Female singers’ soap roles provoke viewer angerWho cares who gets to play which character on television dramas, some might say. But teenage viewers were more critical than ever against the recent casting of a pretty faced singer for the main role of an upcoming television drama. Its not the first time that broadcasters cast popular singers instead of real actors in their dramas ― a trend in the entertainment business these days.
Sung Yu-ri, a pretty face from the female pop group FIN.K.L, was one of the earlier idol singers to appear on a prime nighttime drama. She starred as an innocent aristocrat from an ancient kingdom in an SBS drama in 2003. Earlier this year, Lee Hyo-ri, known for her sexy moves on Korean MTV, was cast to play a poor, hard-working factory worker. Park Jung-ah, from Jewelry, was also in the cast. It goes without saying that these dramas were attacked by critics who reminded producers that acting should be left to actors.
However, it seems that the producers have not learned from this, and are carrying on regardless ― and the viewers continue to express their outrage.
For over a month, young viewers have been protesting online after news reports that Yun Eun-hye, the former singer from Baby Vox, would play the young bride of a crown prince in a new MBC drama set to air next year. Her agency and producers denied the reports ― until Monday when they came clean.
“Yun Eun-hye has innocent features that no other actresses have and she has enough freshness to be cool in front of the cameras,” said Hwang In-roe, the director of the drama. “The character she is playing is very cool and easy going. Ms. Yun's just that.”
From malicious comments to intelligent arguments that challenged the producers that the drama, based on a popular comic book, would be distorting the original story by casting a person with no acting experience, viewers joined an online petition opposing her role.
An Internet petition to collect the names of 10,000 viewers on Daum, a domestic portal site, has 7,465 registered so far protesting the producer's decision. But the producers are defending their actions.
“I understand there are a few who are disappointed [with the casting] but the characters are supposed to grow up into adults and so will their acting as the drama develops,” said Mr. Hwang.
So what is keeping the producers so attached to the idea of casting popular singers instead of actors in their dramas? Or to pose the question another way, why are singers so eager to get a role in dramas?
“Drama makers and the management agencies for singers both find it advantageous to cooperate,” said Chun Byung-june, an entertainment management program professor at ChungAng University.
He said it was “more economical” for producers to work with singers who already have tens of thousands of fans instead of finding a new actor and training him or her to become a star, while singing agencies know that an appearance on television would be “more profitable” than releasing another singles album.
With former television stars like Han Suk-gyu or Jang Dong-gun gone to the film industry, are we stuck watching more singers act?
“Its a pity for viewers,” Mr. Chun said.
by Lee Min-a
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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