What I’m Reading Now: Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyers

So I’m cheating. I’m skipping New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn and going straight to Midnight Sun. It took me three months to get through Twilight again. If I read the other books, I would never finish this challenge. Okay. Let’s do this thing!

Updates: The Role Reversals of Men and Women in Kdramas

***The following contains plot points to some Korean Dramas on Netflix. Spoiler Warning is in effect***

For months I have had in my drafts a post with updated reviews on the kdramas that Kate and I have been watching on Netflix, but for whatever reason I never completed it. I did plan on finishing it, but last night I had a realization about the story telling of some of the shows we liked the most, so I’m going to write about that instead. It’s a common trope in romances that one person is more experienced than the other when it comes to love and sex. Typically, it is the Man who is the one who has a long history of romances while the woman is new to the whole affair. Think the “bad boy” trope. Not only does this usually shift the power to the man in the relationship but also reinforces the idea of women being pure and chaste. This has shown up a couple of times in some of the Korean dramas we have watched, but we’ve noticed the roles are mostly reversed. The romantic male is inexperienced in love and sex and the romantic female lead is the one with the past. In almost all of these shows the man is a virgin while the sexual status of the woman is left ambiguous or her past plays a part in the story. I found it interesting because it is not something seen often in popular media, let alone in more than one show in 2020 to feature such a character. Let’s take a look at four different shows that Kate and I have watched in the last four months and explore it, shall we.

Itaewon Class: Our Hero Park Saeroyi (played by Park Seo Joon) is a high school dropout ex-convict who spends the next ten years of his life after getting out of prison to take revenge on the family that killed his father and ruined his life. He starts his own restaurant in the neighborhood of Itaewon in Seoul. Getting revenge obviously doesn’t really leave a lot of room for romance, and also he is still in enamored with his school girl crush, Oh Soo Ah (played Kwon Nara), who also just happens to work for his enemy. His plan for revenge doesn’t really get going until he meets Jo Yi Seo (Kim Dami) who is very business savvy, despite the fact she is very young and is 10 years the junior of Saeroyi. Saeroyi is a good guy with a moral compass that sometimes gets in the way. In a scene half way through the show, the cast is playing what is essentially spin the bottle but instead of kissing whoever the bottle lands on you get the ask a question. This is when he admits he has never even been kissed, let alone anything else. At this confession is both Soo Ah and Yi Seo who have different reactions. Soo Ah’s love life is left opened. We are not told much about her dating life, but it is hinted that even though she has feelings for Saeroyi she hasn’t exactly been waiting for him either. Yi Seo is the an anti-social free spirit who does what she wants and with whom she wants. It’s clear that she has experience when it comes to the opposite sex. In any case both of the female leads have more experience than Saeroyi and they know it and often use it against each other as they compete for his affections.

Crash Landing on You. Ri Jung Hyuk (Hyun Bin) is a captain in the North Korean Army and is very earnest about his duty. He has been engaged for the last 10 years to a woman who he barely knows. They engagement was arranged by their parents and marriage had been put on hold after the death of his older brother, allowing for time to mourn. Before he was a Captain, he was studying to be a classical pianist in Switzerland for many years. I guess you could make the argument that while he was in Switzerland and away from family and obligations he could have played the field a bit, but I don’t think so, as we are led to believe that Jung Hyuk is a moral upstanding gentlemen that wouldn’t do anything to dishonor his family or his fiance. Juxtapose him with Yoon Se Ri (Son Ye Jin) who is not only an heiress to a great fortune but a successful business woman in her own right. Her love life is all over of the tabloids, and she uses it to her advantage when it comes to business and her family. She never stays in any relationship for very long and quickly moves on to the next one. In the first episode her brothers (who are awful btw) joke about how they can’t keep up with her latest romances and ask if her current guy is the actor or the baseball player. At one point Se Ri asks Jung Hyuk who was his first love, and he reluctantly admits it was her, which explains to her all of the awkward moments that happened between them earlier, but is also sweet because even though she has dated other men she could also say he is her first love, too.

It’s Okay Not to be Okay When Moon Gang Tae (Kim Soo Hyun) was a kid, his mother was murdered leaving him to take care of his older brother, Moon Sang Tae (Oh Jung Se), who is autistic. Sang Tae also witnessed the murder of their mother, and the trauma of it forces the brothers to move every spring to outrun the memories. With the constant moving and taking care of his brother, Gang Tae doesn’t have much time for himself, let alone a love life. This is something that is mentioned in the first two episodes. Ko Moon Young (Seo Yi Ji) is a famous children’s book author that has her own anti-social disorder. She is likable and so unlikable at the same time. While we are not given specifics about her love life, her uninhibited life style definitely implies she has had lovers in the past. Gang Tae, to say the least, is repressed when it comes to his emotions. He does this partly because he needs to control them around his brother but he also has experienced his own traumas and keeping his emotions in check is a coping mechanism. Moon Young asks Gang Tae flat out in one episode if he is a virgin and offers to take his v-card. He doesn’t answer, but it’s pretty clear from his reaction that he is. Something that she will tease him about for rest of the series.

Hospital Playlist I debated whether or not to include this one because it fits but doesn’t. Ahn Jeong Won (Yoo Yeon Seok) is a pediatric surgeon who is very religious. In fact he has dreamed of becoming a priest ever since he was a little boy and has finally taken steps to quit medicine and join the priesthood. That is until he meets Jang Gyeoul (Shin Hyun Bin). As you can imagine for someone who longs to devote is life to God, dating is not a high priority. It’s commented over and over again about him that he doesn’t date and that he has never been interested in any woman. Even his closest friends echo this sentiment. Before the show started the director released short character descriptions, and in it does say that Jeong Won was once in love some time in his 20s, but this is never mentioned or alluded to in the show, so this is a story line that got dropped, or it will play a part in the upcoming seasons. So we once again have a male character with little experience, but where this differs is with Gyeoul. She is also inexperienced, and maybe just as much if not more so then he is. Gyeoul is a General Surgery resident who is very hardworking and good at her job, but she does have trouble relating to people, including her patients.Throughout the season, she enlists the help of Jeong Won’s friend Lee Ik Jun (Jo Jung Suk) to help her in her quest to get Jeong Won fall in love with her. Something that Ik Jun is more than happy to help her in. In a scene midway through the season, she and a fellow resident and friend chat about relationships, and Gyeoul admits she’s never been kissed before. In the end of the season, they do end up expressing their feelings to each other, and it’s everything you want that scene to be. Here we have a couple that is are starting on an even playing field and lucky for us a new season starts sometime next year, so we will get to see how they move forward together.

It turns out that these four shows are among our favorite shows we have seen this year. Does this new twist on an old trope play into our enjoyment? Maybe. I mean it doesn’t’ hurt. As Kate pointed out, when a guy is less knowledgeable they are less likely to mansplain, and this definitely true for all these male characters. They all come off as caring and thoughtful, if not a little aloof. The other trait that all of these men have in common, besides their virginity, is that they are all are repressed in one way or another, and it’s not until they meet the female lead that they start to open up and to reexamine why they are the way they are. So while the roles may be reversed when it comes to love, there is still a little bit of expectation that the woman’s role is to help fix him. To me the imbalance between the characters never feels as though the relationship is unbalanced. What each character lacked they made up in other ways. I think the most interesting part of all of this is that at no point was the masculinity of the man questioned by any of the other characters. It was sort of a “this who they are” or “this is understandable when you considered what they have been through”. Can you imagine how characters would react if a straight male romantic lead admitted that they were a 30 year old virgin in American media? They would have been mocked mercilessly. As for me the viewer, I found all these characters sexy and again actively rooted for them to get with the girl in the end.

So what does this tell us about Korea and their culture? All four of these shows got high ratings on Korean television, and many of the actors are some of the most popular and highest paid actors working in Korea today. What is so attractive about the guy being “pure”? I’m all for this trend and wouldn’t mind seeing more of it. It also makes me like Korea more that they seem comfortable portraying men and women this way and doing so without falling into stereotypes and other harmful tropes. The more that I think of it, maybe this is why Kate and I have really enjoyed watching kdramas, beside the fact that we have become a little obsessed with the country and culture as a whole. It has given us a chance to look in and see a different perspective on storytelling. How we look at love and relationships here in the US or in the West is not always the healthiest. Not to say that Korea is perfect because we have seen some shows that have featured very unhealthy relationships and also some troubling social norms. For the most part, all the shows we have seen have been kind of a breath of fresh air and a much needed reprieve from our current reality. We both highly recommend all four of the shows I highlighted here. They are all available on Netflix and very bingeable.

Giveaway: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (Book 1)

Are you thinking about re-reading Twilight before Midnight Sun comes out? Are you not sure where your copy is? Well, Beth and I got your back! We have a near-perfect used paperback edition that we are giving away! Because it is coming from Kate’s house, it will likely have other goodies like sheet masks and skin care samples! Maybe even cookies! To enter our giveaway, you just have to send us proof that you’ve given money to an organization supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, a local bail fund, Native American land sovereignty movements, efforts to address domestic violence in Native American communities (“American Indian women residing on Indian reservations suffer domestic violence and physical assault at rates far exceeding women of other ethnicities.” And….spoilers, but domestic violence on the reservation is referenced in the second book, if memory serves. Something that shouldn’t be a plot point, let alone a throwaway mention. But, I’m sure I’ll rant about that when I get to that book.) or efforts to defund and reform policing. It doesn’t matter to us which org you give to. There is a lot of work that needs to be done and a lot of people working hard who could use our support. If you don’t know where to start, here are some suggestions.

Black Lives Matter accepts donations and has suggestions!

The Okra Project is fighting hunger in the Black Trans community! 34% of Black trans folks report living in poverty. That is beyond tragic.

Black and Pink is an organization of LGBTQ prisoners and allies whose ultimate goal is prison abolition but who, in the short term, support LGBTQ prisoners.

NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund Huge and ground breaking societal changes tend to be largely unpopular when they’re first introduced. This is meant, historically and currently, that people on the front lines advocating for change find themselves in need of legal support. Here’s a good place to donate to support that work.

NDN Collective have a covid-19 response project (indigenous communities in the US have been hit really hard by the virus). They also have a bail-out fund for folks arrested defending their land and sovereignty.

To enter the giveaway, email proof of your donation to Kate at Katestacksxlifex at gmail. The giveaway is open until July 27th!

Checking In: What We’ve been Binging Edition

Hey, How’s everyone doing? As we continue to live in a virus-laden world, I thought it might be nice to check in again. I am very lucky because my job can be done remotely, so I have still been working. (Teaching not-online classes online is a special kind of exhausting, but it is nice to have work.) When I haven’t been working I’ve been trying to finish projects around my house. I’ve started growing lettuce and will soon transition them outside. I started a compost bin. I’ve been doing a lot of baking (so far I’ve made bread, cinnamon rolls, donuts, brownies, more bread, danishes, and cookies). The county I live in hasn’t closed the trail heads, so I’ve been trying to get a hike in at least once a week. The cat has been sunning himself on the patio everyday. And, importantly for this blog, I’ve been reading brutal books and, as per usual, not finishing the fun/cute/uplifting books for my YA fiction book group. (Next month’s selection is Internment by Samira Ahmed, so you know I’ll finish that one.)

In addition to this, Thanks to Netflix Party, Beth and I have watched a number of K-dramas together. Here’s what we’ve been binging (using the English titles you’d search for on Netflix).

Crash Landing on You. This is the story of a South Korean woman who gets caught in a tornado and thrown over the border into North Korea and the army unit that saves her life. This was so good. The romance at the center was A+ and not at all stupid or cloying or, “Ugh, don’t marry that dude.” The army dudes are straight up my favorite, every single one of them. The North Korean women are also freaking awesome. The B plots in this were great. It was touching and funny. 10/10 would recommend.

Memories of Alhambra. Starring one of the leads from Crash Landing on You (and also featuring Chanyeol from Exo), this is about a CEO from a video gaming company getting way too into an AR game he’s trying to get to market. Honestly, it left me with so many questions that I was a little disappointed in it after the fact (like, why was there no second season???) but, while we were watching it, I was constantly trying to fix my schedule so that we could get as many episodes in a night as possible before Beth went to bed.

Bring it On, Ghost. This is a show about a college kid that can see ghosts (and send them packing), and the lady ghost who needs his help to solve the mystery of her death. This is cute, a little twee, but cute.

My first first love. We actually started this in January and finished it while Beth was here in February, but I’m putting it on the list. This is one of those, “A ragtag bunch all end up living in the same house and hijinks and romance ensue” scenarios. I liked the relationships. I liked the characters. Low key and undemanding (I mean, aside from the subtitles), this was also pretty good.

Itaewon Class. OH MY GOD THIS SHOW. I laughed! I yelled at the screen! I needed to know what happened next! The villain was so villainous! The hero so virtuous! The team of folks helping the hero achieve his dream were so delightful! I loved this so much. I also loved the styling. As Beth can attest, there are a couple of episodes where you may just want to text pictures of characters in suits to that one friend who understands how much you enjoy menswear. Not sorry, Beth. I regret nothing. SUITS.

Busted! We also started this one in January, I think. And, we only started this one because I was like, “Wait, I think that’s Oh Sehun (also of Exo).” I was right, it was. (Listen: this time last year I knew 1 (one) K-pop group. One. And, it wasn’t Exo. It was BTS. But, now, there is literally a wall of K-pop in my house. What is wrong with me? Why am I like this? But, also, I didn’t have anything on that wall before (and the other art in the house is mostly comic book related) and now I have a conversation with Min Suga every time I make coffee, so it works out for me. God, I hate self-isolating so much. I am talking to my walls.) Anyway, this is a dumb show where celebrities pretend to be detectives and play ridiculous games and puzzles to solve outlandish mysteries. And, if there is one genre of “reality” tv I can get behind, it is this one: Entertaining People doing Stupid Shit. (As opposed to Exasperating People doing Stupid Shit. An example of this genre is Love is Blind, which I am hate-watching. If Beth goes to bed at midnight, it’s only 9 pm for me. And, I could go back to work, but I already work a lot, so I’m trying not to do that. And, I can crochet while I’m yelling at Jessica to just end it with Mark already.)

Hospital Playlist. This is about Five friends from med school getting jobs at the same Hospital. It’s like, Grey’s Anatomy only instead of being about the interns, it’s about folks much higher up the food chain. The main plot is fun (Actual Adults With Jobs Also Have Time For a Band They Started Together…which might be more enjoyable if I were more familiar with the music they played, but meh. The music is nice and I’m just going to assume that they’re playing whatever was popular when the characters would have been in college and also be thankful that it isn’t Limp Bizkit.) We’re all caught up on this one, so we actually have to wait and watch our episode a week on Thursdays. At first I was annoyed by this, but now I’m happy to have something to look forward to.

The King: The Eternal Monarch. Lee Minho from Boys over Flowers plays another standoffish dude with enough money and power to make the Pharaohs of Old weep who also doesn’t understand women. It’s about a King from a parallel universe in which Korea is a constitutional monarchy who was once saved by someone from this universe from an evil Uncle who tried to kill him and steal a magic stick. That’s the worst description ever if I’m trying to sell you on it. We’re only five episodes into this (it comes out on Fridays), so I don’t know that I am. The love interest and her friends in this universe are great. I would watch a show just about them. I’m not sold on stuffy King. But, I wasn’t sold on Gu Joon Pyo, either, so we’ll see about this one.

Prison Playbook. Pitcher about to move to the States to join an MLB team is sentenced to a year of Prison after he beats a man nearly to death for attempting to assault his sister. Aside from using the Tragic-Things-Happen-to-Lady-Family-Member-as-Main-Character-Motivation trope, I’m enjoying this so far. The other folks in prison are entertaining and likable. The guards are a mix of good and effing awful. There are some cute romantic subplots. And, dear god to I miss baseball. In the alternate universe in which there is no Coronavirus, in three weeks, Beth and I would have been seeing a baseball game together. Now, we’re settling for baseball-adjacent fiction. It’s made by the same people who did Hospital Playlist, and so a fair number of the actors overlap. Fair warning, though: go into this one knowing the episodes are about an hour and half each, sometimes longer.

We’ve also been watching episodes of Community, Kim’s Convenience, and I’ve been trying to get Beth into Letterkenny.

So, that’s what we’re up to. What have you been doing with your time? Got any netflix recs for us? Book recs? Game recs? (No puzzles, though, Beth might fly to Nevada just to murder me if I make her do another puzzle.)

What I’m Reading Now: Night of the Dragon by Julie Kagawa

So I’m an idiot. There are a couple of new books that have some out in the last week or so that I’ve been waiting for. I got a notice from one of my credit cards that I earned enough points for a gift card so I was waiting for the card in the mail. However, if I read it more closely I would have known that they sent me the GC in the email letting me know about the GC. Self isolating has not improved my comprehension skills. Anyway, this book seems like the perfect book for me to read right now. It’s loosely based on some Japanese mythology. There’s a kitsune, samurai’s and dragons. Besides, a power hungry crazy lunatic raising a dragon to take over the world, it is nothing like our current reality. I think this is just the book to get me out of my book funk!