Who knew that all I wanted for Christmas* was a polite, shy, gorgeous, and occasionally hilariously awkward MMA fighter who snores and shadowboxes in her sleep? Apparently SBS did, because they cast 19-year-old Song Ga Yeon in variety/reality show Roommate.
*(Yeah I know it’s June.)
Song Ga Yeon is super fabulous. I think I always wanted a little sister who could beat people up for me, I just didn’t know it until I watched this show. I’m totally going to make a post about why she’s super awesome and makes the show more interesting. But first, something made me raise an eyebrow today, so let’s get that out of the way first.
Why Roommate Works For me:
I understand Roommate isn’t wildly popular, but I’m loving it, despite strange editing choices and constant (and unnecessary) focus on possible love lines. Yes, there are moments and scenarios that are obviously engineered, elongated, or played for more drama then they’re worth. Each 2-hour (!) episode is full of tiny details and exchanges that all take place on the same day- some of that probably could have been left out. Frankly, though, this is the first Korean reality/variety show I’ve watched where the casts’ personalities felt genuine. There are a lot of quiet moments that would have been edited out of other shows that, although I do think the show is too long, are really the best parts of Roommate. And while the editing might be a bit suggestive and (deliberately misleading,) I think the scripting mostly boils down to pretty much “let’s stick these people together today to go do this and see what happens” and the occasional “Hey, be flirty today.” (Although, I do notice that Exo’s Chanyeol seems to be pretty much left out of the love-lines and is instead going full speed ahead into a bromance with his roommate, the much older rocker Shin Sung Woo. I wonder if that’s by design, to keep the female cast from being roasted by over-passionate Exo Fans. No complaints fro me, because the bromance is great.) Anyway, for the most part, I feel that the personalities are genuine and relatable, and the scripting isn’t overt enough to make me feel like the production staff thinks I’m an idiot.
An example of something that keeps me from a full on romance with Roommate:
Some back story on Ga Yeon:
At 19 she is the youngest cast member, and the newest to being a celebrity. She gained popularity after appearing on a survival fighting program. So far, the show has played up Ga Yeon’s kick boxing skills and general athleticism, and stayed away from dwelling on her experience as an MMA ring girl for Road FC.
Ga Yeon seems focused on competing in mixed martial arts, and according to this article accepted the offer to be a ring girl specifically to gain popularity for her debut as an MMA fighter, so the decision to showcase her fighting skills make sense. Her cute face, deep but soft voice, and extreme politeness contrast well with her cut physique and the fact that she can beat up every guy in the house. The fact that she went to Busan Guard High School, which trains students seeking to be body guards in various martial arts, and later studied Security services at Kyungwoon University, shows her seriousness towards her chosen field (as well as providing some funny stories, like that of her first love she revealed in Episode 4.)
On the other hand, when there are hundreds if not thousands of photos of her online wearing things like this, I wish the ring girl thing was mentioned more overtly. Ga Yeon is well known, so I’m not saying the show is trying to hide it or anything. I just think by not really talking about it, and then showing Ga Yeon as extremely shy and innocent, her character on the show might come across as a strategy. Ga Yeon, in the same article I linked to before, explains that she was not very comfortable wearing skimpy clothing and simply holding up a sign, and she does occasionally reference netizens not believing she is a serious/skilled fighter. However; when you google Ga Yeon, at least in English, it’s much easier to find pictures and info about her being a ring girl than her being an MMA fighter.
In Episode 5, when Sora is giving Ga Yeon a makeover, Ga Yeon asks for a sexy look. I find it funny that someone who constantly wears short shorts with everything has to ask for a sexy look, but I understand ideas of risqué are different in Korea and have to do more with neck line. Plus, if I had legs like Ga Yeon I’d wear shorts all the time too. Anyway, Ga Yeon comes out in a small dress, everyone cheers (of course the guys have been called in so we get an amazed shout and an impromptu chorus of Lee Hyori’s “10 minutes.”). Ga Yeon looks cute but uncomfortable, and says as much in her interview, noting that she never wears things like this, but she’s happy everyone liked it.
The thing is, this “sexy” dress actually covers more of her body than the shorts and bras top she wore in the ring, and the frilly skirt thing is pretty girly. I can understand that she probably meant that she never wears something like this at home, by choice, or something that isn’t sporty, or that she never wears something “chic” and grownup looking, but I had to think about it for a moment. I like the sporty, relaxed Ga Yeon, feel that the personality and style being shown is real, and I’m happy with the way she’s being portrayed on the show. I don’t want the focus to be on her being a ring girl or on her body. However, Ga Yeon has not yet debuted as a professional fighter, though she has an impressive amateur record and has made a very popular appearance on a fighting show. If the show goes overboard and deliberately avoids mentioning that she’s quite famous as a ring girl, it could seem like Roommate 1. thinks being a ring girl is something to be ashamed of and 2. is trying to recreate Ga Yeon completely.
I know that as an American, I started this show on a different page than the average Korean viewer, and I’m also willing to believe I don’t know what “sexy” means in Korean.
I really just don’t want to watch another show that is completely about creating images for the cast members. Obviously that’s part of it, but I don’t want it to be the whole thing. (And if it is, I don”t want to know about it, that’s supposed to be the magic of TV.) I like the conversations about who should do the dishes, how people should be called, who speaks better English, and who’s going to try to speak to the Spanish-speaking diplomats about getting their toy airplane back. I don’t need the “Ooh, this girl that was already pretty is pretty and I didn’t notice!” and I definitely, definitely don’t need all the “She likes him! He likes her! No, wait!” nonsense.
P.S. let’s just confirm that the cliffhanger last episode- Bom crying- was…absolutely nothing. She was touched by what Lee Sora said, which they’d already shown us. I hope the editors figure out that being too clever will eventually make people stop watching.
P.P.S. That’s my first GIF! There was going to be more, but that took me way too long. I did the animation in GIMP, and that was pretty easy, but recording the video was way harder than it should be….I still don’t really know how to do it right. That’s why you can see the slider at the bottom- cause I didn’t want to trim that much out, but the thought of rerecording it just made me shrivel in my chair. I’m gonna try it again, once the flashbacks from this attempt stop. I’m still sore about the whole thing.