It’s not often that you hear a kdrama getting backlash from Koreans and international fans for its content, but “Backstreet Rookie” has become one of those rare kdramas that drew a lot of controversy.
Many people aren’t aware of what had transpired for this to happen, and today, I am here to discuss why “Backstreet Rookie” became so controversial across the board.
Note: this article will include reactions from Korean and international fans.
The source material
“Backstreet Rookie” is based on a webtoon that was rated 19+ and for a family drama during a timeslot that’s usually reserved for such, many fans had worries about adapting this webtoon into a drama.
The webtoon was already controversial among netizens for romanticizing romance with minors, while the webtoon was graphic and had many 18+ scenes, the drama adaptation toned it down a lot, but still, many fans had reservations about adapting such a controversial webtoon and questioned why Ji Chang Wook and Kim Yoo Jung would sign on for such a project.
Dal Sik’s character
Many international fans found issues with this particular character in the drama. Dal Sik is seen not only culturally appropriating black culture but also portraying those who have dark skin as dirty, with flies flying from the dreadlocks and odor coming out of the character.
Various international viewers have attempted to contact SBS regarding the matter to explain why the character is offensive but haven’t received a response yet.
There is also another particular scene between a Nigerian man and Dal Sik character that got a lot of backlash from international viewers.
Check out the scene below:
The problematic kiss scene
In the first episode of “Backstreet Rookie,” Kim Yoo Jung’s character which is portrayed as a minor early on in the drama reaches out to kiss Ji Chang Wook’s character out of the blue.
The scene rubbed many fans the wrong way and it ended up receiving a lot of backlash on SBS online bulletin board as well. Many people questioned why this scene was inserted into the drama like that.
The overly sexually suggestive content
Before we begin discussing why this became an issue, its important to point out that public Korean channels have a lot of guidelines to adhere to.
Back when the drama was promoted ahead of its release it was promoted as 15+ and a ‘family drama,’ this in turn confused a lot of people when they tuned in to check out the drama. Many people found the content closer to 19+ than to 15+.
The shooting angles for the young female characters gained a lot of bad press as well, the cameras photographed female students from down to up in a manner that many found problematic. It was accused of objectifying teenage girls.
In another scene, Choi Dae hyun (Ji Chang Wook) goes to find Jung Saet-byeol’s (Kim Yoo Jung) house only to accidentally get arrested for prostitution. The scene shows a woman wearing a maid uniform and a grown man in a gown watching him get arrested.
And in another one, Dal Sik (Moon Suk) who plays the role of a webtoon writer is seen drawing figures of naked women; his scene shows his character moaning bouncing up and down while drawing his webtoon. The drama also featured drawings of nearly naked women during his scenes.
The Korea Communications Standards Commission committee member Kang Jin Sook criticized the drama for objectifying women and treating them like a commodity, she questioned whether the drama could be enjoyed together with the family.
“Backstreet Rookie” has received 6,384 civil complaints, a shocking number of complaints according to the Korea Communications Standards Commission (KOCSC), they stated that the show received the greatest number of complaints in the last year and is one of the shows that received the greatest numbers of complaints as well.
But despite the rough start, “Backstreet Rookie” recently achieved its best ratings to date with its 8th episode. A lot of what made the show problematic has been toned down by the drama producers aside from Dal Sik’s character which continues to receive backlash from international fans.
It was also revealed that after many complaints, the controversial scenes of “Backstreet Rookie” were edited out of reply VOD services.
Should It Be Defended Or Criticized?
Some fans have ditched “Backstreet Rookie” due to its problematic content and racist undertones, while others continue to defend the show and the actors’ pick labeling those who raise an issue about the drama ‘haters’ who are trying to incite controversy.
But who is right? And when does criticism become too much?
It’s up to the individual viewer and that’s because many of the issues people found with the drama are valid critiques regardless of whether you personally feel offended or hurt or disturbed by them.
What do you think of the controversy surrounding “Backstreet Rookie”? are you watching the drama or not?