Jo Kang Ja (Kim Hee Sun) discovers that her daughter, Oh Ah Ran (Kim Yoo Jung) is being bullied. The mother decides to take matters into her own hands and enrolls in the same school as Ah Ran, in order to teach the tormenters a lesson…
When I first read about it I expected over-the-top, laugh-out-loud kind of comedy. I greatly enjoyed a Japanese 2006 show called My Boss, My Hero starring Tomoya Nagase. It also had a grown-up (half-witted son of a yakuza boss) pretending to be a high school student, attending classes etc.
I immediately thought Angry Mom would be a TV series in the same vein. If we add to that a cartoonish logo of the Korean drama (just like Japanese one had) and the image of Kim Hee Sun in a school uniform (how does she pull it off so perfectly, she’s like 37!) I was ready to cry from laughter overdose.
6 episodes in, it’s a completely different show altogether, nothing like what I expected. It’s a horror of a mother who realizes that only through drastic means can she save her daughter. The teachers are helpless and the law is too lenient on minors. Unsurprisingly, the school bullies aren’t the real monsters, the adults are the ones who are terrible and they make the kids suffer the most.
It’s also scary that teenagers will endure intimidation rather than seek help – doing so could bring even more scary threats upon them or ruin their reputation (as if that mattered for god’s sake), because no one likes blabbermouths. However, it’s a vicious cycle as at some point the bullied child will break down and a tragedy is awaiting.
Having said that, Angry Mom may not be full on comedy, yet it still has plenty of smart and dark humor. Honestly, I like this TV series a lot for what it turned out to be – the no-slapstick, no punches pulled sort of drama. At times it gets terrifying, but pacing never makes it melodramatic. Kim Hee Sun is the one who shines here, but I have no complaints about the acting of the young actors either. On the other hand Ji Hyun Woo who plays an idealistic new teacher is a disappointment, but I blame the script, which makes him wishy-washy and too wimpy. I believe that once his character matures, he is going to become an important part of this drama.
We could see that the bullying which affected Jo Kang Ja’s daughter has more layers to it than simple school violence. I ought to say the interactions of the outraged mother with Ah Ran and the students are the most interesting parts of the drama. These kids shouldn’t be dealing with the problems the bad guys are cooking up in shadows.
School bullying seems to be a fairly popular drama theme both in South Korea and Japan, so I assume it’s a pretty big issue in these countries. Now, I don’t know how much on-point TV series or manga depictions of this topic are, but I must say I find them pretty bizarre.
So, there’s always a guy who walks around with his underlings and everyone fears them. Girls are often as much demonized as guys. I also observed that some studious characters who have top grades prove to be as much ‘respected’ and dreaded as those who go around beating up people. In my culture being smart tends to be mocked instead of being admired. To top it all, the bad seeds somehow always are in elite schools…
I mean I remember my school days. To be fair, in elementary school everyone was too stupid to mess around, kids can be harsh but it’s in their nature, nothing crazy ever happened. The middle school came, which was probably the wildest period as the hormones are on high when you’re 14-16. Obviously not everyone liked each other, there were some arguments, there were few guys who got into fights several times, but that was it. Hell, even I punched someone (in self-defense of course), but the next day we were talking as if nothing happened. And then, my high school was like a picnic. Seriously, it was as if everyone was wearing Hawaiian shirts and just chilling out. I don’t think there was any bullying – related fight over the three years I was there. If there was such thing, I’m sure everyone would know about a rare occurrence like that.
For this reason, among several others, I find Korean and Japanese schools weird. Obviously, it may be that just like I have mostly positive memories about my school days, dramas might simply misrepresent certain facts and cultural nuances. Then again, Polish or even American television does not feature so much bullying of such violent and cruel nature. If it actually appears here, it’s pretty tame. Every now and then some news items related to this topic come up and receive wide media coverage, but usually they are about kids standing up to the teachers, and not fighting with their peers.
I guess the solution to all that, drama- or reality-wise, would be just good old spanking.