05 October 2015


Thoughts on Respect and Twenty Again

Posted by Kakashi Sensei on October 05, 2015
kakashi: Respect for people according to seniority is a pillar of Korea's Confucianist traditions, with its detailed clearly laid out in the Confucian "Five Relationships" (오륜 [五倫]). We already talked about the issues that No-Ra's age initially caused at university (and how weird it seemed that she received so much rudeness instead of respect, especially because she was an elder). But there is a different sort of respect that plays a role in this show - it's the type that you have to earn. And No-Ra earns it, step by step.
JoAnne: As well she should. You don't have to dig very deep into that timid wallflower to find the clear-headed girl hidden away 20 years ago.
Jaehyus: There's a quality that No Ra has that frankly, only people who deep deserve respect have: forbearance. She stands up for things when they are clearly wrong, but she is deeply patient with everyone and everything around her too. So, while she's been stifled in many ways, she's also had time to learn a deep forbearance for others that they can't resist. 

Her earning of respect is connected to her growth, of course (though it's not that clear what comes first) - but even when she is shunned by everybody in the beginning, she is true to her self; and worthy of respect. No-Ra is a thoroughly good, caring and loyal person - and that is obvious to anybody who cares to look, even before she finds the strength to stand on her own two legs.
She puzzled people, at first. Upset their sense of order, so they were critical. But when she stood up to Professor Sex, the first reaction most people had was very positive. They recognized her intent, even if they naturally moved on to the next issue, which is that what she did made things a bit difficult for everyone.
She did the right thing, and that can cause discomfort. 
One person that does look is Na Soon-Nam (No Young-Hak). He has been likened to Ji Soo from Angry Mom by several of you and he has taken many noona hearts by storm. He's a mere side-show in this drama (even more so now that the romance between the two leads take center-stage), but seeing how he actually quasi impersonates respect for No-Ra after a few episodes, let's focus this post on him for a bit (yeah, I'm good at pretending a post is deep but it's really just about putting in pics of favorite actors :D). 
I think the Ji Soo comparison comes in because he became an immediate favorite for many, but it's a bit unfair to the actor because he's been in LOTS of dramas, unlike Ji Soo the absolute newbie.
Never once thought of JiSoo since the two boys are so different. 
No Young-Hak is 22 years old in real life but he already has quite a few drama-projects under his belt (child star!). Twenty Again is the third drama that brings him in contact with Lee Sang-yoon ... whose younger self he portrayed in Jung-Yi, Goddess of Fire (he played his opponents younger self in The Duo). He actually looks like Lee Sang-yoon in many shots, it's quite eerie.
I think he looks like Lee Hyun Woo, from Equator Man, You're Beautiful (the bad one, with Sulli), and that movie about hidden spies with Kim Soo Hyun.
In Twenty Again, he plays a 25-year old student and dance choreographer who overcomes his own prejudice and ageism to turn into Ha No-Ra's Number 1 fan (with a slight crush, I'd say). He has completed the army, is a third year business student with blood type B, and can drink 3 bottles of soju. Hobbies: watching YouTube; speciality: choreography; role model: Devin Jamieson (who has choreographed for SuJu and SHINee among many others). He also wants a job offer before he graduates and to marry a pretty girl. His heart beats for dance, but being a filial son, he thinks he has to choose a career as a civil servant.
He's just a sweetie pie.
Love his crush on No Ra!
Him and No-Ra are off to a rough start when they're paired off in Kim Yi Jin's weird class (I think he is taking it because he is the oldest son and expects to be married soon?). The women get to pick a male student's personal item from a bag - and No-Ra chooses the wrist sweatband, because she thought it belonged to a dancer. Bingo!
This is a very weird class, first of all. And second of all, if you were young and single and 'pretending' to be dating a married someone 15 years older who dresses like your mom and has a kid just a couple years younger than you... I wouldn't like that, either.
He doesn't know about the kid, and the class is way inappropriate. But it exists because Yi Jin likes to tell everyone else what to do.
Being paired with such an "old" woman seems like a death-sentence to the youngling (have I mentioned how weird I think that class is?) and he actually suggests to her that she should drop the class. Even though she is very timid at this point she says she won’t; because “there is a lot to learn for me”. That's probably the first moment his curiosity about her is piqued ... and he never loses that curiosity (also because she never opens up about herself, not even once). 
Smart move on her part, although she's not doing it for herself at all.
I don't see why she has to say anything at all if she doesn't want to. 
It takes a bit longer for him to develop true respect though - when he is force-paired with her in the theater class as well, he tells No-Ra and Park Seung Hyun (I like her so much!) that he'll drop this class. There is no decisive, KDrama-like moment during which he changes his mind after that. It's more of a gradual thing and happens because he cares: he sees her suffer for telling on Professor Sex and stands up for her when the students exclude her. He has empathy, this young man, and a maturity beyond his years. He sees through facades and stereotypes and recognizes a heart for what it is.
Total Sweetness. Fix him up with the hardworking Candy girl, PLEASE.
That would be the ultimate cute ship. But, I have a horrible feeling his conservative family wouldn't want him marrying Candy. Anyway, I loved seeing him become No Ra's knight-errant.
When she joins "his" dance club and agrees to be the maknae, he has long since lost the battle against No-Ra's charm. In fact, the more he is exposed to her, the deeper his respect and admiration grows. The great thing about this guy is that while Cha Hyun-Suk flip-flops between sweet and nasty, he stays true to No-Ra from the moment he accepts her, giving her a different kind of friendship that helps her recover respect for herself. And that's the point, really. Self-respect is a type of strength that directly translates into respect from others that does not come with status only.
I think it's easier for him. He doesn't have baggage related to No Ra, so it's all fresh ground, and once he finds his way he can just move forward. Hyun Suk is a big  baby with 20 years of resentment to get past.
He did help No Ra a lot in feeling good about college, but I have to wonder if her sense of self-respect ever really got crushed? She did what she thought were the right things to do all along. Even when she decided to go to college, first, it was to be a better wife, then it was to be a better person overall. People who lack self-respect don't think like that.
No-Ra is the only character in the show that goes from very little respect for herself and from anybody (remember her in episode 1?) to the most respected person in the show. The other characters' respect-scores are far less praiseworthy: Cha Hyun-Suk has earned himself societal respect because he successfully rattled the boundaries of traditional theater. However, his childish behavior costs him respect temporarily - from the viewers and ultimately, himself. Thankfully, whenever he has a sweet moment, he earns it back manifold. Kim Woo-Chul has some societal respect because he is a professor ... but loses ours the longer we see him be so utterly pathetic. Kim Yi Jin has some respect in life because she is the chairman's daughter ... but really has not foundation on which to stand at all. 
Yeah, I have no respect for her. At least Woo Chul being respected as a professor comes from something he DID. She was born. How is that anything to credit her for? By the way, that hip swivel gif is very distracting.
Yi Jin was also educated and is in the university as a professor because she has the educational qualifications. If she was just the chairman's daughter, she'd just be shopping in malls and out to parties.
But let's think about respect a bit more. The ubiquity and significance of respect and self-respect in everyday life has led many philosophers, particularly in moral and political philosophy, to develop a keen interest in these two concepts. There is much to be said and read about different kinds of respect and their meanings, but I want to focus on just one aspect: respect for persons (most philosophical discussion focus on this).
Do you mean that baseline respect we show living things? If we're decent humans ourselves, that is?
I think of it more as forbearance. The fact is, we will never fully understand another person, so the important thing is that we, ourselves, give them the benefit of the doubt and focus on our own behavior. Even where we see them do something clearly wrong, the best we can do is point it out and then leave it, or them, alone. No Ra seems to be very much this sort of person. Even when she tells WooChul to cut it out and that he's narcissistic (yes!) she isn't holding anything against him, she's focused on moving on - and leaving him alone.
The most influential position on "respect for persons" is found in the moral philosophy of Immanuel Kant. Okay, that is what you mean, yes. He claims that all persons are owed respect just because they are persons (=rational beings). Respect is the acknowledgment of the dignity of persons. For Kant, our fundamental moral obligation is to respect persons - and it is morally wrong to express disrespect or contempt for persons. Kant also argues that we also have a moral duty to respect ourselves as persons. This duty requires us to act always in an awareness of our own dignity. In fact, in moral philosophy, self-respect is regarded both as morally required and as essential to the ability to live a life worth living (which brings us right back to our last post on bucket-lists).
I would like to see someone argue against this. It seems so very much the natural order of things that I cannot imagine not having this belief. Of course, I look around the world and see so much evidence against it... but I still think that this is the standard.
Can't disagree with Kant here

What is crucial in Kant's philosophy is that respect is connected to moral self-determination. A person's moral agency can only unfold if free to act for the sake of reasons they believe are right. A person’s moral agency (autonomy) is violated if that decisional process is denied or subverted. A person who is denied decisional involvement is denied the status of moral agent - which, in turn, means the person is denied moral dignity. In short: Not respecting a person is VERY WRONG.
Not respecting person-hood denies the existence of it. If you are not a person, what are you? An animal? An object?
Based on the statement that a person's moral agency can only unfold if free to act for the sake of reasons they believe are right, then, assuming No Ra's decisional involvement was denied, which, by the way, I don't think it fully was since she seems to have made very conscious decisions to be a good Confucian wife, then it was definitely awoken by WooChul telling her, "We're divorced, we're separate, even if we're putting on a show for Minsoo." She decided on getting her GED and going to college. No Ra exercised moral agency and thus showed she still had self-respect despite being all dopey-wopey at the time.
When No-Ra starts respecting herself again after years of feeling utterly crushed, respecting her as a person becomes much easier. It's when her dick of a husband suddenly rediscovers her as something to be desired ... but still, there is no respect. He never has shown her any and that is his moral sin - and it's a very bad  sin. In fact, Kim Woo-Chul has no respect for anybody but himself and that is why he deserves none himself. Despite all the laughs, he is deeply tragic figure that will end up alone and miserable (he really should have read Kant when he was in Germany)
His smug self-satisfaction certainly needs to be rattled.
Yi Jin got a taste of WooChul's manipulative ways recently, so I'm hoping she dumps him for someone rich to make him feel small.

Cha Hyun-Suk on the other hand has nothing but deep respect for No-Ra ... but mainly for that old No-Ra, the one he knows from high school, the one that is buried under that emotional wasteland she has become. It takes a while for her to get back her self-respect but when she has it, he falls even deeper for her. What he feels is built on respect.
But that's a different kind of respect. While Woo Chul pays some perfunctory respect (very surface, very shallow) to No Ra as the mother of his child, he has no respect for No Ra the individual. Hyun Suk respects (old) No Ra the individual, but pays very little respect to her as a person when they first re-meet. In fact, he goes out of his way to humiliate her.
I don't think he does not respect her as a person even though he humiliates her. He humiliates her because of his grudge (halmoni and all), but I wouldn't say that lessens what he feels for her deep down (hence his flip-flopping). 
I don't understand Hyun-suk much. At least his heart is warm.
Also, he has dimples 
Their relationship has always been characterized by respect. They always saw something in the other person that others did not readily see; and even though they did not fully realize at the time, they gave each other strength. And indeed, respect is a foundation you want to build on - be it for friendship or be it love. If you respect a person, you will approach them in a positive way - always. Respect is a basis for admiration. It's a basis for great team work. It's a prerequisiteof trust. And it's an absolute must for a long-lasting relationship. 
If you don't respect a person, you won't approach them as an equal. You won't feel any compulsion to consider their needs, at least insofar as their needs require your action.

And Na Soon-Nam rocks!
Yes, he does.
And I'm so glad I got to mention Kant on this blog at least once.

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