No, this will not be your regularly well-written post about Korean pop culture. Rather, it will be a fair-to-poorly written post about Korean pop culture. Because I, Sean P. McFeeley I, am letting Stephanie take a break.
To give a little background, I am not immersed in Korean culture as Stephanie is. I have not watched a lot of Korean television. I saw “Pasta,” and really enjoyed it (mostly because Gong Hyo-jin is just about the most adorable creature to walk the earth).
You may recognize me a A) one of the “McFeeleys” (not the better one) or B) from a brief segment that I appeared on in one of Stephanie’s podcasts (The goofus who knew the difference between film and video).
I usually do not write about anything Korean. I have a snarky obituary blog for a pool that I run (don’t ask) and that is my basic blogging experience. And it is pretty unprofessional. I mean, Wikipedia is my main research resource.
After we started watching “Pasta,” Stephanie told us that we need to watch this Korean reality show called “Running Man.” We were soooo not interested. As a general rule, we hate reality TV. whether it’s the format (“Project Runway” and “Face-Off?” EXACT same show!) or it’s the annoying “personalities” constantly vying for attention in a desperate grab to “make it big.” It’s all just a big fat ball of annoying to us.
While I would consider Running Man a reality show… it is so much more. It’s a reality show that America could never pull off in a million years. (“I’m not here to win, I’m here to make friends!”) We got hooked pretty quickly. Recently, our 8-year-old daughter even got hooked on it. She calls Jong-kook “Mr. Strong-Strong,” Kwang-soo “Mr. Tall-Tall,” and Big-Nose is “Mr. Lose-a-Lot” Plus, my co-workers are often puzzled by my Running Man t-shirt. When I tell them what it is, they glaze over and say “…oh yeah, that Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.”
We now have a Friday night tradition that involves drinks (one big, fat Martini for me, please) and watching Running Man. We often watch on a projector (big subtitles = easy reading) and often skyping with Stephanie, who watches the same episode at the same time. See, who needs to go out and do stuff when there’s Running Man to watch?!
Recently, my lovely wife, Jami, said “Let’s sort the Running Men into their Hogwarts Houses.” This is what we came up with.
First, to review the Hogwarts houses:
I am not going to explain what Hogwarts is, because you should already know (if you don’t, I at least hope you feel a deep, deep shame right now).
- Gryffindor, whose sigil is a lion, gets the bravest of wizards (“Where dwell the brave at heart, Their daring, nerve and chivalry set Gryffindors apart“).
- Ravenclaw’s sigil is an eagle (no, not a raven) and the clever wizards go there (“ready of mind” and “those of wit and learning”).
- Hufflepuff has the badger and generally gets the losers of the wizarding world. They’re loyal and hardworking… in other words, the tiny cogs in the machinery of the wizarding world. Yeah, Cedric Diggory was a Hufflepuff, but he didn’t exactly win the Triwizard Cup, now did he?
- And finally there’s Slytherin for the heartless sneaky bastards (“Those cunning folk use any means, to achieve their ends”)
Gryffindor! There should be a collective “Well, duh” downloading onto the internet for this selection. Their sigil is a lion, well, Jong-kook is a tiger. Close enough.
The prettiest of the Running Men is freaking great at everything. Almost annoyingly so. We’ve all had that friend who was better and more accomplished than us in everything. Annoying bastards.
In one episode, everyone’s single goal was to eliminate Sparta-kook. Everyone against him. Perfect chance to gang up and take him out. Right? But instead, everyone ran cowering from him no matter where he went. It was like watching a horror movie, but instead of a masked killer, everyone was terrified of the guy who was pretty in pink. (Quick, call Molly Ringwald, I have a horror movie to pitch to her!)
Outnumbered? Baaah, this is Mr. Capable, he can handle it!
Ultimate Ddakji? One try! He flipped that bad boy on his FIRST shot! It was so amazing, they had to show the utter shock that the writers went into.
With all his might, talent (and prettiness) you’d expect Jong-kook to strut around like he owns Running Man, bullying the lesser players (which would be all of them). But Jong-kook isn’t like that at all. He’s frickin’ awesome! He’s never smug. He’s never sore winner. He will seek vengeance on… shall we say, certain other Running Men, but he never betrays and he is never conceited.
I also love that his one weakness is female guests. It cracks me up. This speaks to the whole chivalrous part of the Sorting Hat’s song.
Did I mention he’s pretty?
Alternate house: There is no alternate house. Yes, he’s smart and can be a Ravenclaw, but there’s no contest here. He’s Kim Jong-F*%#ing-kook! Gryffindor!
Ravenclaw! Ji-hyo is clearly the smartest of the group. She’s got it all figured out… and if she doesn’t, give her 90 seconds.
In one challenge, they had to eat different foods in the order that they were put on the table. No one knew this rule until after the table was set. Her team got it in two tries. Why? Because Ji-hyo is kicks ass! She paid-the-hell-attention when food started coming in.
Ji-hyo is constantly aware that anything that is happening at any time could have an impact on any given challenge. If I had to pick a teammate, it would be a tough call between her and Jong-kook. Unfortunately, I do not see myself with such a dilemma in this lifetime.
And as a tip of the hat to Korean culture in general, if this show were on American TV, the producers would have at least one challenge a week where she has to wear a bikini. Thankfully, Korean modesty allows Song Ji-hyo to be great for being Ji-hyo and not for her looks. She is smart and accomplished and serves as a positive female role model for my daughter because she is not objectified like a Victoria’s Secret model.
This applies to whenever Running Man has any female guests. Because the show is not about getting shots of beautiful women in tight outfits, a greater respect for women is shown. This seems contradictory because Korea is such a patriarchal society. But I digress. (Also, just to keep it 100, Ji-hyo in a bikini would be pretty sweet. Sorry. I am a boy.)
Alternate house: Slytherin. She can be sneaky and conniving when she wants to be. I’m thinking of the episode where they had to find ballots to vote for a king. She found a ballot and secretly kept it on her until the end of the challenge… smart AND sneaky.
Hufflepuff! You know what I said about Hufflepuff getting all the losers?
See, Big-nose isn’t a loser as a person. He just loses all the time. It’s a fine distinction. As one of the Easy Brothers and as someone who says “Race: start” when he’s eliminated, The Impala is a lovable loser. When he does win, it’s pretty fan-freaking-tastic though.
Wait… has that actually happened?
Alternate house: nope, no alternate here…
Gryffindor! As Homer Simpson would say: Jae-suk’s their leader.
Jae-suk will not back down when challenged. With the second most Running Man wins (thank you, Wikipedia), he’s clearly not afraid to get into the fray. He seems to be the physical opposite of Kim Jong-kook (sorry Jae-suk, but you’re not a pretty man) but he is one of the most accomplished of the Running Men. It’s the best when he is up against Jong-kook (although if one has Ji-hyo on their side, it’s a lock to win).
He plays smart and knows when it is time to be aggressive. He’s also the one who keeps things on track. When everyone is gabbing and BSing at the beginning of the show, he’s the one who always says something like, “Hey, I wonder why they have us standing barefoot in a snake-pit,” to give the producers a chance transition into the rules.
Alternate house: Ravenclaw. Jae-suk is probably the second smartest Running Man. He often figures out the puzzle or the spy before anyone even knows there is one.
Hufflepuff! I love Gary, but he often seems like fodder to be eliminated… usually after Big-nose though.
I like Gary more and more, but he is basically there to pad the eliminations. So that an elimination can happen… just not to your favorite Running Man… yet. It’s like a zombie movie. You need to have nameless zombies to kill (or, the zombies need an inconsequential character to kill) to make the action move forward, without resolving the final conflict of the film.
Plus, he’s a rapper and his rapper name isn’t something like “MC Motherf&#@er” or anything. It’s “Gary.” The headline “Tupac shot in drive-by” has much more gravitas than “Gary shot in drive-by.” One sounds like a hard-core rapper got shot gangland style. The other sounds like an insurance salesman got caught in the line of fire. The good news is that because no one will shoot a rapper named Gary, he will be around to be eliminated almost as much as Big-nose for years to come.
One of my favorite Gary moments was the prison episode. They wake everyone up in the middle of the night and put them in jail. So, Gary decides to go back to sleep. Hey, there’s a bed and everything. I would totally do that. I would also have no chance of winning and I would be there solely to be eliminated.
Alternate House: Ravenclaw. Not because he’s smart. But because the other half of the Monday Couple is.
Slytherin! The Sorting Hat would take some time with Ha Ha. This was a tough call. Part of me thought Hufflepuff, even a little bit of Ravenclaw, because he’s pretty smart (Ji-hyo would still kick his ass on the SATs). But then I saw the last “Secret of Nine Swords” episode. Ha Ha gets the ultimate sword that rules them all and he transforms into a Maniacal-Leader-slash-Gollum character (my precious).
Strong in the dark side is this one.
Now, I know that a lot of this was him playing it up for the cameras. But it clearly put him in Slytherin.
The more I watch, the more I love Ha Ha. Jami says that when he’s screaming (which is often) that he sounds like a baby who’s hooked on cigarettes.
And now you think so too.
Ha Ha is plenty conniving. If he’s not working the crowd (and I so dearly love it when he does) he’s working the angles.
Alternate house: Hufflepuff. Yeah, he’s smart, but not smart enough. In the end, Ha Ha would rather play it up for the crowd than the win… that’s why he loses.
Lee Kwang -soo
Slytherin! “Awww, you can’t put Giraffe in Slytherin, he’s my favorite.” Yes, he’s my favorite too. Of course he’s my favorite. I am a human being with a soul.
Everyone loves him! To the point where, during their Asian tour, it seemed that the rest of the Running Men were getting annoyed at the constant “LEE KWANG-SOO” chants from the crowd.
But think about it for two seconds and you’ll realize that there is no other house for him.
What does a giraffe say? “Betray. Betray. Betray.”
I love Giraffe. I searched high and low for his theme song (Not the Sting one, but “Theme of the False Emperor,” …you’re welcome). 50% of the time, my Facebook profile picture is Giraffe. Jami and I recently participated in a draft and my team name was “Lee Kwang-soo,” just so that we could chant “LEE KWANG-SOO!!! LEE KWANG-SOO!!! LEE KWANG-SOO!!!” every time it was my turn to pick. Sure, people looked at us like we had lobsters coming out of our ears. But we didn’t care! We love Giraffe!
But why? Why do we love Giraffe? He’s such a shit. He would sell his own mother to win. I think Kim Jong-kook put it best when he asked Giraffe, “You’re just a terrible person, aren’t you?”
On the flip side: he completely rocks! He’s the underdog! He’s the most loveable of the losers. He is timid. He is weak. And he physically kicks Jong-kook whenever he can!
Partially, I think that we forgive him for being such a shit because of how he looks like a hurt puppy dog when he is eliminated. Also, his machinations are so pathetic.
No Kwang-soo, pushing sand in front of the tires will not stop Sparta-kook from winning! But wearing a bathrobe as pants to finish the game? Priceless.
In the end, Lee Kwang-soo has an affability about him that is just endearing. The episode were they all invaded his apartment to find certain items? Come on, that was great!
Of course Giraffe won’t win tonight. He’s Giraffe!
Alternate house: None. He’s such a little shit.
So those are our Hogwarts house decisions. I am sure you might change one or two people. And you have a right to your own opinion. (Even if it is wrong.) I am wrapping this post up on a Friday morning, and I’m already excited to watch two episodes tonight on the projector while sipping my Martini and chanting “LEE KWANG-SOO!” as he betrays his teammates.
Running Man has become one of those rare shows that we will watch sometimes just to make us happy. Last weekend, we had a party and earlier in the day, I was in a crabby, crappy mood. Which, as you may know, is not a great mindset for drinking copious amounts of beer. What did we do about it? We watched a Running Man. BAM! Worked perfectly!
I’ve often thought of organizing my own Running Man… but I’m a lazy, lazy man… If I ever decide to actually do it, I will happily share the adventure. But don’t hold your breath.