TvN‘s new K-Drama Melancholia is, according to the revealed synopsis, about an elite high school student who is a mathematical genius and a newly hired teacher who finds numbers beautiful.
Even before the premiere set for November 3, Melancholia received a tremendous amount of attention for casting actress Lim Soo Jung alongside actor Lee Do Hyun. With these talented big-name stars set as leads, the show seemed to be building anticipation among K-Drama fans.
On October 15, however, when tvN dropped posters for Melancholia featuring the two in character, it sparked an online debate over the premise of the show. One of the two posters, featuring Lee Do Hyun’s character Baek Seung Yoo, reads, “I’m not supposed to like neither math nor you.”
Some Koreans have found it questionable for this character to be a student—clearly a minor in his teenage—when Melancholia has been categorized as a school-set romance genre. The quote on the poster also raised questions as it potentially hints at an inappropriate relationship between a student and a teacher.
- “Between a student and a teacher…?”
- “These posters really highlight their age difference… I don’t see the chemistry.”
- “So it’s a gender-reversed version of that Young Lady And Gentleman show.”
- “What the heck is that quote supposed to mean?”
- “God, these concepts that mix minors with adults make me want to puke. This and the Young Lady And Gentleman too.”
- “From what I’ve heard, this show underwent a huge script edit because it relied too heavily on romance. But we’re still here, so…”
The show’s trailer has fueled the debate as it seemingly captured the air between the two characters to err on the romantic side.
I couldn’t solve that problem. I’m going to give up though, because you said some problems cannot be solved. Do I have control over these things? Over what I fall in love with or not?
— Character Baek Seung Yoo
Meanwhile, other Koreans believe the debate over appropriateness may be hasty and that the show deserves to premiere first before facing so much criticism. One commented, “We don’t even know for sure if the characters are really going to fall in love with each other—especially in the way we’re all assuming.”
Another pointed out that Melancholia is not the first K-Drama to take on the adult-with-minor relationship to set up the initial backgrounds of the characters involved. And in most cases, the actual romance begins once both characters are well into adulthood—and so “technically, there isn’t a problem.”
- “Okay, but I personally don’t think Lim Soo Jung as an actress would have picked out a script that has her fall in love with a minor. So… I’m going to wait and see.”
- “Are we sure this is romance though? What if it’s about a student and a teacher collaborating to fix the things that are wrong with their school?”
- “I mean, we don’t know what the plot is. So…”
- “Just let it premiere first, please. We won’t know until we watch it. I think it’ll be a good show. Both of the leads know how to pick good scripts, so I’m excited.”
The idea of a childhood/teenage crush developing into an adult relationship isn’t necessarily new—it’s almost cliché in the romance genre all over the world. And K-Drama fans are no strangers to this concept either; Think Guardian: The Lonely and Great God or I Can Hear Your Voice. Considering “the impact that a K-Drama episode can have on how the society perceives what is obviously acceptable vs. what is obviously questionable” though, these debates are simply inevitable.
Previously, another K-Drama faced the same backlash over what the viewers have dubbed “creepy character settings.”