I’m late checking in, but I have a really good excuse. This coming Thursday is Thanksgiving in the States and I was busy procrastinating my holiday planning. We’re holding the feast at my place this year. It’s a small group of us but it includes my grandmother. She was an amazing cook, especially for meals like this. I’ve never actually cooked for her before and I’m all over nervous.
So I’ve been dealing with my impending family drama in the only logical way: catching up on Wang’s Family*. Because there’s nothing like a TV family’s drama to make your own family drama pale by comparison, am I right? (My grandmother may end up disappointed in my apple pie, but she’s not going to call me names or disown me or anything.)
And as far as messed up families go, the Wang family is gunning for at least an honorable mention. This is the first time I’ve seen a Korean family drama feature a family that is so dysfunctional. I’m used to seeing families going through huge and dramatic challenges but having a strong core. With the Wang family though, the core seems weak.
It’s especially interesting because the weakness seems to be the mother, played by Kim Hae-sook. She usually plays awesome moms! And incredibly likable characters. Her charm is still there — there are times I laugh out loud at her antics (especially when she and her mother-in-law get into their “whose family was the richest” arguments) — but this mom is toxic. I mean, I think she’s seriously harming her kids and any good traits they have is in spite of her rather than because of her.
Now I’ve fallen into cultural gaps with k-dramas before, especially with family dramas. There’ve been cases where I interpret an action as bad, but it’s me misunderstanding the social norms — not how the show actually means the action to come across. But I don’t think that’s the case here. I really do think Kim Hae-sook’s character is supposed to be seen as a bad, or at the very least a not-good, mom.
Where the cultural gap comes in this time is with my ignorance of current social issues in Korean society. I strongly suspect Wang’s Family is tackling some common, or at least much discussed, family issues and struggles. I can pick up on some of them because they’re starred and underlined. (Like “kangaroos” — adult children who can’t find work and still depend on their parents to support them.) But I think there are others that, if I read Korean newspapers or followed their morning shows, I’d pick up on as well. (Something like favoring status symbols over honest worth, maybe?)
But, even while missing the specific context, it’s an addictive watch. I’m now a little under halfway through (episode 22) and I’m taking an enforced break until the next 10 or so episodes are done. Plus… Thanksgiving is coming. I’ve got to get down to some serious cooking. And then comes the serious eating. And then comes the napping. And after that… drama.
*Formerly, King’s Family — I don’t know why they changed it. Maybe viewers didn’t realize “wang” means “king” and got confused?