It’s easy to think that being a “celebrity” means you get everything you want – the fame, the money, the beauty, the name. Nowadays it is even easier to get your “15 minutes of fame” just by having a sex scandal or inheriting a fortune. (Maybe I should amend that to “15 seconds of fame” considering how fast Twitter and Facebook can be.)
We forget that celebrities actually have a hard time because everything is based on an image, and public opinion can change within a second against or for you. We find joy in the failures, praise the accomplishments, and make googly eyes at their posters hanging on our walls. And yet, Greatest Love has reminded us of “reality.” While as a Korean drama it doesn’t break many barriers (it’s still a romantic comedy with an arrogant man and a sweet, misunderstood woman in an idyllic “Pride and Prejudice” romance), it has broken the wall between us and celebrities. Greatest Love pokes fun, as well as critiques, this celebrity world.
Dokko Jin (Cha Seung Won) is one star who manages to win over the public and yet has a sour personality in reality. He’s managed to spin every rumor into a positive, which is more than what Goo Ae Jung (Gong Hyo Jin) could do. Because she has a kinder personality, Ae Jung would rather roll with the punches than fight back or manipulate the media to her advantage. These are people who don’t deserve the hate or adoration that the public (in the drama) gives them, and yet they get it.
When they both finally get the happiness they deserve, they’re not allowed to go enjoy their lives like regular people. Every date they go, every action they make triggers a swarm of fans who take pictures of them and post it online in just seconds. As we watch the drama, it’s definitely hilarious, but we also can’t help wishing “Gah – just leave them be so we can get one (more) satisfying kiss!” But that’s the life that celebrities face. It’s no wonder why Jay-Z and Beyonce had an insanely private wedding.
There is a debate about “protecting celebrity human rights,” which sounds odd at first until you think about it. Because they are hounded by paparazzi all day, there’s not much they can do without a legion of bodyguards helping them. Hong Kong singer Edison Chen, who is known to be generally cool in personality, finally snapped, yelling at one of the reporters who bumped into him when he was accosted in an airport recently. Can you blame him, when people invade your privacy just because they think they can, because you’re always in the public eye? It’s no surprise that after many years it could get to him, and yet his temper flare makes the news because it’s “shocking enough” to warrant an article.
Paparazzi are not the only ones who “attack” celebrities; netizens’ harsh and immediate comments are what fuel some celebrities or TV personalities to suicide. Even Dokko Jin has an obsessive relationship with the Internet, always looking up and reacting to each positive or negative comment. While some celebrities may deny reading rumors about themselves, others do. In the end – people will read or hear what is being said about them. Words are powerful; they affected the career trajectories of Goo Ae Jung and Kang Se Ri.
There used to be flippant reactions of “You have it easy,” and “Most people have it much worse,” but thanks to the Hong Sisters, those reactions are lessening. People are realizing that celebrities are humans too, and they have every right to privacy and happiness as everyone else. Sure they have the glamour and fame, but then I’d just go say (somewhat cynically) – there’s plastic surgery centers for that, and you don’t have to be on TV to be famous – just be good at something.
Korean celebrities don’t even make that much. They do if you look at it only in South Korean Wons, and if you add up every single gig / CF / appearance / photo shoot / drama / film they’ve done. However according to the Korean IRS, the average income in 2009 was $23,000 USD for Korean celebrities; actors and actresses made about $30,000 USD, singers made $24,000 USD, and models made $10,000 USD. That’s less than any of the celebrities in Hollywood, less than some managers in the regular corporate world! You can say that there are a lot of “smaller scale” celebrities pulling this average down, but even then, that means those who are getting paid in the millions are outliers.
The one thing that I’ve gotten out of this drama is that now I look at everything with a skeptical eye. I no longer fawn over an actor’s “wonderful” personality or think that they’re such good people because I wonder how much of that persona is manufactured, and how much is true. I do admire them for their wonderful acting and on a shallow sense, how good they look (*ahem Park Shi Hoo and Jung Gyu Woon*ahem*), but that’s as far as I’ll go. I am prepared for any possible disillusionment that may occur in the future, because really – just how much do you know your favorite celebrities? (And knowing their favorite song to sing in the shower doesn’t count.)
I may have knocked the Hong Sisters before for making their dramas too similar to each other – ridiculous situations, embarrassing toilet humor, over exaggerated characters, typical romantic triangle – but with these articles I think I have a greater appreciation for their work. I may not like the execution (because the stories are similar) but I definitely like the context the story is put in, and I think I am going to enjoy the deeper message beneath all the froofy-ness of Greatest Love.