As a victim of some rather extensive "fag! sissy! girl!" bullying in grade school and junior high, I can attest that the after-effects last for a lifetime. I cringe when I hear someone laughing, even a stranger on the other side of a crowded room. No one walking behind me can catch up; I'll walk faster, or break into a run if I have to. And I will not sit down until only a couple of seats are left. So I was curious about the oddly-titled Korean drama The Glory, about a woman who dedicates her life to getting revenge on her high school bullies. I don't even care if there is any gay content.
Scene 1: 2022. Driving in the dark, a woman wonders "Why can't I live a normal life?" She passes downtown skyscrapers, all dark and deserted (interesting In America offices are brightly lit to discourage burglars). Finally she arrives at the Eden Apartments, where she eats a sushi roll and waits.
At dawn an elderly lady comes out, welcomes her to the apartment complex, and gives her a flower -- the Devil's Trumpet, because you can only smell it at night. She begins smashing some pots, which causes the woman to relive a bullying incident and shatter like glass on the sidewalk.
Scene 2: While the woman staples up some photos, her former classmate, Weathercaster Yeon-jin, comes in and wants to know what she's doing: "That's Jae-jun, Sa-ra, everyone. But who are you?" If she doesn't know, what is she doing there? This enrages the woman: "Don't you know me?" She attacks with the staple gun. "I'm going to kill you, but first let me tell you my story." Yeon-jin laughs: "You couldn't kill me, you worthless inferior!"
Scene 3: 2004. The police commissioner is yelling at the teenage Yeon-Jin for bullying her classmate.
Out in the main office, the woman's teacher/guardian is yelling at her for calling the police over "a prank." Another boy claims that he needs a guardian because his parents are golfing abroad, so Teacher takes him, too.
At home, Yeon-Jin's Mom is yelling at her for getting in trouble over the bullying. "I'm very disappointed in you! You couldn't even handle a worthless inferior -- how can you compete with your equals?" She attacks. "Besides, the shaman said not to associate with people with o-names."
Scene 4: Still 2004. A shamanic ceremony. Mom is overcome with emotion, but teenage Yeon-Jin, bored, is playing a game on her phone.
Cut to three girls and a boy, or maybe two boys and two girls, dragging the woman -- finally named, Dong-eun -- into the high school gym. Bully Yeon-jin is delighted. She pretends to apologize for bullying Dong-eun earlier, and then burns her with a curling iron. Dong-eun screams and cries, but the bullies continue. "Nobody will come to help a worthless inferior. The gym teacher even gave us the key, so we could put you in your place." (Actually, one of the bully girls stole the key while making out with him.)
"Why are you doing this?" Dong-eun asks.
"God, I'm so sick of that question? Why do worthless inferiors always ask that? Isn't it obvious? Because you're worthless. Everyone hates you -- us, the teachers, the cops, your parents." They laugh and burn her some more, and the boy starts to rape her while a second boy -- not part of their group? -- nonchalantly plays basketball. Wow, I never got any bullying this severe. They called me names, laughed, put things on my back and down my pants, shoved me into traffic, and once burnt me with a cigarette, but that was probably an accident -- the girl was trying to kiss me, to "cure" me of being "a fag."
Scene 5: Dong-eun in the nurse's office, asking for some hydrogen peroxide anaesthetic. The nurse wants to know who burned her. At that moment Bully Yeon-jin appears: "I did. Why do you ask?"
Left: Lee Do-hyun, who plays a character that hasn't been introduced yet, I assume.
Scene 6: In 2022, the adult Dong-eun accosts Bully Yeon-jin's preteen daughter: "I think about your Mom every day. There's a type of hatred that's similar to longing." Sounds rather homoerotic.
Cut to 2004: the Teenage Dong-eun goes home to her run-down, graffiti-covered residential hotel. Not a safe place: the bullies are in her room, drinking, trashing things, and stealing her money. They force her to dance while they laugh and call her names. After they leave, she tries to jump off a ledge, but she's too depressed.
Scene 7: The bullies skiing. Bully Yeon-jin announces that Dong-eun dropped out of school. They all cheer. "But...she told the vice principal that she's dropping out because of us! He's angry!" They are shocked. "I thought the vice principal would be happy? Doesn't he hate her as much as we do?"
Apparently not. Bully Boy Jae-jin promises to take care of it: he calls Dong-eun and threatens to kill her unless she tells the principal that she was lying.
Scene 8: The vice-principal berating Don-eun's teacher for letting her name the bullies. "This could affect your performance review." Teacher, in turn, berates Don-eun: "You're overreacting! Friends hit each other sometimes -- it's not a big deal!" He slaps her about a dozen times, yelling, while the other teachers try to restrain him: "Stop! You'll hurt your hand!"
Scene 9: New World Hair Salon, Don-eun's Mom is being pawed by a male customer when she's called away: Bully Yeon-jin's parents are offering a cash settlement of several million won (about $5000), if she signs a document attesting that Don-eun is mentally unstable, and provoked her daughter. Wait-- I thought nobody cared. She takes the money and scrams, abandoning Don-eun, who is now homeless.
Scene 10: Kimbap Paradise, a sushi take-out place, through season after season as Dom-eun makes sushi-roles. One night she's in a lot of pain due to her scars and menstrual cramps, and the pharmacy doesn't open for eight hours, so she decides to jump into the river: the pain will stop, after all. But she just cries instead.
Scene 11: Back in 2004, the bullies are berating and burning a new girl in the gym, when Dong-eun appears. "I can't believe the stupid idiot came here willingly, but let's berate and burn her!" Instead, she points out their career goals: Sa-ra wants to paint, Hye-jeong to be a stewardess, Boy Bully Jae-jin (Park Sung-hoo, second photo) to own a golf course, Boy Bully Myeung-o (Kim Gun-woo, top photo) to be rich, and Yeon-ju to marry a hot guy and have kids.
"So, what's your pathetic dream, stupid bitch?" Yeon-ju asks. Dong-eun replies: "You. My dream is you." Still sounds homoerotic. They all laugh derisively.
Scene 12: Summer of 2006, two years later. Dong-eun is working at a textile factory and studying English. The boss berates her for not working hard enough. She gets her GED, takes the SAT, and is admitted to college. Before leaving the factory, she meets sprightly, friendly 20-year old Seong-hi -- a hot girl! This lady is definitely a lesbian!
"You're so lucky! In college you can meet new people, get a boyfriend..." "No!" Definitely a lesbian.
Scene 13: Freshman year at the Euicheon University of Education. Dong-eun is still ruminating over Yeon-ju and the other bullies. She tries to devise a revenge plan -- but what could get Yeon-ju, who thinks of her as less than nothing, to be afraid? Cut to the present, with Dong-eun accosting the adult Yeon-ju's daughter. Uh-oh. I was feeling sympathetic to Dong-eun, but not anymore. The kid didn't do anything!
Cut to Yeon-ju doing her weathercast, and Dong-eun ruminating: "An eye for an eye, a burn for a burn. Is that fair? No, she has to lose more than that." The end.
Heterosexism: Hetero-romance doesn't seem to be on anyone's mind, and sex is just a tool used for humiliation and blackmail.
Gay Characters: Maybe Dong-eun. At least she describes her hatred in homoerotic terms, and meets a nice girl.
How Many Bullies: Sometimes three, sometimes four.
My Grade: B+