Of Sky Waltzes and Rain Dancers

Kim Shin-hyuk (Choi Siwon) in 2015 Korean romance drama She Was Pretty E4, performing Gene Kelly's "I'm Singing in the rain"

Amidst a sprinkling of American pop classics, She Was Pretty‘s characters live, laugh and love, alternately pulling off hilarious shenanigans and waxing sentimental about work, romance and friendship. Second male lead Kim Shin-hyuk merrily glides through rain puddles and twirls his umbrella to the tune of Gene Kelly’s “Singin’ in the Rain” all by himself on a slightly busy pavement under the city lights. Main couple Ji Sung-joon and Kim Hye-jin bond over the Carpenters’ “Close to You” during a downpour that triggers a panic attack in him and annoyingly curls up her hair. But it is without lyrics when second female lead, Min Ha-ri, daintily holds out her hand to raindrops from a drizzle, smiling brightly at the rain itself. In their asymmetrical love quadrilateral, which tests the ladies’ non-romantic love for each other, the first leads take to blue skies, in quiet unison, whereas the second leads ultimately tune in alone to the music of rain.

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The “Was” in She Was Pretty

Ji Sung-joon (Park Seo-joon) wrapping his coat around Kim Hye-jin (Hwang Jung-eum) in a back hug in front of a frame at a beach in 2015 Korean drama She Was Pretty

Does our opinion of an acorn change slightly when we recall that it was once part of a majestic oak tree previously looming tall on some revered mountain? Yet, an acorn has a brand new life waiting to be unleashed from within, on whichever shores animal companions bring it to. It does not want to be locked away in some dark museum, forever remembered as a dead tree.

Similarly, does knowledge of someone’s past enhance or detract from our understanding of him? While She Was Pretty‘s lead character Hye-jin hides from her childhood beau, Sung-joon, out of insecurity about herself—after he grows up successful and good-looking and she underemployed and “ugly”—their colleague Shin-hyuk hides away from everyone to be himself.

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Monte Carlo Fallacy

Ji Sung-joon (Park Seo-joon) climbing into a slide in 2015 Korean drama She Was Pretty

Here goes a popular mathematical joke: If you are fearful of the small risk of boarding the same plane as a bomb-crazy terrorist, make the odds even tinier by packing along a bomb in your luggage!

Known as the gambler’s fallacy or Monte Carlo fallacy, the most spectacular example of this type of flawed thinking took place in the eponymous casino in 1913, when the ball in a roulette wheel landed on black 26 times in a row, taking away millions from players believing that it was more likely to give red after each lengthy sequence of blacks. Like these players, many people tend to believe that after the same event has happened multiple times or after a single unlikely event has taken its course, the likelihoods of events of an opposite nature will rise as part of some compensatory mechanism of the universe. Yet, in reality, if each event occurs independently, such that an outcome does not alter the conditions under which the next event takes place, the probabilities of the events should remain constant, regardless of how unlikely the previous results are.

If there is any compensatory effect, it manifests by Continue reading


Moondust in Her Hair

Jigsaw puzzle based on Dance in the Country (Danse à la campagne), an 1883 painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, as featured in 2015 Korean drama She Was Pretty

Fairy tale motifs like Cinderellas, wealthy Prince Charmings and beasts with hearts of gold underneath forbidding exteriors are very much alive in modern adult literature and films, as a drama reviewer helpfully pointed out. The titular pretty princess of She Was Pretty gets the raw end of the stick, however, when she grows up into a penniless ugly duckling, while her tubby childhood sweetheart transforms into a handsome and successful man looking like he has stepped out of a fashion magazine. Whereas he used to be the awkward, bespectacled child scuttering away at the appearance of the next-door belle, she is now the one hiding out of his sight and looking on in sadness as he embraces her ravishing bosom friend, whom he believes is her. In her reality, she thinks, she is just a supporting character, perhaps an almost invisible extra.

He, on the other hand, feels that the degree to which a person basks in the limelight does not cement his/her status as a main or supporting character. A change of perspective may reveal that the narrative is really about the emotions or personal development of someone lurking in the shadows. In Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Dance in the Country (1883), the central figure may not be the beaming, flamboyant woman whose bright red bonnet, floral details and voluminous dress draws attention to herself, or her dapper dance partner. It may very well be the woman watching outside the terrace where they are dancing, the railing of the terrace and tree leaves framing her face to the effect that she looks trapped in a neglected forest prison. Like the star-crossed lovers, the screenwriter Jo Sung-hee postulates, she is harboring a secret love for someone. Jo has her male lead entrust a jigsaw piece with the lovelorn woman to the female lead at their last childhood meeting, while he keeps the remaining puzzle of the painting. How she will find her way back to the picture and into the hole in his heart is the focus of the story.

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