The newest episode of popular series Penthouse Season 3 was accused of racism with introduction of a new character
Penthouse Season 3, a K-drama produced by national broadcasting station SBS, had created a storm both on the domestic and international grounds. For the entire last year, everyone was talking about it, even famous Kpop idols and Korean actors. The series’ ratings are record-high, and it spawns three seasons – a true proof of overwhelming success.
However, the series sparked controversies when its newest episode introduces a racially offensive character. To gain a better context, we’d like to recount the previous events in the series:
First, in the previous season of Penthouse, the protagonist Logan Lee was killed in a car explosion, dropping the jaws of many viewers who root for his happy ending. But considering the series’ track record of resurrecting its dead characters, the audience had anticipate this character (played by Korean actor Park Eun Seok) to return.
And not betraying expectations, Park Eun Seok was indeed brought back in Episode 2 of Penthouse Season 3. This time though, he is playing the twin brother of the deceased Logan Lee.
However, instead of getting excited over this comeback, international audiences seemed to find the character controversial. And the reason lies in this character’s appearance.
As you can see, this ‘gangster’ character is spotted wearing dreadlocks, a hairstyle unique to black people. To the black, dreadlocks is a hairstyle that represents their past suffer, and is not an aesthetics for other races to copy. Therefore, using this style on an Asian character is considered to be racially offensive, at the same time promoting the wrongful idea that black people are often gangster men and criminals. They also pointed out that the character even have a black bodyguard, thus mocking black culture even further.
To make it worse, the actor Park Eun Seok was educated in the United States, and therefore cannot claim ignorance to racism problems.
To the Korean audiences and some parts of Asia, racism and ‘cultural appropriation’, are still new terms, and was not taken as serious matters. However, the case is different for other fans, and a tweet pointing out the issue received a lot of attention on international platform Twitter.
Netizens believes that SBS and the cast “should have known better“, especially after ‘Backstreet Rookie’ – a series from this very same broadcasting station, also faced similar accusations last year.
Black people themselves are also speaking up regarding the matter, and one also expressed disappointment, claiming that “The sadder part is that many of THESE actors from Penthouse are participating in #LiveTogether and #UnitedAgainstRacism?!“, which are human right movements that try to combat the prevalent issue of racism.
Here is the tweet.
These people are also claiming that they are not gatekeeping the culture, and would highly support K-dramas if they try to bring in black culture respectfully. As proof, they quoted ‘Start Up’, another popular K-drama that was praised for its use of black artworks last year.
In contrast, there are still people defending the series, claiming that copying a simple hairstyle is not the same as stealing from a culture. To them, Penthouse season 3 never meant anything harmful.
All in all, there are controversial ideas about what exactly is appropriate when trying to use elements from different cultures. Do you think Penthouse Season 3 deserve the backlash? Feel free to express your opinion in the comment section.
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