[TV Review]Being a ‘trouble and strife’ looks daunting

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[TV Review]Being a ‘trouble and strife’ looks daunting

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“New Definition of Wise Mother and Good Wife”airs Mondays and Tuesdays on MBC.

There is a New York photograph that I hold dear, and it’s not the one of the Samsung signboard high above Times Square. My keepsake features an average couple strolling through a museum. The couple, in their 60s or 70s, were modestly dressed and they held hands as they listened carefully to what each other had to say about Edvard Munch.
After my voyeuristic encounter with this charming couple, I realized how important it is to have someone by my side, particularly after the scary age of 45. I mean, the world is often a dreadful place and we all need someone to take the edge away.
Ok, I know. I must admit that I have been an advocate of the single life for years while writing this column. And it’s not that I am repulsed by the idea of tying the knot. I am just a fragile creature who is afraid of the fickle nature of relationships, and I have huge respect for couples with relationships or marriages that have lasted for several decades. I suppose it would be a great thing to have a family, watching the children grow and going to a museum with a silver-haired husband.
Still, this positive thought about marriage was ruined last Sunday afternoon when I was dutifully watching reruns of the new MBC-TV drama “Sinhyeonmoyangcheo,” whose title is best translated as“New Definition of a Wise Mother and Good Wife.”
This drama reminded me of the grim reality of marriage in this country, where, for centuries, it has been thought of as a “union of two families,” not just the binding of a couple. Talk about pressure. Marriage has frequently been turned from a life-affirming pleasure into a huge responsibility, especially for women ― hence the old saying “hyeonmoyangcheo,” which implies that a woman should be both a “wise mother and a good wife.”
No wonder so many housewives get depressed and forget they have any identity apart from being a mother and a wife. MBC’s new drama, airing at 10 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays, tries to recognize that we may now need a new definition of a “wise mother and a good wife.” Well, I sometimes think that I need a good wife, and I am not confident about fulfilling the duties of either wife or mother.
The drama juxtaposes a traditional housewife, to whom a husband and her two children are everything, and a single woman to whom life means a career and having fun. Things get complicated when the single woman has an affair with the husband.
The husband decides to leave the traditional wife, saying that he is bored with his marriage and wants a new kind of woman who can be a partner in fun and laughter. “I don’t want to be the one who takes all the responsibility for bringing home the bacon,” he says. So a woman has to be a wise mother, good wife and a fun-filled partner to make her husband’s life enjoyable? God forbid.
The 50-minute episode had more to offer, as the housewife tries to save her marriage (although it was her husband who committed the transgression) by begging him to stay. There is even a mother-in-law character who said that marriage means having to be patient with many things, including “short flings” by the husband. Dumfounded, I could do nothing but think “Hello! Isn’t this the 21st century when women are supposed to have suffrage and equality in relationships?”
This drama leaves a bitter aftertaste for single viewers like me, who think that marriage is quite a demanding job anyway, aside from burdensome definitions of the “wise mother and good wife.” No wonder the drama has had a low audience rating of under 10 percent since its debut last month, but MBC has no one to blame but itself. The show is nothing but a grim reminder that marriage can be unrewarding drudgery.
As a tax paying citizen of Korea, I ask the government to do something to stop this TV series, if they don’t want to see single women grow ever more horrified by the idea of saying “I do” at the altar. In the end, getting to the point of imagining life with a husband who will keep me happy until my advanced years still seems to be a lofty ambition.


By Chun Su jin [sujiney@joongang.co.kr]
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