Bring On the Boys (Over Flowers)

I’ve been watching Meteor Garden as well as the live action Japanese version of Boys Over Flowers, which I’ll refer to as Hana Yori Dango for clarity’s sake in this post. This brings me to three viewed adaptations total. While I’m not finished watching either of the above, and I’d really like to take a look at Let’s Go Watch Meteor Shower the Chinese version filmed after the more widely known Korean remake, I’ve come to three realizations:

1. Boys Will Be Flowers. Boys Will Be A**holes

Meteor Garden vs. Korean Boys Over Flowers

The South Korean remake, epitomizes the shiny, saccharine side of kdrama—no swearing, no drugs, no drinking, no sex. Even when the plot involves attempted rape, roofies, and sex scandals, the characters behave as if everyone in the world is equipped with a chastity belt . . . so no big deal.

The F4 are such perfect little-boy-dolls that I struggled (and failed) to wrap my mind around two of them as supposed rampant womanizers who, at eighteen, were regularly seducing women in their twenties. Where Joon Pyo (leader of the F4) remains a violent, destructive force, the rest of the F4 is portrayed as a moderating influence on him (my experience with teenage boys is the exact opposite—usually a group of teens tends toward the lowest common denominator). They also serve as a gentlemanly shield to Jan Di (female lead). Except that the F4 is, in the school, a violent force of feared and revered, untouchable bullies. The idea that they immediately melted into upstanding young men upon closer inspection was, to me, TV magic—acceptable in a scripted drama but not at all realistic.

And not workable in an American scripted drama. At least not without a deeper exploration of the psychology behind these beautiful-but-damaged boys. And a stronger notion of what these young sociopaths find “worthy of protection.”

I couldn’t imagine an American F4 ever being produced in a way that stayed true to the manga while appealing to American TV appetites and expectations.

Then I watched the Japanese and Taiwanese adaptations of the story.

The Taiwanese F4 are drunk selfish assholes. They heckle and harass each other and Shancai (the female lead). They continue, throughout the length of show, to use other students as punching bags. They absolutely cannot stop ragging on Si (the leader of the F4) for his perpetual state of virginity.

Ooohh. Now I can totally picture an American adaptation.

2. America Already Has Its Boys Over Flowers

No, not that ill-fated Boys Before Friends adaptation cancelled after a few episodes because the leads and director all hated each other. I’m talking about Veronica Mars.

Think about it.

If you don’t consider the mystery-solving aspect, Veronica Mars is about a working-class girl in a love/hate relationship with a clique of uber rich “It Boys” in a high school rife with class conflict. It has the deeply damaged boys who act out, the hateful mothers, the love triangle, and of course the strong, scrappy teenage girl who holds it all together and changes the lives of everyone around her.

Of course it has a strong Girl P.I. premise and plot. But in American TV there are no compelling scripted series that are solely romantic comedies the way there are in Asia. Oh, there are comedies with romances, family sagas that rely heavily on romantic relationships, but in just about every Amercian show I can think of it’s the comedyaspect that comes first (The Mindy Show), or the family drama (Gilmore Girls), or the mystery (Castle), etc. Maybe there are some teen dramas that seem to be only focused on who is getting with whom, but their scopes are much larger than a single couple. I’ve yet to see an American TV show that directly correlates to the romance novel genre: a plot focus solely on the coming together of a single romantic couple. With the possible possible exception of True Blood, which let’s face it, is based on a novel. On television, the sort of romance-only plot we see in romance novels is the purview of made-for-TV movies. (Ex: just about every Christmas movie on the Hallmark Channel.) Which is all to say: I’m willing to overlook the main premise of Veronica Mars, the mystery to be solved, for the sake of this comparison.

And maybe you still don’t agree with me. That’s fine. It makes sense to me. But no big deal. Let’s carry on.

3. I’m Itching to Write My Own Adaptation

Adaptations of Boys Over Flowers, Hana Yori Dango, Meteor Shower

While watching Hana Yori Dango, I started to see glimmers of how this storyline could be realistic enough to be set in a US high school. Little plot bunnies started gathering on the edges of my perception, and their furry, twitching ears suggested it be set in Grosse Pointe, Michigan.

If you’re not familiar with south-east Michigan, Grosse Pointe is one of several ridiculously affluent suburbs of Detroit. Yes, the city of Detroit declared bankruptcy, and it’s considered one of the poorest, if not the poorest city in America. But don’t for a second think that this means there’s no money in the area. As a high school athlete who lived about 30-minutes from even the farthest suburbs of Detroit, we traveled into many of the suburbs for games. Some were surrounded by 8’ chain link and a sense of gloom. Some, like the private schools in Grosse Pointe were not only ridiculously shiny and well-equiped, they were remarkable for the fact that oldest, ugliest cars in the parking lot didn’t belong to the sixteen year-olds. No, those were found in the faculty lot. The student lots were full of brand new luxury cars, and VW bugs surely bought for their “cute” factor, and SUVs (frequently tricked out).

Sounds like the perfect place to set a Boys Over Flowers adaptation.

As eager as I was, it didn’t take much for me to realize that this is not what I want to spend my time writing about. I struggle to care about teen drama long enough to write or read it. I’m usually only able to take one book in any YA series before I’m over it. The exception to that not-really-a-rule are the sorts of YA that have such high tension and world-shattering impact that I must know how the world changes! Such as in Hunger Games.  I got two books into Divergent, but don’t know if I’ll ever pick up the third. Cinder, City of Bones, Graceling, Throne of Glass . . . they’ve all fallen victim to this one-and-I’m-outta-here malady. Thankfully Salvage, which is an amazing YA sci-fi novel, is a stand alone. There’s a second book set in the world, but it’s not a direct plot continuation. So go read Salvage by Alexandra Duncan.

But you know, says I to myself, because if you’re a writer, all you really do is talk to yourself and sometimes put it down on the page, you know how you could both stay interested in the writing, Eileen, and make allowances for even the least-realistic plot points? Bring it into your wheelhouse.

That’s right. I’m now hankering to write a Boys adaptation set in a paranormal Grosse Pointe private school.

I’ll leave you with that odd little nugget.

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