Sungkyunkwan Scandal, and Noble Thoughts

I’m not up-to-date with Sungkyunkwan Scandal at all. While everyone else is on the finale euphoria, I’m only nearing the halfway point. It’s a bit sad not being able to join the discussion from the start, but I thought, heck, I’ll just add my two cents.

This is hardly a first impression post, although there are about 3 -4 paragraphs dedicated to it. The rest is really just one of my ramblings.

Sungkyunkwan is special to me.

It’s the first sageuk I’d confidently say I will complete and love in its entirety. But above all, it directly inspires noble thoughts, at the time when I had just watched two episodes. Huh? Let me elaborate.

I was pretty free on my last semester in uni – just had to finish that damn thesis – which meant lots of time in front of the computer and lots of dangerous Korean temptations. It’s also coincidentally the time when I got into new heights of k-addiction and even started this blog.

Sungkyunkwan didn’t really attract my attention during its promotional days with the posters, the character stills, and so on, since I couldn’t care less about idol groups and the guy who shares a name with a Disney Mouse. Song Joong-ki I liked in Triple, and Yoo Ah-in I heard about several times. And as for the girl actresses, I was pretty ignorant as well, although I do have a bit of a soft spot for Seo Hyo-rim. On the girl cross-dressed as a boy storyline, didn’t warm me so much and stories on that theme were hit and miss for me in the past. I always think Hana Kimi had a stoooopid premise, Mi-nyeo from You’re Beautiful was too frustratingly dumb even though show was helplessly addictive, but Coffee Prince was a great experience.

But bursts of excitement from trusted sources piqued my interest. I don’t really know what to expect. Shenanigans typical of cross-dressing fares? Sugar-coated world of squees and beautiful people? A simple problem with probable future kissing scenes: those wide-rimmed funny man hats will interfere if they both have them on, eh?

I watched the first episode. This was quickly followed by the second. Unnecessary thoughts on man hats disappeared. I realised I’ve stumbled into something special.

Being a sageuk newbie, that word usually invites stuffy, complicated monarchy relations, and other fastidious stereotypical thoughts to my head. This one is different. It is so fully brimming with youth and vitality. With modern ideas and suggestive notions cleverly infused, it’s a strange combination of fresh and ancient, dark and cheery, naughty and nice, cynicism and idealism, cheeky and noble, bitter and sweet.

Lee Sun-joon is a strange human being with his blatant righteousness and fastidiousness. He’s frustrating at times, but also admirable and my interest in him grows inch by inch. Gu Yong-ha is delicious and enigmatic – with a mean streak, but also lovable. I immediately notice Yoo Ah-in’s forcefully commanding, even if brief, presence as the rebel Moon Jae-shin.

But Yoon-hee is an amazing character, strong and fearless. The k-drama gods are ruthless to this girl. Throw her into a fatherless poor home, with a sick younger brother to ruin their family’s finances even more. Yoon-hee is often disguised in a man’s garb while earning money through her talent: reading and writing, literature and classics. She has to swallow a lot of pride for money. At a time when a learnt woman is unacceptable, is her exceptional brain and wits really a lifeline to her family, or a poison? Is her worth only 50 Nyang?

When she toyed with the idea of being a substitute test taker in the famous Sungkyunkwan Institution and earning more money, her path crossed Lee Sun-joon’s. Her stakes got higher and higher, as the family debt escalated and that old fart Minister of War took interest in her and wished to buy her off.

Moreover, with its youth, idealism and education theme, the show actually made me felt… gasp… scholarly. That I am female, studying in a university, and taking everything for granted. I also remembered how You’re Beautiful wrecked my exams. And suddenly, a whim of nobility and righteousness washed over me. Must be Lee Sun-joon. I shall respectfully wait for my semester to finish. Then I would have earned the right to watch Sungkyunkwan Scandal.

This is of course a load of bull. I watched the entire Hyena around that time, nah, not a single pang of guilt.

But the point is, Sungkyunkwan has made me respectfully wait, and man, what a painful wait it was. I followed recaps and my heart soared with them – and so ached to watch the next episodes. Instead of watching on streaming sites, I began to download MU links patiently. And about episode 7, I realised something. Getting excited and pining for things I haven’t actually watched were equally damaging. Contracting the Moon Jae-shin virus before I was even properly exposed to the disease was dangerous. I have to STOP reading recaps! Avoid all Sungkyunkwan discussions! And be scholarly and be a good student!

Sooo, now, having survived the said uni semester, I’m in my proper vacation and I’ve watched 9 episodes. While everyone else in the universe squeals, cries and wails at the same time that SKKS has come to an end, I have just started to squee at the hiccups. The recaps I’ve infected my mind with, as I feared, reduces the enjoyment of watching the actual episodes – a little. Not exactly a good feeling.

Although not able to jump on the latest discussion, I have my own ritual to follow. After watching one episode, I would go to Thundie’s reading recap on said episode. Then go to Dramabeans. Then read comments on Dramabeans if I feel like. On the bright side, at least I don’t have to refresh these blogs every 5 seconds or so – everything I need to read is already there. Soompi I have to skip. Dangerous territory.

Oh, and finally, the show is also beautiful.


About toopai
part time couch potato, full time movie and drama enthusiast.

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