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Miscasting Controversy

Posted October. 02, 2007 03:05,   


Giha (Mun So-ri) carried the fainted Damdeok (Bae Yong-jun) to a refuge camp to save him from his enemy. Giha affectionately looks at the sleeping Damdeok. She leaves at dawn, leaving a letter behind…. After waking up, Damdeok reads the letter and his heart is broken.

This is the scene from an episode of “The Legend of a Grand King and Four Immortals,” a historical drama airing on MBC every Wednesday and Thursday. The scene depicts an ardent love between female and male protagonists. After the episode, however, a hot controversy has raged. The controversy is revolving around whether the cast was the right one.

Urban Mun So-ri Doesn’t Fit the Image of Pitiful Giha-

With historical sagas dominating the television screens, the audience is increasingly interested in the cast. While watching dramas, they particularly care about the part of the actors and actresses, saying, “She doesn’t go well with him,” and “The drama was miscast.”

At the center of the controversy lies Mun So-ri (33) who plays the part of Giha. Giha is a reincarnation of Gajin, a goddess of fire. She leads her life as a lady-in-waiting at a court temple of Goguryeo after losing her memory when she was young. She agonizes between Goguryeo’s Crown Prince Damdeok and Hwacheonhui, a group that attempts to overthrow Goguryeo.

A majority of the audience points out that Mun’s urban image and strong character don’t match well with mysterious Giha, who is destined to live miserably. “Mun looks like Bae’s aunt. That prevented me from concentrating on the story,” Cho Seong-il, one of the viewers said. Another viewer Kang Min-gyeong agreed with him, saying, “I don’t believe all female characters should be pretty, but Giha is not for Mun So-ri.” Some viewers, on the other hand, refuted those complaints, saying, “What matters is performance not appearances.” Over 1,500 opinions were posted on the web bulletin board of the drama, manifesting the intensity of the controversy.

The same goes for “The King and I,” a SBS historical drama. It led the historical saga boom, recording 20 percent viewership during the initial phase of the airing, but its popularity nosedived to 10 percent after airing 8 episodes. Some say the declining viewership is because the actors and an actress playing the parts of Cheoseon, King Seongjong, and Sohwa are out of character. They appeared in the drama from the eighth episode. In contrast, Lee Seo-jin who plays the role of King Jeongjo in MBC’s show “Lee San” airing at the same time as the SBS drama is being well received although he also faced criticism due to his awkward performance.

Extraordinary Interest in the Cast-

People take issue with the cast in historical dramas more often than in other genres. Those dramas entangled in the cast controversy are “Taejo Wang Geon,” “Haeshin,” “Indestructible Lee Sun-shin,” “Jang Hui-bin,” and “Jumong.”

Culture critics give explanations for the reason why the cast of historical dramas catches the attention of the audience: the audience tends to compare the images of historic figures to those of actors and actresses, and the nature of historical sagas prevents actors and actress from showing their distinct personalities. “In the case of modern dramas, the same scenario gives rise to quite different dramas depending on the personalities of the actors. However, this is not the case for historical dramas because of the typical characters of kings and generals,” said culture critic Lee Yeong-mi. That is why Mun So-ri, who has been praised for her strong and unique personality in movie screens, languishes in TV dramas.

Some point out that the nature of TV dramas stir up the controversy of “miscasting.” While leading parts in movies are taken by actors with personalities that fit various genres, TV dramas whose main theme is love are dominated by good-looking actors and actresses. That has conditioned the audience to stick to appearances of actors and actresses.

The staff of dramas complains about the audience’s judgment which is overly tied to visual factors. In fact, some viewers blame an actor’s hairstyle rather than his performance. Park Chang-shik, production director of Kim Jong-hak Production, said, “We take into account the actors’ potential, experience, and their perseverance, along with their appearances, because acting in historical dramas is nothing short of hard labor which needs a concerted effort.”