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Thursday, January 27, 2022

13 years of Boys Over Flowers: When Lee Min Ho confessed he couldn’t watch show as it makes him cringe

As Boys Over Flowers completes 13 years, here's looking back at the cheesy romantic drama that boosted the Hallyu wave and made Lee Min Ho an international sensation.

Written by Lakshana N Palat | New Delhi |
Updated: January 13, 2022 8:40:42 am
Lee Min HoBoys Over Flowers completes 13 years (Photo: Netflix)

Thirteen years ago, a disgruntled and curly haired Lee Min Ho turned up on television screens, with a big fur coat. He had three friends trailing nervously behind him, accompanied with a blaring OST enough to tell the audience—this is the bad guy, but you’re still going to root for him.

This show was Boys Over Flowers, the high school Korean drama that spurred the Hallyu wave, making Min Ho an international sensation, something he absolutely despised, as he admitted years later. Boys Over Flowers starred Lee Min Ho as the rough ‘bad boy’ Junpyo, who falls in love with the manic pixie Gum Jan Di, played by Koo Hye-Sun. Junpyo, an heir to an empire that he doesn’t want, has three cohorts, Ji-Hoo, (Kim Hyun-Joong)So Ji-Yeong (Kim Bum) and Song Woo (Kim Joon).

Lee Min Ho Lee Min Ho with Koo Hye-Sun (Netflix)

If you haven’t seen Boys Over Flowers, but watched many high school dramas as well as Korean serials—you would be familiar with the story. The show had every possible trope, including a scheming rich mother, rich-man-in-love-with-poor-girl love triangle, maids in frilly outfits, kidnapping, near-wedding experience, several near-death experiences and amnesia, all tied up with some very fancy balls and glowing, glittery gowns. Yet, the show clicked famously with the audience on an international level—it was cheesiness done right, if you can get past the first four episodes, that is. The mop-like hairstyles became the go-to fashion, and Lee Min Ho’s curls made fans swoon.

Boys Over Flowers is a bit like a brightly-coloured spicy bowl of comfort food that you have to scarpe till the very bottom. The characters and plotlines are straightforward, as it is about a group of four rich boys—the bully, the nice guy, the Casanova and the brotherly figure (there’s no other word to really explain Song Woo’s role in the show). They cross paths with the feisty Gum Jan Di, the daughter of a dry-cleaner. They immediately become frenemies as Jan Di and Junpyo hate each other off the bat, but obviously fall in love with each other, despite much bickering. Jan Di has confused feelings for Ji-Hoo, that get washed away quickly as she finally grows to love Junpyo. Their love story is far from easy, as there is a wicked mother in the background, intent on torturing Jan Di.

After innumerable battles, empowering speeches, several drowning incidents (this is crucial in BOF), and Jan Di sacrificing her happiness, they finally have a happy ending. The only person who doesn’t seem to have a happy ending was Ji-Hoo and fans are still protesting about it till today, with many claiming that he should have ended up with Jan Di. Ah, the enticing bad-boy-turned-good plot device those filmmakers can never resist. Especially, if it’s Lee Min Ho. Well played.

Lee Min Ho (Photo: Netflix)

Ironically though this show brought Lee Min Hoo international stardom, the actor admitted that he cringes when watching the show. In 2015, he said on MBC Section TV that he couldn’t bear watching the show anymore. “I can’t help but cringe,” he said. “It’s so cheesy.”

When asked how he managed to act in “Boys Over Flowers,” he said, “I really had no other option.” He also grudgingly admitted that the show was a turning point in his career.

So what did make the show so hugely popular? The plot twists were predictable, but it was the acting, mostly Lee Min Ho’s, and the chemistry between the leads is what carried the show forward. Lee Min Ho brought a sense of urgency and intensity to Junpyo halfway through the season, making it hard to turn away.

You begin to feel for Junpyo, a man who misses his father, and is torn between his future and the woman he loves. Lee Min Ho brings all the warring demons to the fore, in the form of silent tears, anguished screams or just heavy silences. His character along with Ji-Hoo’s are actually well developed and get layers as the season progresses, while we are suddenly thrust with a storyline for So Ji-Yeong. Jan Di’s character follows the script of many shows — the good poor girl, who is sweet enough to cause diabetes, and will sacrifice for the one she loves. Oh, and she wants to be a doctor. That’s about it.

It’s an established norm, that men get such substantial plotlines, layers and experience, while the woman has a fixed path to follow, without much changing in the arc of her character. To be fair, Koo Hye-Sun gave the character all she had, but there was only so much she could do with it—cry, fight or sacrifice.

The show wasn’t a spectacular work of art and neither did it spell some profound lessons on the divide between the poor and the rich—but it had several memorable scenes, including the one where a teary Junpyo runs after Jan Di’s bus after she breaks up with him. He finally stops trying, and sits on a road, crying and screaming. This scene is like a brutal twist of a knife, followed by a similar one with him crying at the airport. Basically, any scene that had Lee Min Ho crying.

Lee Min Ho (Photo: Netflix)

Today, the show wouldn’t be quite such a hit and will be dissected brutally on social media, as Lee Min Ho’s character would be labelled a toxic and abusive bully, who slowly changes over time thanks to love, because what is an angry man without a fiery and independent woman? There would be protest about Kim Bum’s character as well, who has a dark past. He requires a woman to make him see the light, and it so happens to be Jan Di’s best friend. The women have served as convenient plot devices to advance the narrative for the men…you know, that old chestnut.

Lee Min Ho (Photo: Netflix)

Don’t get me wrong. The show was thoroughly addictive for the lovers of mush, romance and cheese—you might want to just keep a few brain cells aside when watching it.

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