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Crash Course in Romance (2023) Episodes 13 to 14
There’s a great moment in Episode 14 (probably my favourite) where Chi-yeol confronts Dong-hui about the deception surrounding the maths camp. Dong-hui, now unveiled as a highly dangerous individual, insists that he did everything including lie for Chi-yeol’s sake because of the perceived negative influence of Haeng-seon. Chi-yeol’s comeback is gold. First he listens to everything Dong-hui says and then he speaks.
Don’t try to justify your actions. You thought I was a joke.
I’m not being swayed. I’m changing. Did you think I was normal back then? They’d call me the Trillion Won Man, yet I was empty inside, slaving away at work. I couldn’t even digest my food and would return to my empty shell of a house. I’d toss and turn in bed, trying to sleep, then repeat everything again and again. You think that’s who I am? You miss the old me? I don’t.
Then comes the kicker…
Who are you to determine whether it benefits me or not? … That’s for me to decide! I decide my future in this line of work and what I value in life!
As of now, Haeng-seon and her family matter just as much as my work. So don’t complain.
This heated exchange is really the crux of the entire show. It feels almost as if Jung Kyung-ho has been waiting a very long time to deliver it. It seems almost as if he has to be the one who gives voice to what all the children would really like to say to their obsessed helicopter parents who believe that they’re acting in the interests of their offspring but are in effect living vicariously through them in their honour and shame culture.
Of course it’s easier for an adult of means to come out swinging. Chi-yeol can make that stance because he has long gained his independence but there will always be people who aren’t merely satisfied in offering advice but they have to exert unhealthy control over some else’s decisions. Clearly Dong-hui is enjoying the kind of trust that has been given to him and in his messed up headspace reaches the conclusion that he has more rights over Chi-yeol than he does.
The parallels between Dong-hui and the helicopter mums are instructive.
Parenting is undoubtedly an art. There needs to be a balance about how much parents parent at each stage in their children’s lives. Few get it right all of the time and all are always tweaking around the edges. Afterall parenting is about raising adults who hopefully will become responsible citizens in their community and country. Odd as it sounds it probably suits some parents to have their children dependent on them for the rest of their lives. Just like it suits governments to have long-term welfare dependents. It’s a form of control. Maybe even slavery. A parent that has a child accustomed to sucking at the teat 24/7 can use it to get them to dance to their tune even when they reach adulthood.
The entire cheating incident exemplifies the situation. It’s Gaslighting 101. Mum Jang is talking about impending collapse and possible suicide in order to psychologically blackmail Seon-jae into doing her bidding. Cheating is not really cheating because it’s just a good mother using her resources to do her best for the children. As in the case of Dong-hui, killing is not really killing because he’s only removing pesky obstacles who get in the way of Chi-yeol’s (and by extension his) success.
It’s true too that not all parents are like Jang Seo-jin or Cho Soo-hee. Kids like Dan-ji and Geon-hu are proof of that. Certainly with Geon-hu who has something of the free spirit about him. He came to a place of self-motivation on his own after his career as a hockey player came to an abrupt end. He’s the likeable outsider because he’s above the fray and a foreigner to the madness. It’s why he can be a friend to both Seon-jae and Hae-yi because he doesn’t have the baggage that someone like Soo-a has, for instance. Yes, he does see himself in friendly competition to Seon-jae but the key word here is “friendly”. Plus he understands sportsmanship — may the best team/man win. He wants to win of course but fairly and squarely on his own merits. He is secure about who he is and it’s a rarity. I wish there were more of him because he is such a breath of fresh air to all the gloom and chaos that pervades the competitive landscape of Woorim High School.
In every kind of situation there are rules — spoken and unspoken. The problem with cheating is that someone has the audacity to think that the rules don’t apply to them. Having been in education for a couple of decades now I can say with confidence that there are all kinds of factors that lead to success. Money can certainly enable a headstart but I have seen individuals young and old throw away opportunities despite good intentions by stakeholders. Intelligence, diligence, conscientiousness certainly plays a part. The assumption behind standardized tests is that everyone who wants to can do them regardless of status and income bracket. This is what “fair” is generally about. The candidates are tested on their ability to complete a set of tasks with certain parameters. But cheating means that the candidates are no longer tested on ability but on something else not available to others. The rules are rendered meaningless. All the hard work to close the gap is also meaningless. If the society believes that it is for the greater good to raise disadvantaged students, then talk about “fairness” makes sense. If however, a society operates on the principle that “might is right” then there’s very little point in even having standardized public examinations. It’s a farce. Bread and circuses for the plebs.
The most tragic aspect to Jang Seo-jin is not the cheating but the fact that she has two intelligent, morally decent boys who have raised themselves but she can’t see the wood for the trees. She’s trying to bend them to her will because she’s fixated on them going to an elite university. It’s the glass half empty state of mind. She’s busy looking at what she hasn’t got that she’s missing what’s right in front of her. It’s also tragic that a mother don’t think moral values are of any importance in a person’s life. People like her are perpetuating the cycle of corruption using their role in the social fabric as a mother and well-to-do lawyer,
Most of us expected that Hae-yi’s birth mother would return some time to cause trouble. And return she has. She is as obnoxious and contemptible as one might expect barging her way into Nation’s Best Banchan asking all kinds of nosy questions about the shop’s financial status. And then she has the chutzpah to rebuke her sister for doing a poor job of taking care of Hae-yi. So wh?ere’s she been all this time? Japan, apparently. Doing what? God only knows.
It’s taken a while for Chi-yeol to see the darker side of Dong-hui. I don’t think the timing is coincidental. As he himself observes in the abovementioned quote, for a very long time he he was at his lowest mentally and physically. Even though his career was a roaring success, he was a shell of a man. Now that he’s flourishing with the Nam family, he’s emerged out of his funk. Not only does Dong-hui not like the fact that he’s been relegated to a “lesser” confidante, he is actively targeting Haeng-seon. The confirmation of Dong-hui’s culpability coincides with Chi-yeol’s self-revelation and awakening. No longer is he reliant on Dong-hui to take care of everything but he can finally see Dong-hui as he is.