Romanticizing the past


This weekend I was watching more late night old movies, and the fare this week was more rural than typical, and a little older.  Usually, they are like the French New Wave style or era, or they are a little less stylish but also urban.  Instead, this film was almost (crap, I can’t remember my art history term for this romanticizing the past, but Beidermeier era thinking comes to mind or even Hitler era paintings evoking simpler days with simple pleasures and nationalistic underpinnings)

ANYWAY, what was impressive to me was that because it probably was filmed in the country, in the early 60’s, and life and culture had still not changed much there, it was a really excellent snapshot into day to day life in Korea.  For example, all the scenes INSIDE the hanoaks, and even though the floor is heated, everyone’s breath is visible due to the frigid cold that penetrated the thin thin walls.  (the walls to many of these buildings are only about three inches thick!)  The many ways in which things were transported, the drudgery of beating the rice, but the too-happy-songs sung to make the work less tedious, the ironing of clothing with a heated spoon from a brazier in the middle of the room, which also lit pipes and oil lamps.

What really drove me bat shit was the mannerisms of the female main character.  She was coy, sheltered, selfish, and manipulative.  And she WHINED all the time and got her way.  And many of those unexplainable poses you see in Kpop?  Man, it was all there.  Nothing new under the sun, folks.  The gorgeous Korean girls with their childish (to many westerners) mannerisms actually has a long history.

Well, far be it for me to speak for all westerners, but the overkill of cutesy behavior can sometimes be nauseating.  An analogy would be if someone always raised their pinky finger when drinking tea – that would drive you crazy, right?  Or giggle after everything they said?  Or cover their mouth after everything they said and bat their eyes?  OK.  Maybe that’s just me – but when this started getting under my skin, my first reaction is to want to change it/them.  And now I’m trying to figure out how to LIVE WITH IT without going insane.

And the happy times were just goofy.  So the slapstick humor and clown stuff? It was all there before – it’s not some new horrifying reaction to western consumerism.  Fortunately, the girl FINALLY grew up, but it wasn’t until tragedy finally hit her on the head.

Which reminded me of one of our conversations in Andong.  I think Silly Steps was talking about the “joys” of living in a hanoak.  He said as children, they were always dirty.  I asked why did that have to be, since there was always a cauldron of heated water at the ready.  He said there was not enough hot water to fill a tub and that the oldest got to bathe first, which meant there was not enough left for the children most of the time. Just for fun, Y dared me to lift the lid to the water cauldron, and it was nearly impossible, as it was over two feet in diameter and was made of cast iron.  (turns out you have to just slide it over to one side or another, but even that is difficult to manage.  Women’s work was very, very tough…) The others agreed that’s how it was, and that the hanoaks were really really cold.  (Just like in the movie) you had to wear many layers of hanbok inside to stay warm.

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