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[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Answer Me 1988" Episode 13

2015/12/18 | 871 views | Permalink

Bo-ra helpfully narrates the theme of this episode at the closing. This is fortunate, since until that point I was at a bit of a loss as to what the title card, a linguistic variation on the title of "Superman is Back" variety show, had to do with the episode proper. We don't really get to see that much of men taking care of their families, unless you count Seong-gyoon's misadventures trying to fix household appliances back in the days before it was cheaper to just buy new. Indeed, one memorable sequence involves the entire neighborhood getting riled over a nonexistent crisis.

That much reminds me of a scary story- lie down in your apartment and scream for help. Observe how no one will come to ask what's going on. Note how the exact same thing would have happened if you had actually been serious hurt. Now that's a terrifying thought. What does any of this have to do with "Answer Me 1988"? Simple- if you told this story to any of the characters in this drama, they wouldn't understand it because apathy to neighbors is incomprehensible to them.

That, in the drama's broader estimation, is what "Superman" is. This is an identity not based on one's ability to exhibit super-strength, but rather their determination to do their best by friends and family. If this means dropping everything to go into panic-mode over a loved one, so be it. It also fits in well with Nietzschean ideals of how the superman is one who creates life- although I'd rather not delve into complex German philosophy when the title in all likelihood is just a reference to the silly TV show where Song Il-gook takes cares of the triplets.

"Answer Me 1988" is plenty silly too of course- for the better. The more I see of Bo-ra and Seon-woo together the more I like them. It's adorable how Bo-ra is constantly asserting pecking order when their relationship is supposed to have some sort of implied equality. Yet for all this, even Bo-ra lacks courage enough to be as open with her college friends as she is with Seon-woo.

This is just one of the many ways that "Answer Me 1988" stresses the importance of love and community in a local environment. This drama ranks as the best nostalgia trip I've ever seen simply because it makes the late eighties look, for all its relative primitiveness, like a paradise. Love for the Superman means willing to act like a jerk for fun, to act like a jerk because the other person needs to hear it, and understanding that an apology is necessary for truly hurtful slights, however accidental.

Review by William Schwartz

"Answer Me 1988" is directed by Sin Won-ho, written by Lee Woo-jeong-I and features Sung Dong-il, Lee Il-hwa, Ra Mi-ran, Kim Sung-kyun, Ryu Hye-young, Hyeri, Go Kyung-pyo and Ryu Jun-yeol.

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