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BGS Show Diary: F4 Thailand

Updated: Jul 15, 2022

Sometimes, while watching our shows, I end up jotting down odd observations or weighty musings sparked by the characters or themes of these series. Since the goal of this is rarely cohesive writing or with a wider audience in mind, please forgive that this is a hodgepodge of nonsensical notes. If you are looking for a play-by-play, episodic summary or a deconstruction of this show's characters, themes, and cultural significance within our modern society, then you are in the wrong, damn place! If I do so, then it is purely accidental or because I've been compelled to expound upon them while watching the show. This is for the drama fans who will either strongly relate because they also watched this show or who'll laugh along because ya'll already know I'm loony. Enjoy!

My general feelings about Boys Over Flowers:

- I appreciate a classic reverse harem Cinderella story as much as the next person. It's a popular genre because many teenage girls (dare I say grown ass women) want to feel special, seen, to belong, have loyal friends, and win over the unwinnable bad guy (I don't even want to go into that psychological issue). The bully genre has always existed, but I've noticed that books and shows for young adult and adult audiences are leaning into it more and more.

- I dislike how the series always seems to shirk off the real culpability of the male lead (Thyme, Gu Jun Pyo, Dao Ming Si, Domyoji Tsukasa, depending on the country), after the female lead (Gorya, Geum Jan Di, Shan Cai, Makino Tsukushi) is almost raped in the beginning of the show. No, it's not technically his fault, but weaponizing social pressure on a mass scale towards one person should have consequences.

- It’s the snake eating its own tail: In order to create scenarios where the male lead saves the female lead, he has to either be the biggest, baddest bully or not culpable for the followers who bully her in his name. Both ultimately make him look weak.

What I liked about the Thai adaptation:

- That series intro is well done. I like the burgundy and blue color scheme, and the F4 Thailand logo.

- I appreciate that Gorya is strong enough to call her mother on being thirsty for money and clout chasing. I know that parental greed is a theme in some adaptations, but blind greed is ugly to watch.

- She seems appropriate in age and appearance to hang out with F4. The female lead in the Korean version felt mismatched with the guys. I'm not suggesting that Geum Jan Di wasn't attractive (definitely a pretty actress), just that she wasn't the type of attractive that I could see with Gu Jun Pyo.

- The commercials make me want to eat cheap Thai food. And the tie-in with the actual actors is hilarious. I haven’t seen that kind of tie-in with America shows in forever!

- The chicken and goat sound effects are hilarious. I always enjoy a good sound affect or tiny animation.

- Dude’s name is Thyme? Okay, Mr. Herbs and Spices!

What I dislike about this adaptation:

- The Feminist bits that exist in my spirit rose to the surface for this series. Gorya is protected through her association with Thyme, but not because she is worthy of respect. When she’s perceived to be abandoned by him, she is physically and emotionally tortured. At least with the South Korean adaptation some of her issue was classism. But the sexism in the Thai adaptation is breathtakingly overt.

- I get that some teenage shows like to pretend that the kids are hyper intelligent, talented, and unrealistically successful, but why is it up to Gorya to solve her family’s debt? Why is she in a club with old ass men? Why did her parents let her go there?

- I hate the ineffectual parent trope. I know it’s supposed to be an insulated teenage world, but undermining parental figures is a dangerous message to send to young viewers, especially when bullying is a major part of the show.

- Why are the characters always walking in dirty, standing water and acting like their hems aren’t getting soaked? Aren't their shoes getting destroyed? Is Thailand so wet they don’t give AF anymore? Is this the Thailand equivalent of rich kids kicking it in the woods? Okay, maybe I’m just overthinking it, but it’s unsanitary, y’all. It’s unsanitary!

- Wait, in E7.1 (timecode 7:00) he almost hit her? He pulled his whole fist back? Holy misogyny, Batman! Oh no, fool you've got to go!

If this ain’t turning into an ABC Afterschool Special on teen dating violence! See, this is what happens when a show is trying too hard to make the male leads big, bad, and dangerous. Thyme was already a douche, but “full asshole”? I don’t even know if this can be fixed enough to justify me watching it.

And somehow, they are normalizing his behavior because next thing we see she’s in the mall defending Thyme, calling him a stable boyfriend, like he didn’t almost hit her! Something must be lost in translation because that herb is disturbed!

The problem with making a more realistic Boys Over Flowers adaptation instead of going for the fairy tale surrealism of the South Korean version is that the writers can’t adequately account for the more problematic elements like the sexual (attempted rape), physical and psychological violence towards the female lead. And clearly, they are unwilling to openly address these issues because Thyme’s aggression toward Gorya is glossed over pretty quickly with no real apology or self-reflection. It has cast a pall over the series that I can’t ignore.

Also after reading some of the social media comments, it’s interesting how easily other viewers excuse the teen dating violence. But I must be clear, I’m not excessively Woke or deep on this issue. My opinion is pretty basic and obvious. I don’t think my dismay is exaggerated. I’ve carefully skirted around replying to those sympathetic posts the way one eases around and away from a couple fighting in public, or a stray dog pooping on the sidewalk.

(Shout out to Vespertyne)

Reverse Harem Cinderella

Thyme’s mother is further proof that F4 Thailand is a Cinderella story turned rancid. There has always been a forbidding mother, but in this version she’s especially cruel. In combination with a violent, obsessive Thyme, the enabling F4 clique, and her own largely ineffectual parents, it looks less and less like this romance is a win for Gorya.

This feels like Cinderella is being sold into a nightmare. And maybe that’s why I am still watching; I want to see if her growth and future achievements will make her impervious to the dysfunction that comes with loving Thyme. I want to see if the writers show sufficient growth in his character to balance his violent streak, rather that showing him as a pacified toddler now that he’s gotten his toy.

More General Observations

- In E9 when he grabs his fiancé’s hand by mistake that was a stupid setup. He’s that blind? The show is getting on my nerves more and more.

- It's jarring when the show veers from serious, violent, and socially aggressive with the bullying, to suddenly being goofy and slap sticky. It doesn’t mix as well as it could. It would work more if the show was more balanced.

- E9 (5/5) I’m deducting points because the actress playing Gorya ain’t crying tears (or the tear makeup lady called off work that day). She’s just yelling and scrunching up her face. If I wanted that kind of low-level acting, I’d watch American, male action films stars pretend to cry.

- E10 - If this adaptation of Boys Over Flowers doesn’t revel in torturing the heroine so someone else can save her! That pack of wild hyenas masquerading as students chased Gorya down like she was a runaway slave in the Hunger Games! Like Walking Dead: Thai Zombie Bullies Edition. I'm tired of these kids jumping up every fourth episode to go torture this chick like it's the national sport.

- And that red flag in her locker looks sad with those struggle Fs. Did no one question its authenticity? I know how the show goes, but the bullies of the bullies have substandard props and pay no attention to detail. One red flag looks like a kindergartner wrote it on construction paper, and the other is on stylish, embossed card stock, a cordial invitation to get your ass beat.

- Of course, this incident got resolved quickly where the bullying anti-bully, Talay, beats Thyme’s azz. Then F4 summarily cleans up their entire bullying history by going to each person bullied and begging for forgiveness. The way Talay was coming for them I thought his friend Phupha was dead. But nope, dude is alive in the hospital. He got an apology too and is all good now. Talay is also given a chance to redeem himself and all's well that ends well.

- I so want Lita to have her own romantic comedy. She’s wacky, earnest, pretty, out here trying to create her happily ever after despite the circumstances. She’s too good for Thyme.

- Thyme and Gorya’s first kiss was weak as fuck. Lita, you ain’t missing shit! It wasn't even worth taking a screenshot.

(Shout out to deliaistyping)

And granted, television decency standards in most Asian countries are strict, but in this case it’s just not consistent. What we get is 80% roughhousing and 20% being cutesy with each other. It takes product placement scenes for them to be romantic.

- Say what you want about Thyme’s mother, the actress playing her, Cindy Sirinya Bishop, can act her ass off. She jumps from cold hearted bitch to crying in a heartbeat. When Gorya tells Cruella de Mom that Thyme will never love her she expresses repressed emotion, which is hard to do.

- I want Gorya to be with Ren so bad! Yes, yes, I know that’s not how the story goes, but he’s smarter than Thyme by years. How did Thyme hang out with F4 since childhood, but he isn’t at their maturity level? Is his redeeming quality that he's rich and too dumb to fail? Thyme is the ultimate Sour Patch Kid.

- In E15 Ren is the MVP of F4! He’s been low key enamored with Gorya even when he loved someone else. He keeps being the dude pushed to the side.

Final Episode

Of course, the Show of Tropes drops one final overused bout of amnesia as a sendoff. He got stabbed in the gut but lost so much blood that he lost his memory? …Okay.

At least Cruella de Mom is consistently a villain who uses it to her advantage. There could have been a redemptive angle for her even if he reverted back to his original psychopathic personality. It’s tiresome that they had to, figuratively speaking, drag us through the dirty water once again, but it’s humorous that they are even trying to do the very most in the final episode.

Early Prediction: There has to be a second season because we haven’t seen Goyra go off to college, take part in the contest where she fails to speak English fluently, or go to another country to do her Years of Maturation before his family accepts her, and the couple is final allowed to get married. Yes, I know there are early scenes where they get married, but I can’t believe all of that would be skipped. Wait! Maybe there will be a 2-hour F4 Thailand Special! That would fix it.

This is totally juvenile, but the pronunciation of “mae,” the Thai word for “mother,” reminds me of a sheep bleating. Every time Thyme’s sister calls to her mother in serious scenes it cracks me up. Oh Lawd, just stop with the ineffectual bleating, Sis! It’s not working. Sadly, Cruella de Mom doesn’t love you as much as she loves Mr. Herb and Spices.

- Oh, a necklace, bitch?! Really? That’s the thing that brings back his memory?! This series is violent, puritanical, and corny. He’s getting his memory back at such a prodigious rate - within minutes - and right away they go IG official? He barely knows this chick! Even his friends dapping each other over a picture are corny.

- Oops, there goes the Years of Maturation! 4 years? That’s college in the USA where he dates and hits them streets, but always has the “I have a girlfriend back home” excuse.

- I low key dislike Gorya's family. Call me a bad person, but they get on my nerves. I know it furthers the plot and adds conflict for the female lead, but they don’t need to be that bad. Her prom dress gets jacked?! That’s unnecessary.

- The ending was solid but could always be better. For example, there could have been more said about the other F4 members.

Final Thoughts

Watching this series was like being in a toxic relationship that you didn’t know was that bad until you were out of it. All the crazy shit was normalized. I’m not watching another adaptation unless it’s American (or I write it). I can thank F4 Thailand for pimp slapping the rose-colored glasses off my face. Boys Over Flowers has always been popular and iconic, but should it be? Maybe not. I'm sure other, better writers than I have dissected its pros and cons. But, there's nothing like the brutality of the Thai version to sour the whole franchise for me, especially after seeing Gorya be physically and emotionally terrorized repeatedly throughout this series.

Thai dramas are incredibly brutal, and this F4 Thailand was just further proof of that. I don’t know what’s going on in Thailand other than the great food, but their bad guys are top tier and the stuff of nightmares. I'm finishing up KinnPorsche now, a grungy crime drama packed with beautiful men falling in love, soft porn, and gratuitous sexual and psychological violence. Also, have you heard of the Thai horror series, The Girl From Nowhere? Merciless bullying in every episode...with vengeful spirits! No wonder Thai food is so spicy; it’s being used to calm their audiences down!

I hope you enjoyed this litany of criticisms and observations, with a side of humor. Please tell me what you thought of this adaptation, if you watched it. Have you ever watched any other adaptations of Boys Over Flowers? What did you think of the Thai one compared to those from other countries? Which one is your favorite and why?

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