Thoughts on a Kdrama’s rape scene

(To avoid spoilers, let’s just call this drama, Kdrama.)

There’s been a lot of complaints lately about Kdrama because of it’s use of a rape scene. Some viewers complained that Kdrama has gone too far, that it has piled on too much tragedy on the OTP, that the show already had plenty of angst without adding rape on top of the Tragedy cake etc etc.

Frankly, I’m confused.

Why do we draw the line with rape? Why do we complain that “it’s too much”? Why do we say that the writer need not use that scene to drive in a wedge between our leads?

Here was a drama who finally presented a logical reason for two people to be torn apart. Yet, we found it too much, too painful, too real. So we asked for our usual plot devices back.

Have we really been brainwashed by most kdramas to think that things like convoluted family trees, interfering third parties, and noble idiocy are common reasons for wanting to keep someone out of your life?

Physical abuse is real. More real than contract marriages, body switching, and time-travel. If anything, in the list of kdrama plot devices inside this certain Kdrama, rape is a more powerful and believable catalyst for separation than half-brothers and stolen inheritances.

It’s alright to say that you found it uncomfortable. That you pitied the heroine. That you wished you’d been warned. As long as you remember that you’re talking within the context of kdramas.

Because outside our Oppa’s worlds, rape is more powerful and real than chaebol encounters. I, for one, respect a kdrama who can remind us of that.

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9 thoughts on “Thoughts on a Kdrama’s rape scene”

  1. I think the concern might be that the use of rape as a plot device is exploitative and demeaning of the true horror of the act, especially considering how in real life rape victims are often silenced and ostracized. It’s gross to use rape as a tool to separate a couple because it turns rape from what it is–and act of the grossest violence–into something…I don’t have the right word for it, but it’s like it cheapens it, or makes a spectacle of it instead of considering it for what it actually is. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if the drama actually addresses the rape and doesn’t just sensationalize it; if we actually get to see how the rape effects the heroine outside of her romance, how it reverberates throughout her life and how it alters her existence, otherwise it isn’t that much different from any other makjang hysterics, except that it’ll be making a mockery of something so devastating. It’s not the rape itself that’s the problem, but how it’s approached in the story, not that it’s too real, but that (if it’s being used as a mere tool) it isn’t real at all.

    I’m not watching this drama because I don’t have the stomach for it, but I think it’s good for drama watchers to be able to talk about these kinds of things, even if we do have differing opinions, so thank you for making this post.

    1. Very well said! Thank you very much for explaining it. Now I understand some of the complaints behind that particular scene.

      I’ll also be waiting for how the drama handles the fallout of that particular scene. I’m hoping the writer does away with the money issues and just focus on how YEH’s character learns to live life and overcome any guilt or sense of shame that most rape victims unfortunately feel after the abuse. Yoochun’s character should also be dealing with that guilt and getting rid of the self-destructive behavior he developed in his adult life.

      If the drama sweeps the rape under the rug and highlights the inheritance stuff in the future, I’m also going to be disappointed at the writer’s wasted opportunity to break from the kdrama mold and tackle a real social issue. 😦

  2. I totally feel the same way and I have said the exact same thing!! At least these characters have something real to be depressed and angst ridden about instead of it being just psychotic rich people and their petty problems blown out of proportion. I am not a person who usually enjoys melodramas, but I really love this one and the realism is a huge reason why.

    1. Still enjoying the drama (via koala’s recaps) BUT I take it back!

      The rape WAS a stupid plot device. What kind of rapist blackmails his victim after 10 years? Soo Yeon was a victim by accident, it wasn’t premeditated. They didn’t even know each other before the kidnapping. Suddenly the rapist is all obsessed with Soo Yeon’s pain?

      The writer must have the original copy of The Ancient Text of Kdrama Laws and throwing all possible makjang tropes at her script.

      It’s disappointing writing-wise. But,Yoo Seung Ho. 🙂

      1. I just stumbled onto your blog, and this is an older post, but I like what you said in your post and… I’m confused by this retraction. When did the rapist blackmail Soo Yeon? He didn’t know who she was when the accident happened, he calls her to harass her ’cause he’s a creeping creeper who creeps — still not knowing who she is, and then he’s murdered. (As far as I could tell, he didn’t even register the newspaper clipping that might have triggered a memory before he gets tasered.)

        I’m just asking because I’ve been watching “I Miss You” for the reasons you stated in your original post (it seems rare for kdramas to deal with rape and I’m watching to see how they handle it in a drama that’s made the rape the central issue). But so far I’ve been impressed.

        Again, though, this is an older post. So don’t feel you have to reply if you don’t want to. 🙂

  3. “If anything, in the list of kdrama plot devices inside this certain Kdrama, rape is a more powerful and believable catalyst for separation than half-brothers and stolen inheritances.”

    True, but it is NOT going to keep the OTP apart in Kland and it’s not that realistic based on the recaps. This is my issue with the use of “rape” device in the storytelling. In RL, it divides households and sends them crashing and burning but in SK dramas, true love overcomes every diabolical schism, which is bs and fantasy and their mainstay. It’s all someone’s opinions beautifully crafted for the eyes and ears enjoyment…just leave you brain at the entrance before the drama.

    Like an addict, this is really a sad commentary on Kdramas of late when one is not required to think about what one is consuming for pleasure…just go with the flow. Not.

    1. I know, I have since revised my opinion of the drama. 😦

      I wanted to give it the benefit of the doubt, that it might truthfully explore the journey of a victim in moving on with life and finding closure. Because I’d like to think that victims are capable of living after rape, as long as they get the right support from friends and family. I thought the drama would explore that angle. Not necessarily to bring the OTP together, but to show that it’s possible to move on.

      But the drama chose to focus on Yoo Chun’s character and Yoo Seung Ho’s revenge plot instead of showing us how YEH’s life and relationship will be affected by that one incident. So now I think there’s a really missed opportunity there, and I agree, in hindsight that the rape was unnecessary and in very bad taste.

  4. The problem when rape is used is that it is sometimes used as a means to create cheap drama for the female character or empower the male of the situation, thus being very misogynistic.

    In the first case, it is assumed that a woman needs to go through such an experience to become stronger, that unless such a thing is overcome by her no one will believe she is strong and it’s almost done as a punishment for being weak and needing to “woman up”.

    In the second case, which is found more often in all types of media, the rape is used to give value to the man who will be brave and rescue her or be kind and love her despite it (as if it’s her fault) or in some other way give female viewers angst and pain and rise to his pedestal of awesomeness thanks to that handy rape.

    In other cases where males are the audience (such as videogames designed by and mostly for men, despite the fact almost half of gamers are women), it’s designed as a male empowerment fantasy. Making viewers/players feel like the male lead or their male avatar (and by extension they) are big damn heroes for protecting/retrieving/accepting the object (which is all she is) that is rightfully theirs and that they should and can now have, all because they deserve her as a prize.

    Unless the rape is treated respectfully and shown as what it is, it should not be used in works, given it is such a big and painful topic. The more powerful the tool, the more damage it can do and insult it can be if used badly. So when a problem mainly faced by women is used in a misogynistic way and to stroke the ego of the male fantasy, it will and should face criticism.

    That said, I don’t even know which scene or series you are talking about here and how it was used, I am merely stating the reason why it is sometimes an issue.

    1. The drama was Missing You/I Miss You.

      I wrote this post right after the rape episode. The lead boy actually ran away and admitted that he was scared although he was terribly guilty afterwards. At the time of posting, it didn’t look like they were setting him up to be a hero. But rather someone who made a huge mistake which would explain why the OTP would be separated.

      In the promo and teasers for the drama they mentioned a vague, “childhood trauma” that would tear the OTP apart. Normally, those things meant family feud or birth secrets, etc. so I was surprised that it was rape. One was the victim and another a witness who ran away.

      People had such negative reactions which I thought were premature since IMY seemed like a well written drama at the start.

      Turns out I was wrong. :O They did misuse the rape issue… and argh, it was so annoying how that drama went the crazy route. Now I’ll think twice before trusting a kdrama to handle a sensitive issue. 😦

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