[Review] Ugly Cake – 못난이 송편

UGLY CAKE OR NOT, IT’S STILL CAKE

Kim Joo Hee (Kim Jung Hwa) is a teacher at a middle school and when one of her students becomes a victim of bullying it reminds her of a bullying incident she witnessed during her own youth.  The drama goes back and forth between the past and the present to show the everlasting scars left by bullying.

I’m not going to get all preachy here about bullying.  If you’ve heard or seen the story about the Canadian girl who was bullied, you’ll get a glimpse of the agony they go through and how good they are about hiding it.  There are so many faceless teenagers like her.

This two-part miniseries was given the title Ugly Cake after a story written by one of the characters in the drama.  In actuality, the word 송편 (song pyeon) is a type of rice cake with a sweet sesame filling that typically eaten for Korean thanksgiving.  The story in the drama goes that ugly song pyeons are more noticeable and tastier than the other well-made ones so don’t judge the ugly song pyeon by its appearance.

I guess the producers wanted to bring the issue of bullying that teenagers face today to light.  While bullying has existed ever since the beginning of time, the methods have changed.  In this day in age when we are bombarded by social media and the use of cell phones, the fact that we’re so connected to each other makes the pressures of bullying all the more unbearable.  So it was interesting subject to be explored on television but I have to admit that this miniseries felt very after-school special-y.

Personally, I thought movies like Bleak Night and Bully were a more accurate portrayal of the subject.  But I am fully aware that this is a broadcast show and there’s a limit to what they can do.  The unique thing about this story is that the bullying concerns a group of girls as the methods can be quite different from how boys bully each other.

Though the title was a nice, thoughtful choice for the miniseries, I felt a disconnect with the teacher’s past storyline.  Her old classmate, Oh Ah Young (Kyung Soo Jin) was wrongly accused of stealing a classmate’s wallet by Han So Jung (Jang Ji Eun) and she had to deal with being an outcast because of her so-called crime.

In retaliation, Ah Young takes a razor to So Jung’s face.  So Jung is left scarred and Ah Young loses her mind.

In the present, Le Se Jin (Jo Jung Eun) is the victim of bullying but she’s not quite so innocent  herself.  Because her classmates thought she was prideful and she had bullied other girls, was she getting her just desserts?

The drama starts off interestingly enough and it’s a good conversation starter but it just barely scratches the surface.

Perhaps the fact that this miniseries was only two episodes long or perhaps there were many characters’ motives to follow or perhaps everyone bullying story is different, I felt that they glossed over many things only to wrap things up in a neat and happy bow.  I don’t really have a problem with the happily ever after aspect, it’s just I didn’t spend enough time with all of these character to get emotionally invested in them.

Plus, the drama also relies on big expositional speeches to resolve the drama.  While many of Joo Hee’s speeches made turn off from the drama I did Seo Yoo Min’s (Kim Bo Ra) struck a chord with me.  She’s very frank and practical about the whole situation in her class.  As a victim of being bullied by Se Jin, she didn’t feel the urge to step in when she saw what was going with Se Jin.  It didn’t seem out of revenge but her survival instinct seemed to kick in.  Sometimes it’s just better not to stand up or out and to just blend in the middle.

This miniseries does make a good effort to at least get the conversation started so I don’t feel like I can completely pan on it.  There are some strong performances by the younger cast.  It’s a nice try but I wouldn’t mind seeing a full length drama based on this subject.  While you can’t ever fully get to the root of the problem, a more 3D portrayal of the characters is something I’d be interested in exploring.

Rating

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