That, and this scene from The Master's Sun this week:
Surely, surely I wasn't the only one who immediately thought of this:
Yes, that's my second North and South reference in a week. No, I'm not sorry. Sure, it's Elizabeth Gaskell and not Jane Austen, but Gaskell's like a more political Austen anyway, so it all flows with the overall theme here.
Now, I'm not saying that these dramas copied Jane Austen. They come from completely different times and regions of the world, but I wonder if the similarities of a (relatively) reserved culture encourage parallel stories. Any theories?
Reason 1: The Darcy Effect
As both Amanda and my friend Rachel pointed out, kdramas are filled with extremely wealthy, handsome, emotionally constipated men who act all harsh on the outside but really have fluffy marshmallow filling on the inside. They often put on a cold exterior as the result of past pain (painful breakups, dead girlfriends, painful breakups with now-dead ex-girlfriends, etc.), and they are fiercely loyal once you crack that shell.
|Sorry, ladies. That lake scene is the closest you'll get to a shower in Jane Austen's world.|
Darcy might be the most famous of Austen's leading men, but he's not the only one who has his ascot wound a little too tightly. For every Jun Pyo or Joo Won, you've got a Knightley or a Colonel Brandon just waiting to profess his love.
Fun fact: Every single Jane Austen heroine marries up in terms of money and/or social status. Yes, even Emma Woodhouse, who doesn't need money. She literally marries the only guy she knows who matches her standing. Yes, even Anne Elliot, who marries the guy she initially dumped because he was too poor. Guess what? He has money now! (And sure, love conquers all. But he also has some serious money.)
Reason 2: The Poor Heroine
Emma aside, most Austen heroines aren't very wealthy. They aren't starving, but their families are usually pretty strapped for cash, which puts them just outside of socially acceptable reach for their fancy lovers. Toss in some (gasp) lawyers as cousins, and they're prime targets to have a few people whisper behind their backs at local balls.
|It's sad when your male relatives inherit all of your stuff, isn't it, honey?|
Kdrama leading ladies take this idea to the next level. They aren't just poor; they're run-away-from-loan-sharks-and-sell-your-shoes-for-bread poor. While Austen's characters have to be at a minimum social level to make the romances work, these characters usually have to be extra, extra strapped for cash in order to make them jump through plot hoops like fake marriage or getting married to a prince.
What Austen's heroines and the ladies from drama-land lack in style, they make up for in spirit. Our favorite heroines can banter with the best of them, and they dazzle their men with strong hearts and wit instead of diamonds. Even the doormats (like Fanny Price or the girl from Playful Kiss) have some character strengths that set them apart from the people around them.
Reason 3: Love Is in the Air
Yeah, I like to pretend that never happened, too.
Well, this magical aura of love also persists in Jane Austen's realm. Lest we forget, the botched proposals in Austen's novels aren't limited to the bumbling Collinses of the story. We also have the Henry Crawfords, the Wickhams, and the Willoughbys. These dashing bad boys all fall for the poor girls first, even if it doesn't work out in the end.
|Your ponytail and faux-Orlando Bloom face aren't fooling anyone! Except for maybe Elizabeth.|
While most of these guys aren't exactly second male lead material, almost dying from a cold after you ran around in the rain quoting Shakespeare and whispering "Willoughby" sounds very kdrama-esque indeed.
Reason 4: Meddling Family
When we asked people which kdrama villain they wanted to be, about a million (or at least five) people said they wanted to be Jun Pyo's mother from Boys over Flowers. I wonder if those same people also find themselves weirdly relating to Lady Catherine de Bourgh. I mean, she ended up being an accidental catalyst for love, so she can't be all bad, right?
|...or maybe she can.|
Whether it's a kdrama or an Austen novel, there are always mothers, aunts, sisters, and cousins getting in the way. (Wait, why are most meddling relations female? I call sexism!)
Reason 5: Passion vs. Propriety
But let's be honest: Longing stares and repressed sexual tension are kind of the bread and butter of kdrama success. They're also the driving force behind a lot of the sighing and swooning that happens in Austen novels. These people aren't even allowed to give back hugs, so when they finally get together, we get an extra dose of stomach butterflies. C'mon--as much as they drive us crazy, don't tell me you don't secretly love a good old fashioned meaningful glance.
|This guy totally knows what I'm talking about.|