04 December 2011

From Charles Bass to Cha Chi Soo:The Reform of the Preppy Bad Boy

When I last explored the subject of "The Preppy Bad Boy", the world was teetering on the precipice of the current economic crisis.  The mainstream media's portrayal of fashionistas and trust fund babies at play continued to be consumed like a cotton candy confection.  However, times have changed.  The same aforementioned "trust funders" have joined the 1960's throwback Occupy movement and conspicuous consumption is just not that cool.   As the tide of wealth guilt grows, an interesting trend has developed within television dramas marketed to the ever important 18-34 year old female audience. 

Charles Bass (or Chuck as he is affectionately known by his so-called friends), power mogul and hotelier, reforms his playboy persona to become the loving owner of a rescue dog.   Could it be that this personality evolution has another motive, other than the fact that he lost the love of his life?  Perhaps the writers of Gossip Girl realized that by softening Chuck's personality, not only would Blair fall back in love with him, but their viewership, as well.  Ratings for Gossip Girl have plunged dramatically since the strong debut the show made in 2007, having lost almost a million average viewers by Season 4.

Season 5 has brought out the lighter side of Chuck Bass.  After trading his on-again, off-again girlfriend for a hotel, psychologically destroying the aforementioned girl, and committing physical violence against said girl,  Chuck has finally seen the light.  He is also facing the cold realty of losing someone he cares about much more than money to another man.   It is difficult to be nonchalant in such a dire situation.

By comparison, the Korean drama Flower Boy Ramyun Shop is much lighter fare.  The story centers on Cha Chi-Soo, a flower boy, who falls in love with his student teacher (Yang Eun-Bi) under unusual circumstances.  Within Korean culture, relationships that involve age difference are a taboo; the age difference between Chi-Soo and Eun-Bi translates to about six years  From the start, Cha Chi-Soo is arrogant to a fault and behaves like a much older man.  He flaunts his wealth gracelessly and has a flighty girlfriend, who also actively disregards the feelings of others.

Over time, however, Chi-Soo develops feelings for Eun-Bi.  He is, as so poignantly stated by his father caviar to her "homemade rice".  Rice is substantial; caviar is a delicious luxury that is frivolous and unnecessary.  Over the course of the drama, which spans 16 episodes, Cha Chi-Soo transforms from a sniveling flower boy until a boy who sheds tears for his first love.  The snarky personality trait that made you despise him in previous episodes, begins to endear him to you.

Viewers of both shows find themselves rooting for the "preppy bad boy" because everyone is allowed a second chance.  Although Cha Chi-Soo and Chuck Bass both face challengers that have significant disadvantages, the reformed bad boy comes off as a knight in shining armor.   There was a nice boy lurking within them, after all.

Season Five of Gossip Girl is currently airing on The CW, with a mid-season finale on Monday, December 5, 2011.  Flower Boy Ramyun Shop is currently airing on the Korean cable network TVN, but can be seen with English Subtitles on Dramafever.

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