Dramacon 5: A Little Problematic

This one gets pretty heavy. Content warning here at the bottom of the page. Click here if you want it.

My original plan was to combine the final two chapters of Dramacon into one post, since they both cover the climax of the book. But in writing this post, it turns out there’s a lot to discuss, so I’ll just be sticking with the penultimate chapter here.

And what a climax it is.

Christie got a huge, much needed lift from meeting Lida Zeff, and it helped her enjoy the con a lot more. The night ends in a J-pop dance, which was also one of my favorite things to do at a con. Christie’s having so much, until Derek starts flirting with other girls in front of her again. She joins up with Matt’s friends instead, who she got to know over the course of the con.

Christie goes to speak with Matt, and this ends up happening:



I’ll admit it: I squealed when I read that the first time. And when I read it through again this time.

Yes, Christie is technically cheating, which is generally frowned upon. But because Derek has no redeeming qualities, I doubt anyone really cares. I certainly don’t. And while Matt has been rough around the edges, he at least tries to apologize and improve his behavior.

Derek catches them kissing, and back at the hotel he and Christie have an explosive fight. Christie stands up to him and doesn’t back down this time. Her courage isn’t rewarded, though. Drunk and infuriated, Derek attacks Christie and attempts to rape her.

Yeah, you read that right. Romantic comedy Dramacon, full of jokes and pop culture references, just had an attempted rape scene.

One of the reasons I was a little nervous to read Dramacon was because I really liked the series and I wanted to continue liking it. I’ve grown up a lot since I first read Dramacon, and my understanding of sexual assault has changed over the years.

I’ve written about other books that use sexual violence as a plot device in the past here. I’m still never sure how I feel about sexual assault in fiction in general. Personally, it’s not something I like to see in books and movies, but it’s something that unfortunately happens in real life. And art is supposed to reflect life, right? At the same time, it’s also supposed to be an escape from our everyday lives. Is there a middle ground between these two things? Does there need to be?

I’ve mentioned before that I personally feel that sexual assault in fiction needs to be handled carefully, and with purpose. If a character is assaulted, then it either needs to bring out something new in the character, add something to the plot, and not trivialize the survivor’s experience.

Christie does get away from Derek, but the scene is scary and tense. It doesn’t play into a common rape myth that rape is only perpetrated by strangers. In fact, most rape survivors know their assailant.

But Dramacon doesn’t do a great job dealing with the aftermath. There’s only one chapter after this, so we don’t see much of Christie’s long-term reaction. I always wondered if Derek and Christie go to the same school. Does she still have to see him every day, even after they broke up? Is she scared to change classes, knowing that she might see the man who hurt her in the hallways?

In the final book, two years after the events of the first, Christie sees Derek again. She’s stunned to see him and probably scared. To make the situation even worse, he’s with his pregnant fiancée.

Put yourself in Christie’s shoes for a minute. You’ve just seen your abusive ex with another woman. What do you say to your ex and their partner?

A couple years ago, I found myself with a chance to confront my emotionally abusive ex-boyfriend. And good God, I seized upon that chance. All the pain and anger inside me, all the damage inflicted on me came pouring out. I’d been a toy to him, but I made sure he knew how small and pathetic he was. If I had a chance to talk to his partner, I would sure as hell tried to warn them about who they were dating.

Christie doesn’t do any of that. She chat amiably with Derek’s fiancée and they even exchange emails. She just acts like nothing had happened. There’s no warning, just a joke about how Christie must have some stories about Derek when they were teenagers. This whole scene is so problematic for me.

Maybe this is to show that Christie’s matured, or forgiven Derek. It’s been two years, after all. But being assaulted doesn’t just go away in real life. Something like that can stay with you and follow you throughout your life, affecting your mental health, self-worth, and relationships for years to come.

Dramacon is a fun, light-hearted romantic comedy, so spending the rest of it watching Christie recover from trauma would be totally opposite from the tone of the series. Since it brings out nothing new in the character or story, this momentary dark shift is just unnecessary. We already knew Derek was a bad boyfriend. I don’t think that the story needed to go as dark as attempted rape for Christie to run away from him. If Chmakova wanted to show that Derek was violent, he could have hit Christie, or pulled her hair, like he does in the following chapter. Any sort of physical violence should have been enough to prompt Christie to run away from him, and trigger Matt to beat Derek to a pulp. All of this could have happened without creating a huge problem for readers like me, and the tone of the story as a whole.

National Sexual Assault Hotline (US): 1-800-656-4673
RAINN Resources for Sexual Assault Survivors and Their Loved Ones
Rape Crisis Network Europe

Content warning: Discussion of rape and sexual assault in fiction. No graphic descriptions or images.


Biggest Bullshit Moments in Snow Drop, Part 1

In my introductory post about Snow Drop, I described it as one of the most misguided comic series I’ve ever read. I already know I won’t be able to stomach re-reading the rest of the series, never mind blogging about each book. However, the fist volume only scratches the surface of all the melodrama to come. There’s so much crap in these books, I’ve decided to highlight some of the biggest instances of bullshit in the series.

Volume 2: Ha-Da Pursuing Ko-Mo

Ha-Da attempts to date Ko-Mo, and this doesn’t go very well for him. To begin with, no one – including So-Na, Hae-Gi, and Ko-Mo himself – tells Ha-Da that Ko-Mo’s male. Ko-Mo isn’t gay, either. Nor does he like being pursued by Ha-Da. Yet, Ko-Mo never tells Ha-Da that he’s a guy. As much as Ko-Mo tells Ha-Da to leave him alone, Ha-Da never takes the hint. Now, when someone tells you to stop doing something because they don’t like it, and you continue doing it, it’s called harassment. Ko-Mo finally puts a fucking KNIFE up to Ha-Da’s throat and mugs him to get him to back off.

He doesn’t.

Volume 3: So-Na Gets Roofied

At this point, So-Na has acquired a rival, Jin Sun-Mi. Sun-Mi is in love with Hae-Gi, but he’s dating So-Na. Sun-Mi decides to try to sabotage their relationship by drugging So-Na so she passes out in a storage shed at school. If that highly illegal and immoral behavior wasn’t bad enough, Sun-Mi has Ha-Da go to the storage shed as well, where he sees unconscious So-Na. He figures out that she’s been drugged, and that Sun-Mi was the culprit. Does he try to wake his best friend? Find help? Call the police? No. Instead, he kisses So-Na. This is meant to be romantic. Instead, the whole situation is disturbing as all hell, especially because Ha-Da knows that So-Na was kidnapped and molested when she was twelve.

What the fuck am I reading.

Moment of Redemption: Hae-Gi and So-Na’s date

Nothing is completely awful, though, and Snow Drop did have times that I really did enjoy, things that made me want to keep reading, despite all the bullshit going on. Here, Hae-Gi takes So-Na out on an impromptu date. She’s nervous to be alone in the dark with him at first, but comes to realize that she does trust him. They go to a park and stargaze, and So-Na lies down next to him, which is a big deal for her, even if she does panic. This scene also gives us the couple’s first real kiss. It’s a very tender scene, especially considering all they’ve been through to get to this point.

Volume 4: So-Na is Attacked and No One Believes Her

Trouble continues to brew when So-Na finds out that she finds out that she’s engaged to someone she’s never met, Hwi-Rim. Naturally, she objects to the prospect of arranged marriage, and especially to her fiance. It’s fair to say that she didn’t have the best first impression of him. Before So-Na and Hwi-Rim formally meet each other, he breaks into her room through her bedroom window, suggestion that they have a little “morning action”. So-Na throws a number of items to defend herself from him, including a stool, yet he never backs off. In fact, it looks like it’s a turn-on for him. By the time So-Na’s bodyguards arrive on the scene, he vanishes.

Later, So-Na’s father introduces her to Hwi-Rim, telling her that they are engaged now. So-Na tells everyone that he broke into her bedroom. Her bodyguards heard the commotion, and they even say there’s security tapes that could prove it was Hwi-Rim. Does her ever-loving father call off the engagement? Question Hwi-Rim’s character? Listen to his daughter? No. Instead he calls her a liar, and says she’s panicing because she doesn’t want to be married.

Also, how is Hwi-Rim staying in that tree? He has one leg supported by a branch, it looks like, but he’s not holding on to anything. He’s just sort of…hovering above it.

Volume 5:  A Failure to Communicate

The biggest bullshit moment is actually a little hard to find in this volume. Drama happens, of course, but nothing to the degree of the previous books in the series. In fact, So-Na and Hae-Gi come out triumphant in the face of adversity, for a change. But this is also the book where Ha-Da finds out that Ko-Mo is a man, even though they’ve started dating. Ko-Mo, by the way, still doesn’t like Ha-Da, but is using him to get information. What bugs me about this is So-Na knew that her best friend really liked Ko-Mo, but also that Ko-Mo is a guy. How hard would it have been for So-Na to tell Ha-Da that Ko-Mo’s a guy? Maybe she thought it was funny at first, but really…you dropped the ball on that one, So-Na.

But that’s not so bad. After the questionable (and illegal) behavior of the characters so far, this volume was exciting and more light-hearted than the previous four. If the rest of the series were more like this, I would probably like it a lot more. But that hope spot is short-lived, however, and I remember why this series is so fucked up…

Volume 6: Hwi-Rim Attempts to Rape So-Na

I don’t want to put up a picture of this. Here’s a picture of my dog instead.

This scene freaked me out when I read the series, and still puts me on edge today. Maybe even moreso now. It’s fucked that she’s engaged to this guy, and that no one who can do anything about it will listen to So-Na. She already hated this guy, and the audience already knew that he wasn’t above attacking So-Na…so why put this in? Just to show how depraved Hwi-Rim is, when we’ve already seen it? Hae-Gi at least beat Hwi-Rim to a pulp, but other than that, our villain doesn’t suffer any consequences after that. What’s even more disturbing is how So-Na, a couple books down the road, just seems to forget what Hwi-Rim tried to do to her.

Moment of Redemption: So-Na Stands Up to Her Father

Throughout the series, So-Na’s father is a bully. He verbally abuses and blackmails her, and hits her more than once in the series. He refuses to listen to any of her objections about her engagement to Hwi-Rim, which was arranged to set-up more funds going to his political party. Many times, he tells So-Na that she’s unable to live independently. During a party to celebrate So-Na’s and Hwi-Rim’s engagement, she tells him – and everyone else there – that she and Hwi-Rim will never be married. Her father says that everything she owns, even the clothes on her back, are from him, and she will never survive on her own. So-Na says, “Watch me, I don’t need anything from you!” takes off her dress, and storms out of the dinner in just her underwear. Yes, it’s over the top, but after all her dad’s put her through, I love how she blatantly defies him.

That last book got a bit heavy. Let me end with just one embarrassing story to make things a bit more cheerful around her.

Manga Will Ruin Your Life: So-Na Gets a Job

Remember when I said I didn’t want these books to find young, impressionable minds? This is the reason why. Out on her own, So-Na tries to get a job, and she only gets hired once she admits to her employer that she’s only in it for the money. Her boss tells her that’s the only reason why anyone works, and she should have just said that from the start. It turns out that this is actually pretty terrible advice.

 Eventually, I turned sixteen, and went to a local grocery store for my first-ever job interview. When the woman interviewing me asked why I wanted to work there, I replied, “I want money.” I thought she would appreciate my honesty. She didn’t.

I didn’t get the job. Thanks, Snow Drop.