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The Great Show: K-Drama highlights familial situations considered ‘taboo’ in Korean culture as tvN continues to showcase social reform [Spoilers]

The Great Show -- Family Picture
The Great Show has highlighted different family situations that are considered “taboo” in Korean culture. Pic credit: Total Variety Network (tvN)

The Great Show has passed its halfway point, and it has proven to be a funny and heartwarming K-drama for viewers. It also happens to continue Total Variety Network’s (tvN) showcase in social reform.

Though such topics have been seen in tvN K-dramas before, it has taken a more prominent role first seen in Designated Survivor: 60 Days with anti-discrimination.

In The Great Show, the social reform showcase is on different kinds of families. Given the fact that South Korea is a highly conservative country, specific family units are considered “taboo” in their culture. The Great Show aims to showcase, and possibly normalize, said family units.

A unique family setup

The Great Show is about Wi Dae-Han (Song Seung-Heon), a politician who wants to rid himself of his “sinner” persona. He wants to put on a great show of being a great family to four children.

As of now, the four children are not related to Dae-Han but have met through a circumstance. The eldest child, Han Da-Jung (Noh Jeong-Eui), thought Dae-Han was her father. A paternity test claims they are not related, making the family situation unique.

This family situation is the primary family situation Wi Dae-Han must put on as a “great show” to win his run in his political race. There are also other family units featured throughout the series.

Single-Parent Family: In the beginning, Wi Dae-Han must choose between which parent he wants to stay with. Despite the fact his father’s infidelity is the reason for his parent’s divorce, he chose his mother.

Years later, when Dae-Han is about to win his first political run, his relationship with his father becomes front-page news. His father abruptly shows up back in his life, and he ignores him in front of cameras. Soon after, his father suddenly dies.

His opponent at the time, Kang Kyung-Hoon (Son Byung-Ho), uses that moment to disgrace Wi Dae-Han as a “sinner.” Dae-Han does all he can to “show remorse” for his father. Unfortunately, it is not enough, and Dae-Han loses the political race.

Wi Dae-Han might have won if he revealed his reasons for ignoring his father. However, traditional Koreans are conservative about the patriarchy. Single-parent homes are shrouded with rumors if the single-parent is the mother.

Thankfully, that mindset is changing with younger generations, as most understand that there are other reasons for a single parent unit.

Single-Parent Pregnancy: In the seventh and eighth episodes, viewers found out that Han Da-Jung is pregnant. Choi Jung-Woo (Hyuk of VIXX), a K-pop idol trainee about to debut, and she had a consensual relationship which happened to result in her pregnancy. This kind of family unit is taboo in Korea.

For starters, Han Da-Jung is considered a minor. Ergo, Korean society will label her as “easy” and a “bad influence” among other women. Next, both Da-Jung and Choi Jung-Woo are not married. Unless they marry by the time the baby is born, that will be another detail that might be seen negatively upon them.

Touchy subjects affecting viewership?

The different “taboo” family units in Korea (along with the episode that humanized conflicting emotions people may go through with abortion) might affect viewership.

According to AGB Nielsen Korea, the starting viewership started around 3.25 percent average for both Seoul and Korea. It since dropped down to a 2.75 percent average for both Seoul and Korea. Given that tvN is a cable network (pay-to-watch), the one percent drop is not good.

Fortunately, The Great Show has eight more episodes to clean up and flesh out the story in hopes of gaining back their viewership. It is evident it won’t be any Goblin or Reply 1988, but not every pay-to-watch K-drama has to be over 20 percent average in viewership.

The Great Show airs on Mondays and Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. KST on tvN. For international viewers who do not have access to Korean networks, The Great Show is available to watch for free, with ads, on Rakuten Viki.

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War Omega is an entertainment news writer and painter that specializes in Asian entertainment. On Monsters & Critics, he writes about K-pop, K-dramas, and Chinese... read more
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