I like this writer. A bit heavy handed? Eeeh, sometimes. Wonderfully funny and full of heart? Definitely. I’ve seen both Pinocchio and her earlier work focusing on a similar topic I Hear Your Voice, but I have to say that of the two, Pinocchio stole my heart the most. In short this drama gets a 4/5 in plot, a 5/5 on characters and 5/5 on philosophy–blunt it may be, but valuable it remains. I’d recommend it to someone who’s new(er) to kdrama, wants to see the good-bad-ugly of family relationships, is idealistic about honesty or just wants more Lee Jong-Suk in their life. (Hint: that’s everyone.)
NOTE: * words means I’m referencing specific events that would spoil the show, imo. they’re elaborated upon at the end of the review.
Themes/Questions: It’s better to know the truth; What role should the media play; Ohana means family; Hierarchy of Truth
Official Pinocchio SBS poster from: asianwiki
Ha-Myeong’s father was killed in a fire when he was young and posthumously received the blame. This led to the disintegration of his family, largely at the hands of malicious reporters. Ha-Myeong ends up living with Choi In-ha and her family under a new name, Choi Dal-po. In-ha is a “Pinocchio” and can only tell the truth (or she can’t stop hicupping). Life for young Dal-po seems to finally be on the rise–until he learns that In-ha’s mother is the reporter responsible for his father’s infamy. Years later, they both enter the news industry in pursuit of the truth.
My Thoughts: Ok, so the premise feels a bit confusing on paper. But the drama behind it is so worth it. First of all, let’s start with the fluffy. In-ha and Dal-po’s romance represents kdrama love at its finest. It’s innocent but intense, clean but deep and passionate. Pick your relationship goals–they’ve met them. I luff them. Now on to the meatier stuff.
Obviously the show places an importance on telling the truth–one of its main characters cannot stop hiccuping until she tells it, for goodness’ sake! But the show also makes a nod to acknowledge incomplete information as a sort of truth*. If you do not know the entire situation, you can mislead someone without actually lying. You didn’t know any better, that’s all. The truth (small t) we speak depends upon our frame of reference–but Truth is not relative. There is only one Truth, and that’s why it’s so important to know the entire situation before making a judgement call.
Pinocchio adds a kdrama’s perspective to what role the media ought to play in our lives. In our globalized, modernized society, finding the truth of a situation can be nigh on impossible. Every station, every magazine or paper seems to run an angle. Important information is often edited or left out and the context a quote is given changes its entire meaning. A recurring theme of the show is fact checking–the media should never put out a story until everything in it can be verified as fact. No spin, just what happened. If an angle hasn’t been looked into because it doesn’t fit the desired truth, it’s not good news.
Another major theme is that of a hierarchy of truth. Some information is obviously more important that others, and different characters make that point through their analogies or personal experience*. This same hierarchy lends insight to the moral hierarchy. Is one sin worse than another? Is one lie worse than another? Well, both an unimportant truth and and important truth are still Truth. So by the same token, a lie is a lie no matter how small. Saying it’s a less important lie than another doesn’t justify it, just makes it less impactful. In-ha’s gonna hiccup for a lie, period. But can some lies be worse than others? Definitely.
I’ve read the recaps for the series on Dramabeans–many times over, they’re really good–but I have to disagree with their views of the first and second story arcs*. I do understand how the first might feel more impactful via proximity, but I love that by introducing another arc the audience really got to feel the endurance of the characters’ ideals.
And finally, the ending. Throughout the show there are beats on the importance of family, but the last episode really drives it home*. I love this family to bits and pieces, from their loyalty to their hilarity to their everyday actions. They added buckets to a drama that was already good, and made the whole thing wonderful.
*WARNING: HERE THERE BE SPOILERS*
Pinocchio promotional pic SBS from: asianwiki
*Incomplete Information as Truth: the first time Dal-po realizes how dangerous a Pinocchio can be is when one testifies his father is still alive. He swears he saw the presumably dead firefighter walking down the street, and this leads to a whole slew of accusations against young Dal-po’s family. Of course, his father wasn’t actually alive and the media had been led astray–but the Pinocchio hadn’t hiccuped, because so far as he knew he had told the truth.
*Hierarchy of Truth examples: Dal-po’s analogy of the concert tickets and cancer demonstrates brilliantly the hierarchy of truth. Of course knowing you have cancer must come first, before the fact you got concert tickets. Are they both true? Sure. Is one more important? Definitely. Same with Yoo-rae’s “exciting new take” on the Chairwoman’s arrest. Were the facts she’d collected about the woman’s outfit truth? Yes. Were they as important as the fact she was under suspicion for corruption and avoiding arrest? No.
*First and Second Story arcs: The first arc mostly concerns Dal-po’s brother turning himself in for the three murders he commits. This obviously has a higher emotional impact for the characters as Dal-po finds himself torn by his love for his brother. Choosing to ask him to turn himself in puts Dal-po through the furnace and solidifies his beliefs about the truth and its importance. But his real loyalty to those beliefs isn’t shown until later–when he has less personal investment in the arc (the corruption of a friend’s company) and still chooses to follow his ideals. At that point the writer drives home her point: these truths aren’t for one situation, a special circumstance where the people in it are all emotionally involved. They are for all situations, ever. I deepened the philosophy for me to know it wasn’t reliant on people for its value.
*The importance of family: Dal-po and In-ha love each other, and each has had to reconcile that with the fact that on paper they are uncle and niece. After everything they’ve fought to be together, however, they decide to surrender willingly in the face of an opponent they love more than anything: their father figure/grandfather.
Thanks for Reading,
Pinocchio still from: fanpop, you can watch it on viki.
Featured image Pinocchio SBS poster from: Karasuji