the Shinhwa Group

A young girl, who witnesses the extent of the abuse of F4 and their fans, Geum Jan-di, makes a stand against the leader of the F4. This angers him enough to seek revenge.

oh! … talks drama

I can’t wrap my mind around why so many people who’ve watched this drama talk about how wonderful it is? It’s not wonderful at all. And if this is the kind of entertainment you find enjoyable, then you might want to read this review and take a long hard look in the mirror when you’ve done that!

Unfortunately, unlike my usual avoiding spoilers, this read will likely be filled with spoilers, but it cannot be avoided.

Before I review the writing of the screenplay, and I have a lot to say about that, I want to delve into the four leading male characters and the female protagonist. It’s rather disturbing my analysis, so if you were a fan, you might want to skip this deeper psyche evaluation.

Gun Jun-pyo – leader of F4 is the celebrated bully of this production. Bully is an incorrect portrayal, however. His flaws are far deeper than mere bullish attitude and demeanour. His behaviour is typical of either a sociopath or the more sinister psychopath. An uncaring person may show a lack of empathy for fellow humans, but a psychopath is callous and unconcerned of the feelings of others. The Jun-pyo character certainly is painted as being cold-hearted, from start to bitter end. His antics are disgusting and he invites others to do awful things on his behalf e.g. trashing a swimming pool, inciting aggressive boys to be physically inappropriate with a female student (borderline rape). He lacks emotion, especially those of shame, guilt and embarrassment and he feels no remorse for the insult and injury he causes to those in his immediate circle. He shows no fear, just anger and frustration. He is compulsive and irresponsible and when things go wrong, he blames everyone else, except himself. He is consistently superficially charming and insincere all in a single moment. And to top it all, he has a superior or grandiose sense of self-worth and everyone else that doesn’t meet his criteria is a ‘commoner’.

The writer may be fully aware of the extent of the flaws, he has a reputation with me for writing poorly over-exaggerated storylines, characters and narration. But I’m beginning to think the writer himself is flawed!

Yoon Ji-hoo is a broken teenaged boy, part of F4, but, not really interested in instigating bullying. Having written that, he never stops it either and I think only once mentions that he’s not participating. He goes along with the antics and is even seen smiling at some of the pranks pulled. But he mostly comes across as aloof, distant, heartbroken (more emphasis on the broken part) and in need of some serious counselling following the tragic death of his parents and alienation from his grandfather. WOW! What a messy pile of shit to deal with and then to add to his burdened plate, the writer decides to make him the soul-mate and third wheel in a love-story! Give me a break already! He’s far too damaged to make this even slightly believable. Oh, and he is a child prodigy playing every instrument he can lay his hands on. Yeah right!

So Yi-jung, supposedly another child-prodigy only this one who can spin pottery like a master. Another yeah right on that character! I had an aunt who owned her own kiln and made pottery for years, but still hadn’t ‘mastered’ her art. She certainly made better pottery pieces than the ‘manufactured’ ones displayed in the production. If you’re going to write into the story that someone is a master, at least buy some masterpieces to display to make one believe it. The rest of his backstory, a philanderer for a Dad, a brother that steals his true love and then he becomes a ‘Casanova’ – the guy is how old? 15? 16? I mean they are still in high school!!! He’s barely past the wet-dreams stage and we have him in sordid affairs? Holy cow writer, what the hell was you thinking? I was wondering to myself, does the writer even know who Casanova was and what his reputation as a womaniser actually meant? Come on, let’s get real for a minute. A 15 or 16-year-old Korean kid in 2009 a womaniser by that age? Please! Spare me the bullshit on this one! It is highly unlikely at that age to have had a serious romantic relationship that even if broken up by one’s brother would be so life-altering that you’d become a womaniser. Unrealistic! Don’t care how popular this drama was, it was ludicrous to write this character in this manner at this age.

And we don’t just have one womaniser, we have two, a Casanova and a Don Juan. How original! Not!! Song Woo-bin, the last of the F4 bullies, is supposedly the child of the largest construction company that has ties to the mafia – wait, back up a little? Mafia? Really? And he would admit that in public? Come on writer, what the hell? Even if a kid suspected this fact, or knew it to be true, he would never, ever run his mouth off and say it, not even to friends! Sheesh! You didn’t do your research!

With these four alone the entire storyline was flawed before it even began. But, I’m not finished yet! Aren’t you excited!!

You’d think the writer might get one believable character into the screenplay, and if you were hoping it might be the protagonist, Geum Jan-di, you’d be wrong. While she is the opposite of Jung-pyo and has a moral compass, shows empathy and emotion, she is also drastically flawed as a character. No 15 or 16-year-old girl is going to be put through the type of hell she is by Jung-pyo and just takes it. Come one! The guy has ruffians set on her that try to be sexually inappropriate with her. While she may not report it, she certainly would become very afraid and suffer from PTSD. He pollutes the school swimming pool and she does nothing but cleans it up! Really? His mother goes on a family-destroying ego trip and she puts up with it? Seriously? This writer obviously knows nothing about teenagers, let alone teenage girls! In fact, this writer knows little about writing characters and storylines. This is not his first disaster.

Geum Jan-di’s parents – what a shitshow that was! Lunatic for a mother with a one-track mind and it’s all about money. That I get, I’ve seen others like this in real life situations. But the stupidity of the woman is underwhelming. And the father? Grow some balls man! Oh wait, you can’t because you’ve been written to be this pathetic man who cannot stand up for himself, cannot protect his family and has no spine or balls. The writer did a terrible job with these two. It wasn’t even funny. It was annoying but if they were supposed to be the comic relief, even when he failed in his duty.

Kang Hee-soo, Jung-pyo’s insane mother – Woah Nelly! What the hell was this writer thinking? Over-the-top insanity. No mother, not even the crazy ones I have come across and I’ve come across a few in my lifetime, would ever be this determined to wreak havoc of this magnitude on a 15 or 16-year-old schoolgirl. Get real! I can imagine a spurned wife going on the attack against a husband’s lover with this much gusto, but a teenage kid? Really?!!? The extent of her hatred and the lengths she went to, destroying the family business, forcing her son to make deals to protect the life of the object of his puppy love. I mean there is drama, melodrama and then there is Yoon Ji-ryun melodrama. And his version of melodrama is excessive and obscene.

There are a number of other characters written into this story that I don’t need to explain. If you’ve watched you have already seen how flawed they are and if you’re a fan of these flawed characters then there is something seriously wrong with you! Seriously! Even for entertainment value, this is despicable!

But if I haven’t yet convinced you, then let’s look at the remaining mockery of serious life issues that this writer plays within his piece.

In the very first scenes, the issue of teen suicide is front and centre. While this suicidal individual doesn’t take his life, he was intending on doing just that. This is all too common amongst teenagers – maybe not in Korea, but certainly here in Canada. In fact, the leading cause of deaths in teenage populations, both make and female, is suicide. The suicidal teen was at his breaking point because of the excessive bullying meted out by F4, the ringleader and their fans. Bullying and teen suicide are serious life issues that have greater ramifications and are not topics to be placed on a pedestal and hammed up. What is most tragic is that the writer had an opportunity with this situation, to impart very important life-saving messaging and ignored it. Instead, he glorified the bullying and to a certain extent the suicide. Shameful! There were no consequences for any of the bullyings throughout the production. What message does that send, given that the audience for this was teenagers? Also, there was no addressing the attempted suicide and no punishment for those involved. Instead, a hush up and scholarship were offered to the brave girl who saved the life of the suicidal teen.

Rape or attempted rape, however you want to view it, was written into the screenplay and distastefully addressed. OMG! Was it three or four boys sent on a mission by the ringleader to play another prank on Jan-di but they take it too far. It’s not like we haven’t all seen horrific media stories about this topic, or for that matter public service announcements addressing boys who take their sexual intent too far. Now this might have been controversial during the original airing of the show and I’ll be honest I haven’t (at the time of writing) looked at any controversy in the media about this production. I’m not sure I will either because it might piss me off if there isn’t any.

Rape is a very serious issue, teenage rape is also common, especially in high school and university situations and that is true in any country.

It’s warped that the writer wrote this scene into the screenplay and script, never addressing the ramifications and/or punishment that these boys face. Even if Jan-di didn’t report this attempt, there was one other character that kinda-sorta witnessed it. If he had been a true soulmate, he would have done something about it, guaranteed. Not sure what, but I cannot believe this issue was swept under the rug by those involved but particularly that it was written this way. Another opportunity for an important life-lesson not only missed but completely ignored by the writer. I’m horrified!

I do not for one second believe that Jan-di would have ended up with either of these boys, in any relationship of any description. It just is not plausible and it is not plausible because she apparently is sassy and smart. And while puppy-love or first-love can be forgiving, extremely forgiving, this story never made any sense. A boyfriend who is psychopathic, jealous, aggressive, abusive, controlling etc., and a soulmate who is broken, spiritually and emotionally, and additionally abused by his friend. A mother who is outright insane and abusive to everyone in her circle, especially her children and her staff.

I have to ask the question and it’s rhetorical? Is this the way Koreans want to be portrayed? Having mothers and/or fathers who will go to extreme lengths to remove annoyances or obstacles in the way of their precious sons/daughters? A nation of people filled with psychopathic or sociopathic children bent on destroying each other? I understand it is melodrama and I understand that melodrama is just that –  melodramatic. However, there is melodramatic and there is gross or heinous and this melodrama fell into the grossly heinous pits.

What is most baffling is that this drama is one that is applauded and loved by so many teenage girls. What is wrong with you? This is not loving and it certainly wasn’t entertainment!

Given the script and narration, I pitied the cast.

To say that this production launched the career for Lee Min-ho is hysterical. He played F4’s ringleader Jung-pyo. His acting was illogical at best. He never convinced me as being someone in love with another person. But he did come across as being psychopathic, only because I know the traits from my professional career which included time in medical research. He was about as flat as a bad character is a bad production can be. And the confusion he emanated was not acting, I suspect he struggled with the story and his part in the overall mayhem. And he wasn’t alone.

Kim Hyun-joong who plays the third wheel in the love triangle was obviously not an established or even aspiring actor. I pitied the character, but even more so, I pitied the young man whose first attempt at breaking into the industry was landed with this crappy script and role. It is no wonder that he decided to focus his attention on developing a musical career. Being cast in this production was a major fail for him.

I was so disappointed by Kim Bum’s portrayal of Yi-jung and I am glad that he has moved on to better roles where he acting ability has been highlighted at its best. He didn’t convince me at all that he was a womaniser, but, that is more to do with the age of the character (thanks to the writing) and the flawed storyline and script. The delivery of his lines was stilted and his character was stiff, not suave as a womaniser would have to be. He looked uncomfortable most of the time and I’m sure he was. I wonder if he regrets his decision to be part of this production?

Kim Joon who played Woo-bin is the only one of the F4 that I actually think acted appropriately. While he was written as Don Juan character, he never really is shown as a womaniser, so unless you know this about his character going into the story, it doesn’t affect your understanding of his role. I don’t think there is a single scene where he is ‘womanizing’. I’m also glad to report that Kim Joon goes on to better roles where you see his true acting ability. He wasn’t a total fail for me, but he wasn’t that great either.

I think the reason I watched this kdrama to the end was that of Ky Hye-sun. I really wanted to know if she spurned both the unbelievable guys in her life. And I really wanted her to give them both the middle-finger salute. She was good in her role, regardless of how poorly I believe her character was written and developed. She was sassy and emotional, just like teenage girls really are. She is a great actress, one I enjoy watching because she has great talent and perception. I liked her in her role, I just wish she’d been given a better story and character. I also would have liked to see her find a better candidate for love.

I wasn’t impressed by the directing either. When you have a flawed story, script, narration etc., you must have a director who can pull it all together and a cast that brings the characters to life. Unfortunately, it just didn’t come together and that is mostly because the story and the characters were implausible. The acting was extremely weak for the most part. The production was ostentatious from start to end. The plots, subplots and scenes were terribly choreographed. The locations while being visibly pleasing were vainglorious and the production wasted so much money that could have been put to better use – like rewriting the script!

Allow me one other criticism. The costumes were awful. No, not just awful but hideous. I haven’t mentioned it before but I will now because that awful fur that Lee Min-ho donned must be spoken about. I am anti-fur and a hater of fur-hags. I don’t care if you make the conscious decision to wear any fur of your own accord, or, are asked to wear it as a costume in a production. It’s sickening for anyone to don fur when we know how gruesome and inhumane the industry is. I lost any iota of respect I might have had for Lee Min-ho the second I saw him wearing that fur. Sorry dude, the fur was maybe the biggest disappoint you offered me and there is no excuse! None! Whatsoever!

The fur alone was not the only costume error. The gaudy suits for the boys and the outfits for the girls and women were outrageous. Jung-pyo looked like he was dressed up in garbage bags half the time and when he wasn’t it looked like he stepped off a runway. Even the uber-rich kids have a sense of style and none of what was offered came close to being true of what would appeal to teens, especially in 2009. It was all outlandish and grandiose and not in a good way!

The soundtrack that accompanied this beast of a production was most appealing. How the music was used was stupid and not cohesive at all.

oh! … sidekick

There is only one sidekick I will talk about, although there are many throughout the story e.g. Gu Jun-hee, Jung-pyo’s elder sister (played by Kim Hyun-joo), Min Seo-hyun Ji-hoos first love (played by Han Chae-young) or even Ha Jae-kyung (played by Lee Min-jung) who becomes Jun-pyo’s fiancée when he’s just 16 or is it now 17 years old?

Of course, it has to be the overtly exaggerated mother to Jung-pyo, Kang Hee-soo, my sidekick of choice! Oh, my god Lee Hye-young, what were you thinking? You pulled it off, but man I pity you! You were good at delivering the narration written for your character. You established yourself as the excessively abusive and controlling mother. You even displayed psychopathic and sociopathic tendencies yourself. Your facial expressions were on par with the character as she develops. You were believable for a character that was unbelievable. Does that even make sense? Meh! Who cares? Lee Hye-young was well cast for her role and as a skilled and mature actress followed direction and script. To say she inhabited her character would be a lie. She didn’t become Kang Hee-soo, but she pulled off a believable enough performance.

As an actress in South Korea, I’m thinking that as you age you are forced to take on ridiculous mother roles. And honestly, most of the roles for older actresses are much the same as this one. Insane mother trying to get her child/children ahead through devious plotting. South Korean screenplay writers need a crash course in thinking outside the box and coming up with unique and genuine roles for older actresses to play besides the obvious and sickening repeat ideas.

oh! … that’s a wrap

I hated this kdrama but I watched it to the end only because I had to know if Jan-di was stupid enough to end up with the jerk, and no surprises there, she did! The writing was exceptionally bad for this production, but no surprise there either. This same writer has written at least three other atrocious screenplays, one other I have watched and I have no intention whatsoever of subjecting myself to anything else he has written. The saving grace for the other production he wrote was the fantastic cast (both adult and teens) and of course the gorgeous male lead. This production, however, had none of that. And to make matters worse, money was spent on horrific costumes, gaudy accessories and a soundtrack that featured amazing artists but was misused.

I will not watch this kdrama ever again. I will not recommend it as worthy of being watched.

I’ll repeat it again in case you missed it the previous time it was mentioned. If you watch or have watched this drama and enjoyed it, you need to consider seeking therapy!

oh! … tidbits

Boys over Flowers was originally a Japanese Manga, and then a dorama called Hana Yori Dango,

Boys over Flowers was also produced as anime with Chinese and Taiwanese versions.

The Japanese version of Boys over Flowers, starring Shun Oguri, is much better (a review of that dorama will follow at some point).

oh! … soundtrack

oh! … gallery

oh! … trailers

Written by