Feb 1 • 33M

Drama Watch 31 January 2023: Crash Course in Romance (2023)

In conversation with absoluteM

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In this half hour segment of a three-part episode, absoluteM and I discuss Jang Kyung-ho and Jeon Do-yeon’s latest tv outing, Crash Course in Romance. We go into the weeds of Episodes 1-6 and delve into after-school tutoring, education, helicopter parenting and a smidge about the romance.

Further Comments on Episodes 5 and 6

The death of the seventh student in the All-Care programme casts a shadow over events in these episodes. Choi Chi-yeol is visibly shaken as are the other students. Everyone thinks it’s suicide. Or prefer to think it’s suicide because let’s face it, murder complicates matters for everyone. Who knows what might be unearthed when cops get involved? Even the cops bar one aren’t keen to rock the boat as the family involved is a powerful one.

My own view about the ball bearing killer’s presence in the story is that it is an extreme symptom or consequence of the dysfunction caused in large part by the education system and the accompanying helicopter parenting. His (presuming it is a he) presence in the narrative is to indicate that this competitive educational environment among students and parents can lead to disastrous social outcomes. Far worse than the ones we’ve already seen in the Lee-Kang household. It is unfair to blame Chi-yeol for the suicide of Soo-yeon and the destruction of that family when it was the mother who requested for a “sneak peek” at the exam papers. I’m sure everyone feels guilty all round for what ensues and is searching for a scapegoat to blame for that event. The reality is that people in that family made one poor choice after another. Indeed I believe that the original investigator was right. The son most likely did kill his mother and is still consumed by his vengeful homicidal impulses. I’m inclined to believe that the show is making a case for the importance of merit-based achievement because when individuals and families buck the system or play gatekeepers, it leads to resentment and undermines the foundations of society or civilization leaving it open to crime or something worse.

Also noteworthy is the attitude I’ve highlighted in the podcast of seeing the world as a relentless battleground. It’s almost exhausting watching someone like Soo-a throwing tantrums and Chi-yeol’s colleague at the academy digging up possible dirt from the past because they feel insecure about their position in their respective contexts. It’s total war. No doubt some of that is fostered by prevailing (inherently self-destructive) perspectives about what success looks like and how that is achieved.

Although this is billed as a romantic comedy, the romance seems to be taking a backseat to everything else that’s going on here. There’s a feeling that it’s perhaps the least important part of what’s on offer and yet it’s importance lies primarily as a vehicle for the leads’ growth and healing. They’ve both weathered through trials and tribulations. Haeng-seon come out of it somewhat better because she has that family she’s meticulously built over the years. Chi-yeol despite his worldly success, is barely holding it together mentally. He far more vulnerable emotionally because he keeps so much bottled in with no one to share his life with.