Yet another Alice in Cheongdam-dong post…

This time I go mad with screen-caps and over-analyze the symbolism attached to the various characters. Because both Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking-glass get played with. And that’s a lot of symbols to connect.

Spoilers right through to the end below the cut:

The first connection was, of course, Alice. accdsekyung photo ScreenShot2013-01-29at24322PM_zps4ff8df56.pngThe level-headed girl who gets pulled into Wonderland, the interloper or outsider who sees when things are weird or illogical. Our main Alice is Han Se-kyung.  And she goes down the rabbit hole (or down the stairs into Tommy Hong’s party, which I only just realized when I did the screen-cap), eyes wide open.

Se-kyung is aided and abetted by her old classmate, Seo Yoon-joo, herself a former Alice figure. Now that she’s established in Cheongdam-dong (or Wonderland) Yoon-joo takes on a few different roles.   photo ScreenShot2013-01-29at23008PM1_zps0b3209ca.pngAt first she’s a Red Queen, making Se-kyung’s life difficult. Then she’s Se-kyung’s guide, almost a White Rabbit in that she points the way. In the end, she’s the White Queen, firmly on Se-kyung’s side.

But there’s a time, before Se-kyung decides what it is she wants, and long before Yoon-joo realizes what she actually wants, where they’re both aspiring to become Red Queens. There’s a lovely conversation in a rented red room, a rose motif on the floor, both women in red. (Actually, it’s probably very telling that the room was rented.)

accdredroom photo ScreenShot2013-01-28at93920PM_zpse0def4cd.png

I’d played the “follow the Red Queen” game in another post, but there’s a couple of additional observations I’ve had after the drama ended.  First, the rose tie foreshadowed Yoon-joo’s husband being total ass. (Which made me sad, but at least she broke from him, yes?)

husbandshin photo ScreenShot2013-01-20at64135PM2_zpsfaa74ae9.png

And second, rather than that small red pendant being a sign of Yoon-joo’s power diminishing, it’s more that the red is holding her back from realizing her actual power as a White queen. Suddenly the heavy silver chain takes on a different meaning — a chain holding her down rather than a chain of office.  (Yeah, I’m probably way over-thinking this, but this is the kind of stuff I adore.)
 photo ScreenShot2013-01-20at62659PM_zps182aaa05.png

But her story happily ends with Yoon-joo delivering the final blow. (And right when the Shin family thought they had her check-mated.) She frees herself of them and becomes the White Queen fully in her own right. No longer in their section of Wonderland — but with her and Tommy Hong joining forces, I suspect good things to come.
accdwhitequeen photo ScreenShot2013-01-28at71231PM_zpsab38f46a.png photo ScreenShot2013-01-28at71232PM_zpsf6f28b12.png

Tommy Hong was another character playing a few different roles.  At first he was the designated White Rabbit, chosen by Se-kyung to lead her into Wonderland.

accdtommyhong2 photo ScreenShot2013-01-29at24325PM1_zps90a530a5.png photo ScreenShot2013-01-29at24351PM1_zps72d0b95f.png

But he pretty quickly shows his true colors. No White Rabbit, he’s actually the Cheshire Cat — knowing far more than people suspect and often present where he’s not looked for. I loved how the photograph of him in his office and on his office building have him sliding off either side of the frame. It was a nice play on the grin without the cat the Cheshire was known for. photo ScreenShot2013-01-28at95621PM_zpsd111604a.png (The good news for Tommy Hong is the Red Queen tried and failed to have the Cheshire Cat executed. Its body disappeared, leaving only the head. And it’s pretty hard to behead something that doesn’t have a body to remove the head from. So my thought is a few store closings won’t hurt our Tommy Hong.)

Finally there was our prince, Cha Seung-jo. After Tommy proves a little to predatory for the job (if you can be shrunk down to teeny-tiny, you don’t trust a cat), Se-kyung decides Seung-jo will be her White Rabbit.   photo ScreenShot2013-01-28at93018PM_zpsbb26b8d9.pngBut he’s already the Mad Hatter and also, as she learns, her end goal. The means towards achieving a safe life filled with love. What’s kind of interesting, is Seung-jo shifts, too. For a brief moment he becomes the Alice figure, trapped awkwardly in Wonderland. But there’s also a moment when he becomes the dreamer from Alice Through the Looking-Glass.

The dreamer is also the Red King and there’s an interesting philosophical thing in the book where it’s suggested Alice will disappear if the Red King wakes up, as she’s a figment of his dream.  photo ScreenShot2013-01-29at35726PM1_zpsa4eb031c.pngAn idea Seung-jo’s father and Yoon-joo seem to support when they urge Se-kyung to keep him firmly in fantasy land. So it does make sense that when she literally wakes him up from his depressed sleep, Seung-jo causes Se-kyung to disappear.  Until he finally faces reality, stops looking for an imaginary Candy princess and takes Se-kyung as she is.

So that’s what I picked up. What symbols did you all spot?


14 thoughts on “Yet another Alice in Cheongdam-dong post…

  1. Yes! I’m so glad you wrote this post because I really liked Alice in Cheongdam-dong but my Alice in Wonderland knowledge is lacking. I like the idea of Seung Jo being the Red King for a little because I think that really helps the reason for that dream sequence. (Besides he was really, really wasted.) I thought the show did a good job tying it all together with the idea of living “with eyes half-closed”. Man, when I started this show I thought it was gonna be a cute little romcom, but boy did it sneak up on me!

    • It was so sneaky! (Which might be why they had such a hard time figuring out how to market the thing.)

      I totally dug through Wikipedia to pull up all the Alice in Wonderland character references. (It was so much fun!) And I was so excited to find out the dreamer (which I remembered because it totally freaked me out as a kid — what if you’re the figment of someone else’s dream!?!!) was actually the Red King and there was a whole question about whether that second adventure (Through the Looking-glass) was Alice’s or his. Because they both had their own fantasies to work through.

      Really good point about him being that wasted, by the way. It makes sense that he’d remember her visit as two separate dreams (based on his two separate emotions, I suppose. “She loves me, yay!” “She can’t prove it, boo!”)

      • I just love Wikipedia sometimes. Yeah, I think the Red King thing is so great because for a while there Se Kyung was having to protect Seung Jo, which I loved because it switched up the gender roles, but also because it worked with the source material.

        • It’s that kind of thing that makes “Alice in Cheongdam-dong” worthy of a rewatch. I wonder how much more would pop out if you knew what to look for from the beginning.

  2. Thanks so much for this very informative post! 🙂 Wow, those symbolisms and equivalents to “Alice in Wonderland” you pointed out makes me appreciate more the writers of CDDA. I’d say they really did their homework. Bravo writers!!! The last time I typed these praising words was when “Tree with Deep Roots” was airing and its episodes were being recapped at dramabeans. I therefore plan to watch the next drama project of these same writers/co-writers.

    Lastly, perhaps you know this already. Moon Geun Young is majoring in Literature. Maybe one of the reasons she accepted to work on this drama is because she too appreciates the beauty in the symbolisms of “Alice in Wonderland”. I can’t wait for her next drama project. Go MGY!

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts on CCDA.

    • I did not know Moon Geun-yong is a literature major — that’s awesome! Actually, I don’t really know her that well as an actress. I’ve seen a couple of her movies, but I think this was the first drama I’ve seen her in. She gave me a good impression, anyway. 🙂 (Though I’ve been told I must, must, must see “Painter of the Wind”, too.)

      I agree. Both this drama and “Tree with Deep Roots” layered a lot depth to their overall story — which I adored. Though they’re very different genres, I think they both really plumbed the depths of what their stories could say. So I’ll keep an eye out for them as well! 🙂

      • Hi Betsy! Great blog, didn’t have the chance to peruse your blog yet, past midnight now in my part of the world, but thank you for posting the link to your blog. Am not well verse on “Alice” or “TRLG” having read it as a child,” so I appreciate your posts so much! It just provided for a richer and deeper appreciation of the drama.
        Re MGY, as am a long time fan, her body of work has been limited since she went to college, taking time off from acting to pursue her degree; and vice versa. PoTW is great (same director as Alice), she won a daesang for this, as well as a baeksang award at 20 yo at that! She also was the lead in “Cinderella’s Sister”. And yes she’s a Korean Lit major at SKKU and is due to graduate in the spring.
        Thanks again for your awesome analysis! Looking forward to reading your stuff! Cheers!

        • Hi Ilovekimchi, and welcome! 🙂 I’m really glad to hear you’ve found my posts helpful.

          I always admire actors who take the time off to further their own education. Especially those who started young and haven’t had much opportunity to experience “normal life”. I’ve pushed “Painter of the Wind” far, far up on my mental “to watch” list (it’s battling it out with “School 2013” for first place on my next-to-marathon choice; I might do School first, just to have a break between historical dramas…). I’ve heard “Cinderella’s Sister” had a disappointing ending, but I might just watch it anyway to see MGY in action. (Sometimes it’s helpful to go into a drama with lower expectations; I’ve been pleasantly surprised before.)

          Anyway, I’m glad you stopped by! Come back anytime. 😀

  3. HI BetsyHp, sorry for the many posts. I loved PoTW (and am not a big fan of sageuks). “Cinderella’s Sister” — I have mixed feelings about. Eunjo, was a compelling character for me and MGY was excellent in it. See if it’s your cup of tea.
    If I may suggest — if you haven’t “discovered” this yet, to check out “Ruler of Your Own World” — it’s an “old” drama… not sure if it’s on Dramafever.
    Happy blogging!

    • Sorry, if you don’t mind my last recommendation would be to check out “Flowers for my Life” — drama broadcast in 2007, JB at Dramabeans recapped the series way back when…

      • I never, never, never mind recommendations. 🙂 And with all the Moon Geun Yong fans talking about her work, I’m thinking I’ll have to do a survey of her dramas at some point. (Painter of the Wind is a definite.) I’ll add your rec’s to my list, thanks! 🙂

  4. This is great analysis. BetsyHp, well done! And the details you spotted, down to the chain weighing on YJ. Wow! I think there is a lot about children’s stories that can be adapted to modern times and i really appreciate the writers of Alice in cheongdamdong. You can see a lot of thought and sensitivity to apply it to the times. I love the social class, reality vs. Candy, everything. The first time i came across children’s stories or more like fairy tales transformed to adult stories was Angela Carter’s work. But this one it is film and actual films of Alice in Wonderland and through the Looking Glass have been made. Alice in Cheondamdong is really neat. Awesome work writers.

    • Thank you! 🙂 I love adapted fairytales and children’s stories too. I’m not familiar with Angela Carter, but I’ve looked her up since you mentioned her, and now I want to read her books! 🙂

      I’m still impressed with how well AiCDd used the Alice-books to explore their themes and tell their story. They did such a good job!

  5. Pingback: [What I Think] Cheongdam-dong Alice | Jazz loves Korea

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