Pinocchio and What I Learned of Fairy Tales

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A discussion of Ep 1 – 10, and how the heroine of Pinocchio fits in with Disney’s Pinocchio. I’m not going to lie… Pinocchio was never one of my favorite Disney movies. The donkeys? Just creepy.

I dub you Pinocchio’s conscience, lord high keeper of the knowledge of right and wrong, counselor in moments of high temptation, and guide along the straight and narrow path. Arise, Sir Jiminy Cricket.

– The Blue Fairy, Pinocchio

I was intrigued from the start by the premise of this Korean drama: Park Shin-hye playing a Pinocchio, a person who hiccups whenever he/she lies. It’s been some time (more than 10 years at least) since I last saw the Disney cartoon of a wooden puppet who longed to become a real boy and whose nose would grow longer whenever he lied.

As I watched the first 10 episodes, I felt impressed with how the writers delivered a layered storyline with all the right ingredients to cook up the drama that we, k-drama viewers, live for. Murder mysteries, dreams and aspirations, hidden identities, and forbidden love. Pinocchio has it all… What I wondered, then, was how each of these pieces fit into Choi In-Ha’s (Park Shin-hye) fairy tale.


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The parallelism between In-Ha and Dal-Po is nicely set up in the beginning; she admires her mom as much as he admires his dad. It’s fun to go back to the early scenes and see how In-Ha is gloating about her mother being on tv. She tells Dal-Po that she misses her mother. Her statement is offensive in that she doesn’t realize two things: his mother is dead, and her mother is to blame for his mother’s death and the tainted legacy of their family.

In Episode 3, she doesn’t consider the possibility of her mother being “evil” (as painted by her father and Dal-Po) and she tells him, “I only believe what I see.” This false dichotomy proves to be both a good and bad thing for her character.

Her naivety, however, compared to Pinocchio’s functions in different forms. Pinocchio didn’t understand morality and was tempted by the outside world of fun and greed – Stromboli’s puppet show and Lampwick and Pleasure Island. Contrastingly, In-Ha already knows what’s right and doesn’t have these temptations. She’s naive in the way that she doesn’t know the whole story, and thus, her moral sense, based on only her pre-existing knowledge, is perhaps faulty or flimsy at best.

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Choi In-Ha’s character narrative is quite interesting; she’s sassy (in spite of her Pinocchio syndrome) yet sensitive, living with thoughts of idealism in a world of dark secrets and pasts. Now no longer kept from the secret of Dal-Po’s true identity, In-Ha demonstrates her growth as a character by understanding the paradox created by the over-reliance and dependency of a pinocchio’s words. Pinocchios only tell the truth, but what happen when they don’t?

But even being the previous frog in the well (for not fully understanding the weight of her words both as a pinocchio striving to be a reporter and, on a personal level, as the daughter of a reporter who indirectly killed his mother), In-Ha still firmly sticks to her belief in justice. Her moral instincts override any of her previous admiration for her mother and her mother’s work, and again, demonstrating her determination towards finding the truth. She disses her mom by calling her a trashy tabloid. Alongside Dal-Po, In-Ha emphasizes journalism based on factual evidence, which is fundamentally antithetical of her mother’s belief in news that creates an emotional response or can be considered entertaining (to receive high ratings).

Additionally, In-Ha’s monologue is not just her redirecting Dal-Po’s words for him to her mother; it’s In-Ha standing up for Dal-Po again, just like how she did in the first two episodes against the whole class when they didn’t believe he was intelligent and cheated on the test. This is In-Ha being the conscience guide for Dal-Po and indirectly encouraging Dal-Po to stand up for himself, when he wants to bark like a wolf, but is too scared to face the consequences of reality. While In-Ha and Dal-Po’s views on journalism ethics mirror each other’s, In-Ha’s courageousness wins out.

Prove yourself brave, truthful, and unselfish, and someday, you will be a real boy.

– The Blue Fairy, Pinocchio

Pinocchio had to prove his value. Although In-Ha certainly proved hers in the showdown with her mother, Dal-Po is stuck in a much grayer area, tempted to turn a blind eye to his situation and just live a happy life with In-Ha. Dal-Po wants his own justice (form of revenge?) against Reporter Sung/In-Ha’s mother. And he doesn’t want his brother Jaemyung’s crimes exposed. Had this been an alternate universe where the true culprits of the firefighters’ deaths had not been found, Jaemyung would have deserved a happy ending where he was known as a selfless hero. In a way Jaemyung represents Lampwick who didn’t know better than to go to Pleasure Island, got caught in the curse, and turned into a sad, frightened donkey; Jaemyung shouldn’t have given in to his own desires of revenge. You can’t go back from killing a person.

Meanwhile, it’s hard to tell whether Reporter Sung remains unaffected by Jaemyung and Dal-Po, but we do see a distraught face after In-Ha scolds her in front of everyone. In the fairy tale The Snow Queen, two friends named Kay and Gerda were affected by pieces of a broken magic mirror which reflected everything good into something bad. The broken mirror hit Kay in the eyes and the heart, and he was no longer the same boy. One day, the Snow Queen kidnapped Kay. Gerda searched all over for him until she reached the Snow Queen’s palace where the Snow Queen challenged her to spell the word “Eternity” with a chunk of ice. Upon seeing Kay, Gerda teared up and gave him a warm embrace which melted his cold heart; the tear fell on the ice and spelled “Eternity” so the Snow Queen let him go.

A comment left at the story source stated that this fairy tale was a spiritual story in disguise about the Self (Kay) being imprisoned by the Ego (Snow Queen) and finally freed by the Soul (Gerda). Do you think that in this k-drama, Dal-Po represents the Self, Reporter Sung the Ego, and In-Ha the Soul that frees everyone?

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Choi In-Ha may not be a princess or an evil witch, but she’s a pinocchio. She’s the heroine of Pinocchio.

Since the beginning, there have been two things about In-Ha that remain unchanged: Her integrity, and her dedication to Dal-Po. With moral uprightness as one of her defining characteristic, she doesn’t need to prove to The Blue Fairy that she is now “brave, truthful, and unselfish”, and her humanity is not in question because she already knows what type of person she wants to be.

In-Ha may hiccup whenever she lies, but her presence also lets people be more honest with each other. As she helps Dal-Po confront his past, I can’t help but think that ironically, In-Ha is the Jiminy Cricket to Dal-Po’s Pinocchio self.

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2 comments
  1. Rgin said:

    Wow, i love how deep your thoughts are. Really gives light to what the writer wants to show us. I haven’t even dug that deep. But there is certainly is an aspect of pinocchio that tugs you at the heart.

    Like

    • tiffany said:

      haha, thanks for reading! I haven’t watched any kdrama in awhile, but I’m enjoying Pinocchio and am a fan of Park Shin-hye. I thought the juxtaposition of In-Ha having the pinocchio syndrom and wanting to be a reporter is very interesting.

      Like

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