"One day an ordinary college girl catches the eye of a gangster. Infatuated by the girl's beguiling smile as she looks up at her own boyfriend, the gangster suddenly rushes up to her and bombards her with kisses. Having been subject to unimaginable violence in public, the disgusted girl spits on her aggressor's face."
Such is the indiscriminate violence that constitutes the opening scene of film director Kim Ki Deok's new movie <Bad Guy>. The violence escalates to evil proportions as the bad guy Han Gi (played by Cho Jae Hyeon) forces the college girl Sun Hwa (played by Seo Won) into prostitution. It is his revenge for humiliating him in front of a crowd.
'Macho fantasy' portraying violence against women
Criticism against 'a society that accepts such violence so easily'
<Bad Guy> is a 'macho fantasy' movie that portrays the extreme violence against women that has been the recurring theme in the director's other movies, namely <Blue Gate>, <The Isle> and <Address Unknown>. The movie hinges on voyeurism - Han Gi watches Sun Hwa's body get battered through a one-way mirror - and pornography, weird forms of prostitution - Han Gi takes a willing Sun Hwa around on a truck in search of 'clients' - and a far-fetched plot that ends with the girl falling in love with the very man who tricked her into prostitution. Despite its blatantly violent and male-centered eroticism, the movie has won critical acclaim and favorable response from some movie watchers.
Why then do people have no problems accepting a movie that claims to have portrayed fate through the story of a woman falling in love with a man who subjects her to unspeakable violence?
Articles posted on Kim Ki Deok's web site shows how serious the problem is. "I don't think Kim's movie is perverted. I think his movies show things as blatantly as possible from Korean men's point of view. Until now, elite men couldn't express their thoughts because they were afraid of feminists. But Kim was honest enough to show that hidden side of men's nature, which is why his movies have won manias. He zoomed right into their fear of castration. There are women among those manias? Then those women are craving for the same power of dominance that men want." ('No different from gangster movies' - ianua)
The distorted view of sexuality in <Bad Guy> has come under growing criticism from part of the audience. Critics say that the worse thing is that society is accepting the violence against women portrayed in the movie as natural. Violent chauvinism has taken on dangerous proportions.
Internet users' heated criticism against <Bad Guy>
After The Women's News published an article criticizing the violence against women in <Bad Guy> (edition 660), a heated debate has been going on among Internet users regarding the controversial movie. When the director himself visited the chat room created on the newspaper's web site (www.womennews.co.kr) entitled 'Bad Guy Chat Room' to give users his own opinion, the on-line debate became a veritable furnace.
Writes Kim, "I guess I have been and always will be a bad director in the eyes of women film critics and women's rights activists standing at the center of Korean society." He goes on to say, "I sincerely hope that The Women's News continues to send criticism my way and be a newspaper that gives hope and courage to the many women out there living happy and honest lives. But there's one thing about the newspaper that's disappointing. I can deal with your criticism about my movies, but did you, as fellow women, have to do that cruel interview with my leading actress Seo Won?" To which an Internet user going by the ID 'Gumeong' replied, "Who says we are at the center of Korean society? If you as the director say that you are in the sidelines, what does that make women like me? And who was the one that was really cruel to actress Seo Won?"
"Bad Guy Chat Room" is filled with other comments such as "Let's see what Director Kim has to say when he has a daughter of his own," "Kim is an artist who thinks nothing of his own cruelty but objects to violence only when he needs to rationalize his actions," and "Let's make a parody out of <Bad Guy>."
Most of the visitors to the chat room say they find it difficult to understand Kim's movies and wonder why he is considered an artist. ("People should refuse to watch his movies. The picture may look good, but the scenario is plain old-fashioned chauvinism. The erotic movies of the 80s are better than that. Why do critics of the 21st century give him such credit?" -qai)
In a web community in Chollian, a member suggests launching the "Two Egg Campaign." The campaign consists of throwing two eggs at the director. "One egg should be raw, to embarrass him. The other should be hard-boiled, to give him physical pain. He needs to feel the same things I felt while I was watching his movie."
Another Internet site dedicated to criticizing Kim is drawing attention thanks to an article contributed by Asura, who claims that The Women's News is too lenient on the director. According to Asura, "you can't just use words to admonish a thug coming at you with a knife."
Asura uses strong language to criticize the director, saying, "Anybody can make his kind of movies. It's just that they can't bear to do it. Because ethics and conscience comes before esthetic achievements and box office hits, and because we have to conform to the social limits set by our ethics and conscience. Kim is … a retard who is so lacking in social conscience that he can make movies out of his baser instincts and to hell with social limits."
<Bad Guy> is currently doing well in the box office despite criticism from women groups. Despite being well aware that criticism, no matter how unfavorable, can help publicize a movie, The Women's News criticized the movie anyway, to show that there are voices resisting the extreme sadism and male chauvinism expressed in the movie. But the 'shrine of Kim Ki Deok-style art' created by movie critics today seems as impenetrable as this society's 'patriarchy.'