Transcultural Adaptation of Feature Films: South Korea’s My Sassy Girl and its Remakes

Transcultural Adaptation of Feature Films: South Korea’s My Sassy Girl and its Remakes Abstract The South Korean romantic comedy My Sassy Girl achieved major box office success at home and throughout East and Southeast Asia, and its success has prompted adaptations in several countries. The adaptations reproduce the film’s romance formula but vary the components to accord with local culture and conventions. East Asian adaptations may draw upon other variants of the film’s main folktale pretext, which audiences may recognise. In contrast, the tale disappears from remakes in cultures where it is not known. A core thematic concern of My Sassy Girl is cultural stereotyping of gender roles. The affect scripts and schemas associated with masculinity and femininity within the culture are evoked, and in turn evoke comparable scripts and schemas in adapting cultures. The disinhibiting behaviour engaged in by the female protagonist, prompted by alcohol, depression, and bereavement, enable a carnivalesque ‘time out’ in the first half of the film and challenge the inhibitory regulation of gendered behaviour. However, in the original and its remakes the ‘girl’ always returns to a femininity more conventional within her culture. My Sassy Girl questions this return to docility by means of a metacinematic mode that is reproduced in most transcultural adaptations: the self-conscious display of the constructedness of cinematic genres, devices and conventions suggests that the outcome is the product of a cultural assumption which requires female rebelliousness to give way to social normality. Metacinema thus reminds viewers that the pleasure of the ending is a constructed effect of which viewers should remain aware. Box office hits produced in East Asia, especially in South Korea and Japan, have proved attractive for adaptation to other East Asian countries, to the Hollywood mainstream and, to a lesser extent, to Bollywood. The attraction lies in several aspects, but primarily cross-border adaptations are largely analogous to what Rick Altman describes as a ‘producer’s genre’: a successful film is identified and analysed to discover what made it successful, and then a new film is made ‘stressing the assumed formula for success’ (38). In the case of film adaptations, the new film remains a version of the original which has been relocated to a different culture and which aspires to preserve the core elements that made the original so successful, but there are major cultural and aesthetic challenges involved. One of the most adapted Asian films in the early twenty-first century has been Yeopgijeogin geunyeo/My Sassy Girl (2001), a renowned ‘pan-Asian hit Korean romantic comedy’ (Lee 2012, 83).1 When it was released locally in South Korea, the box office success of My Sassy Girl exceeded that of Titanic, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. It went on to attract large audiences across East and Southeast Asia, with subsequent remakes in film and television drama in countries which include Japan, Hong Kong, India, and the USA.2 Remakes continue to be produced up to the present time (2017). The original film is a reworking of the simple romance pattern of meeting, bonding, separation, and eventual reunion. Gyeonu, an awkward and inept young man, has a chance encounter with a drunk girl on a railway platform and takes responsibility for her. They subsequently meet from time to time and form a platonic bond, and even though The Girl is subject to severe mood swings and asks Gyeonu to perform unreasonable and embarrassing acts, he remains tolerant and supportive. The Girl is suffering the trauma of bereavement following the death of her fiancé, however, and, feeling guilty about her growing affection for Gyeonu, asks for a two-year separation. She then fails to turn up at the agreed time and meeting place, but after a further year they are accidently brought together by Gyeonu’s aunt, who is also the mother of the dead beloved. The structure and many particular schemas of the original film constitute a pattern which has formed the basis of all adaptations. A film’s local or regional success may depend largely on its representations of familiar cultural elements (folktales, social practices), on local developments in recognizable genres, and on local narrative forms and conventions. Little or none of this will make ready sense to audiences in more distant cultures, so transcultural adaptation may involve a stripping out of local components and, in general, substitution of some equivalent material and conventions. What is done with the source film may also depend on the degree of its box office success in the adapting culture. My Sassy Girl was not only the most successful comedy in South Korean film history, but drew large audiences in, particularly, Japan, China (via DVD), Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Nepal. An implication of this success for the process of adaptation is that the film makers can not only assume an eager, or at least curious, audience for a new version, but can engage their audiences in a playful dialogue between the versions. Thus a favourite incident in the original may be alluded to obliquely or given an unexpected twist, so the audience experiences both the pleasure of recognition and an appreciation of the play of difference. Possible audience familiarity with the pre-text is exploited to great effect in the Hong Kong adaptation, My Sassy Girl 2, which invites its audience to engage with its ebullient comedy in multiple ways, including (mis-)quotations from My Sassy Girl. For example, early in the film the male protagonist, Jianyu, makes a comically inept attempt at suicide beneath a tree which is a visual allusion to the tree under which the lovers in My Sassy Girl had arranged to meet but failed to do so. Likewise, the Japanese TV series, Ryokiteki na Kanojo (My Sassy Girl [J]) assumes that many viewers will recognize elements of the original film. It too refers to the trysting tree, but introduces a second tree, so that the lovers do attempt to meet but wait at different trees. In contrast, adaptations from India Ugly aur Pagli (Ugly and Crazy) and the USA (My Sassy Girl [US]) assume no prior knowledge and tend to replicate components of the source film more closely even while attempting to naturalise the adaptation in their respective Mumbai and New York settings. When the female protagonist (‘The Girl’) first appears in My Sassy Girl, her behaviour is disinhibiting, in contravention of traditional conceptions of femininity, and the mode of the first half of the film is carnivalesque. The adaptations necessarily retain elements of her disinhibiting behaviour, but also follow the original film’s narrative arc which brings the character into accord with a compliant and submissive femininity more acceptable within all cultures concerned. The apparent failure of the narrated challenge to the inhibitory regulation of gendered behaviour might prove disappointing to segments of the audience, but My Sassy Girl counters this outcome by a pervasive metacinematic element which highlights the constructedness of film genres and the tendency for endings to conform to common cultural assumptions. This metacinematic mode is reproduced in most of the transcultural adaptations. STEREOTYPES, SCRIPTS, AND SCHEMAS A core thematic concern of My Sassy Girl is cultural stereotyping of gender roles, and this concern in turn poses a major challenge for adaptations. A function of the opening sequence of My Sassy Girl is to instantiate several of what Hermann Kappelhoff and Sarah Greifenstein refer to as the ‘schemata [aka schemas] and affect scripts of everyday perception’ (187). Visual and attitudinal schemas for masculinity and femininity here interact within a series of scripts (or ‘narrative schemas’) which constitute a site for dialogue among those gender image schemas. Because a schema is a mental structure or model stored in the memory and used to identify and understand some aspect of the material and social world, it is malleable and updated continuously, so fictional narratives often strive to intervene to modify commonly held schemas. A script, which consists of a narrative sequence, is similar to a schema in that both consist of essential and optional components, and either can be instantiated by invoking one or more of the essential components.3 A script in this sense is different from a film script, since scripts apply in everyday life as well as in folktales and creative narratives of all genres. A text, especially when it has a folktale grounding, may be informed by a familiar narrative prototype, such as a sequence consisting of a chance meeting of two people, a consequent love relationship, an unhappy separation, and a final reunion. The elaboration of the prototype will involve choices amongst possible variants, but the coexistence of multiple story and character possibilities, for example, creates the range of options which are loosely imbricated within, or may be added to, a script. Adaptations may thus be based not only on a specific, recognizable pre-text but also on the fluid script evolved from other retellings of a tale and from several variants of a tale or tale type. Gender roles may have been structurally embedded in the script for centuries and persist as a trace in modern retellings, as is the case with My Sassy Girl, which alludes to two folktales still well-known in Korea, ‘Gyeonu and Jiknyeo’ and ‘Fool Ondal and Princess Pyeonggang’.4 The first tale, which furnishes the bulk of the folktale structure and motifs, belongs to a sub-set of the ‘Otherworldly Maiden’ tale type which is found throughout East Asia. This tale type ultimately derives from a Chinese legend, ‘Dong Yong and the Weaving Maiden’ and its close analogue, ‘The Buffalo Boy and the Weaving Maiden’, which have existed with multiple variants for around 2500 years, and which spread not only to Korea but also further east to Japan, where it is known as ‘Tanabata’, and south to Vietnam, under the title Thâ′t Tịch (Night of Sevens). The prominence of analogous scripts in these neighbouring countries, especially China and Japan, is likely to have contributed to the great box office success My Sassy Girl enjoyed across the region. The essential form of ‘The Legend of Dong Yong and the Weaving Maiden’ is as follows: When his father died, Dong Yong was so poor that he sold himself into servitude to raise money for a proper funeral. After the funeral he set out for the house of his new master, and while on the road met a beautiful young woman under the shade of a scholar tree [Sophora japonica]. She offered to be his wife, and together they went to the master’s house. She asked what was needed to release Dong Yong from his debt, and the master ordered her to weave three hundred bolts of double-threaded silk. She completed the task within a single month, and Dong Yong was freed. When on the way back home they arrived at the scholar tree, the woman said goodbye to Dong Yong and disappeared. She was a supernatural being sent by heaven to reward his filial piety. Numerous versions of the tale are set out by Wilt L. Idema in Filial Piety and Its Divine Rewards: The Legend of Dong Yong and Weaving Maiden with Related Texts (2009). The tale accrues many other features and takes many forms, but the most basic script beneath all embellishments consists of four components: The male protagonist is poor, but diligent and hard-working. He acquires a supernatural being as a wife. Through her consummate weaving skills the wife earns a lot of money. After some time she leaves her husband and returns to the heavens. Retellings of the tale may modify any or all of these four components: for example, in versions which are not primarily fables about filial piety the separation of husband and wife may be a punishment. Thus in the version known as ‘Cowherd and Weaving Maid’, the couple is separated because they take such delight in one another that they neglect their duties. They are then separated by the ‘river’ of the Milky Way and are allowed to meet once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, when magpies come together to form a bridge across the celestial river.5 This outcome is a common variant in adaptations of the Korean tale, ‘Gyeonu and Jiknyeo’ (the characters’ names mean, respectively, ‘cowherd’ and ‘weaving maid’). MY SASSY GIRL AND ITS ADAPTED SOURCES Set in contemporary Seoul, My Sassy Girl depicts an unstable, off-on, unconsummated relationship between Gyeonu, an engineering student, and an unnamed young woman (‘The Girl’). Although it is not an overt folktale adaptation, the film’s narrative arc parallels that of ‘Gyeonu and Jiknyeo’ while drawing on versions of ‘The Heavenly Maiden and the Woodcutter’ (Korea) and ‘The Buffalo Boy and the Weaving Maiden’ (China). However, all four components of the basic script are inverted: Gyeonu is indolent, not industrious; The Girl is not submissive but troublesome and sometimes violent; her creative talent is mediocre; and after separating they are more permanently reunited. Audiences are cued to look for connections from the beginning of the film because the male protagonist has the same name as the Korean folktale character and in an opening vignette from his childhood his mother is shown dragging him into a public bath-house with the title ‘Weaver Girl Bath-house’ (Jiknyeo tang) over the door. The bath motif is not found in ‘Gyeonu and Jiknyeo’, however, but has been taken from ‘The Heavenly Maiden and the Woodcutter’, in which a kind deed performed by the eponymous protagonist is rewarded with information about the location of a mountain pool to which heavenly maidens descend to bathe. Having stolen the clothing of one of the maidens, the woodcutter is able to compel her to remain and become his wife, until she eventually finds her clothes and returns to the heavens. The film thus works with a recognizable script, but embraces multiple intertextual folktale referents. Numerous motifs from the folktales appear in contemporary transformations, and audiences are, in effect, invited to play a recognition game as they view the film. The bathing pool is given another unusual twist when Gyeonu carries The Girl, hopelessly drunk and unconscious, to a hotel. While he is still naked after taking a shower to wash away his sweat and her vomit, two female police officers burst in and arrest him for abducting her. Such refashioning of motifs is only evident in a culture familiar with the folktale, so is elsewhere only reproduced in the Japanese TV series and the 2017 South Korean series. The Hong Kong Sassy Girl 2 (2010) makes a different joke—hired as the sassy girl’s resident maid, male protagonist Jianyu is compelled to sleep in the bath. In other transformations The Girl is depicted as an aspiring writer, rather than a weaver; the Sophora japonica is reflected in several works; and the Milky Way is imaged as various geographical features. While it may not matter if some of these motifs pass unrecognized, they are a part of the metacinematic mode that appears in most of these works. Metacinema—otherwise known as ‘reflexivity’ (Stam 255–58; Ames 6–11; Wray 172)—refers to a self-conscious display of the constructedness of cinema, especially of its structures, devices, and conventions. It disrupts the certainty of interpretation and the teleology of narrative by implying that outcomes may be the product of a discernible pattern, but the pattern is manifestly invented. If this mode is not perceived the genre of the film will be understood as, perhaps, melodramatic realism, as seems the case with the Hollywood adaptation. Rayna Denison has commented on other metacinematic qualities in the original My Sassy Girl, especially in the ‘metaphors of mediation and re-mediation’ in comedic retellings of Hollywood and local hit films and parodies of popular Korean melodramas, martial arts films, and teen dramas. Denison concludes that ‘the adaptation process produces a palimpsest of intertextual references that requires a knowledge not just of local cinema and television, but of wider cinema contexts’ (109). The adaptation process thus draws attention to itself as adaptation. The most overt response to the film’s metacinema appears in the 2017 television period drama series My Sassy Girl [K2], an adaptation within the same culture but useful to discuss here because of its implications for adaptation studies. The series well exemplifies Constantine Verevis’s principle that remakes coexist as new versions or variations that actualize a potentiality implicit in the source text(s) (2016, 1). One of over sixty film or television productions set during the Joseon Dynasty (1392–1897), the series builds on the propensity for parody and pastiche in the original My Sassy Girl to create an outrageous mashup of South Korean films and drama series. From its opening scenes in which Gyeonu, now presented as a famous young scholar, is depicted wearing anachronistic sunglasses and pursued by a horde of female groupies, as might befall the actor, Ju Won, in real life, the series constantly breaks the frame of cinematic illusion. The opening episodes assume the audience’s familiarity with the 2001 film and accumulate multiple jokes through the transposition of the story to a premodern era. Despite its audience-attracting title, however, the sixteen-hour series is not an extended adaptation of the original film, but a blending of it with the ‘palace intrigue’ script of the ‘Joseon’ historical narratives mixed with allusions to other series and, again anachronistically, to contemporary events. These allusions range from the pan-Asian hit series Dae Jang Geum (aka Jewel in the Palace, 2003), series set in the contemporary era such as Lovers in Paris (2004), and even the assassination at the beginning of 2017 of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Audiences are thus expected to have both a detailed particular knowledge of precursor texts or a less specific familiarity with scripts and schemas (see Verevis 143). Many of the narrative clichés of TV dramas are parodied: for example, retrograde amnesia (a stock motif), reunion of long separated parent and child, and Confucian rules for female obedience. Late in the series, Ju Won (Gyeonu) demonstrates a different type of intertextuality—same actor, similar role—when he reprises his leading role in the alternative history series Gaksital (Bridal Mask, 2012) by donning a mask visually evocative of the mask which gives the title to the earlier series. From our perspective for this study, however, the series as postmodern mashup does not engage deeply with the folktale sources. An incident which draws Gyeonu and the heroine, Hye-Myeong, into contact and conflict is that she dropped a jade ring at their initial meeting, and he picked it up and subsequently mislaid it. Some viewers will recognize that the incident is a transformation of the stolen clothes in ‘The Heavenly Maiden and the Woodcutter’. In contrast, in the earlier Hong Kong and Japanese adaptations the status of the folktale motifs seems foregrounded by the extent to which they are reproduced and by the effect of their absence from the American and Indian adaptations. Gyeonu’s lack of diligence is not just an inversion of the behaviour of the folktale cowherd, but a link to the second main folktale adapted in the film, ‘Fool Ondal and Princess Pyeonggang’. In this tale, the princess is repeatedly threatened by her father that he will marry her off to Ondal the Fool, an impoverished uneducated peasant who lives in a hovel with his mother. When Pyeonggang reached marriageable age, she refuses the marriages proposed by her father and insists she has been promised to Ondal. Her father disowns her, so she takes her valuables and goes to Ondal’s house and persuades him to marry her. By means of her wisdom and judicious use of her money, she educates Ondal and makes him rich and esteemed for his martial prowess. My Sassy Girl handles the Ondal-script very obliquely, depicting Gyeonu’s education in two phases: first, he develops emotional maturity by learning to empathize with The Girl and to tolerate her erratic behaviour; second, during the two years of their separation he masters physical skills such as swimming and kendo and becomes a film writer through describing their time together in an online blog (reflexively, his first film script is, of course, My Sassy Girl). ‘Fool Ondal and Princess Pyeonggang’ is not known outside Korea, but as a tale type it readily aligns with a broad cinderlad script whereby a gauche and indolent young man matures into a successful adult. This pattern is clearly demonstrated by Kabir (Ugly and Crazy), Charlie (My Sassy Girl [US]) and, with a stronger emphasis on developing a capacity for empathy, Saburo in My Sassy Girl [J]. Princess Pyeonggang offers an important pre-text for the bundle, in that her assertion of her agency and her ability to change her world overturns the assumptions of the Confucian precepts that have shaped Korean social attitudes for centuries. She is, as it were, the original Korean sassy girl. THWARTED REUNIONS: THE GIRL’S RETURN TO THE TRYSTINGTREE The self-reflexive blending of diverse sources within a script often entails a significant increase in playfulness in the form of parodic and metacinematic adaptations. A type of comic action which originates in anarchy and disruption (King 8) becomes foregrounded as comedic retellings disrupt familiar scripts and forms and create a dialogue between recognition and defamiliarization. An audience thus derives transgressive pleasure from rethinking the relationships of canonical texts to social ideology and practice, such that closure as a movement toward harmony and integration (King 8) may be identified as an overt textual construct and the teleology of the text is thereby exposed for scrutiny (Stephens and Geerts 195). In My Sassy Girl, the separation of Gyeonu and The Girl is marked by burial beneath a special tree (symbolically the Sophora japonica under which Dong Yong and the Maiden had met and parted) of a time capsule containing letters each has written, to be read when they meet again at the tree after two years. The Girl fails to keep the appointment, however, and in a series of dissolve scenes, which by cinematic convention indicate a passage of time, Gyeonu is depicted visiting the tree repeatedly. Eventually, the camera moves to a closer view of the tree and tracks down to show an old man sitting against the trunk. Viewers have no choice but to conclude this man is Gyeonu, maintaining his lonely vigil on the bank of the celestial river.5 But almost immediately The Girl, unchanged, walks up to the tree; the old man stares at her, and then apologizes for staring, excusing himself by saying that he had thought she was a heavenly maiden who had just descended. In a brief conversation, he discloses that he has read the letters, that the tree had been destroyed by lightning and Gyeonu had replaced it, and advises her not to leave things to chance but to search for Gyeonu, for one must ‘build a bridge to the one you love’—as Gyeonu had done by replacing the tree. He then leaves, she reads the letter, weeping, and as she gazes across the landscape (the celestial river) she sees a UFO cross the sky, bank, and disappear. The episode is complex and tantalising in its disruptive adaptation of elements from ‘Gyeonu and Jiknyeo’ and its introduction of characteristic magical realist elements (Faris 10, 17, 193) such as the intrusion of fantastic elements, disruption of the logic of narrative cause and effect, and the hesitation over the identity of the old man. When Gyeonu and The Girl are finally reunited she confirms her realization that the old man was Gyeonu from the future. Director Gwak Jae-Yong subsequently returns to the theme of time travel in Cyborg She (2008), the final film in his ‘Sassy Girl’ trilogy (My Sassy Girl, Windstruck [2004] and Cyborg She). In the later film he further sets aside the narrative convention that a traveller in time cannot act upon the past to change the future.6 In the earlier film, in contrast, the motif is contextualized by a frame-breaking metacinematic voice-over in which Gyeonu affirms that the ending is too pat and over dependent on coincidence. This self-reflexive element is a challenge for subsequent adapters. The episode of The Girl at the tree playfully adapts key motifs from its folktale pretexts in order to construct a subtle take on the question of the relationship between agency and cathexis. The reason for The Girl’s wayward and erratic behaviour, only revealed in the letter buried in the time capsule, is her grief over a boyfriend who committed suicide. By the time of her return to the tree, she is finally ready to move on with her life. The scene is replicated in the Japanese and USA adaptations, with the latter retaining more of the story line and the former developing a verbal and visual reference to the folktale ‘Tanabata’, the local analogue of ‘Cowherd and Weaving Maiden’. ‘Tanabata’ denies agency to the characters because they focus inwardly on their love, but in the TV series their separation occurs because Saburo, the male, is not unconditionally committed. As in My Sassy Girl and all the transcultural adaptations discussed here, Riko is an aspiring writer (a modern substitution for a weaver) and when she is offered an assignment to spend a year in Africa to write about what she experiences, Saburo encourages her to go, but refuses to go with her because of his university teaching/research position and because he wants to commit himself to helping his childhood friend Minami to recover from physical injuries she sustained when mugged by thieves. Riko’s grief for her missing lover has been resolved previously when Saburo discovers him dying in a hospice, and Riko can find some closure. This shift is part of a revised context for her return to the tree. Unlike all other adaptations of My Sassy Girl, Riko writes a very successful book, but on her return to Japan her meeting with Saburo fails to eventuate. In the original film and all adaptations, the couple’s first encounter is when Gyeonu prevents The Girl from falling in front of an oncoming train. In the TV series, this moment is reprised when Riko now catches Saburo when he stumbles at the edge of the platform and is about to fall. Angry because she thinks he failed to turn up at the trysting tree, she insists she doesn’t know him and later leaves a message on his phone to say she doesn’t want to see him again. Japanese narrative is apt to progress by juxtapositions and leave many hiatuses, and this kind of structure is evident in the final sequences of this series. Why Riko immediately returns to the tree is not explained, but the strategy employed functions to develop what Keith Oatley refers to as metonymic juxtaposition (277). Metonymic juxtapositions can occur within an image or be effected by cutting from one image to the next or by dissolves (see Figure 1). In the close of the tree episode in My Sassy Girl, the camera is behind The Girl as she gazes across the river at the distant shore (metonymically, across the Milky Way), while the soundtrack has moved on to an ‘Out of Service’ telephone recording; during the message, the visual image dissolves to a close up of The Girl’s tear-stained face (an obvious metonym of grief). The episode in the Japanese adaptation begins with an image of Saburo sitting in deep desolation on the balcony of what used to be Riko’s studio apartment juxtaposed, via a dissolve, with an image of Riko walking up the path to the tree. The episode at the tree is very brief: the old man appears and points out that there are two cliffs separated by a bay, and they are known as Lovers’ Cape, which reiterates a name painted on a post shown at the beginning of the scene. As Riko gazes across the water towards the misty cliff opposite the camera is also positioned behind her so that the name Lovers’ Cape and the visual image strongly evoke Tanabata and the dividing Milky Way. Both scenes thus use metonymic juxtaposition to express metonymies of separation, loss, loneliness and grief. Figure 1. View largeDownload slide Metonymic juxtapositions. Left: My Sassy Girl (Director’s Cut), dir. Gwak Jae-Yong, prod. Shin Cheol, Shin Cine Communications, 2001; Right: Ryokiteki na Kanojo (My Sassy Girl [J], dir. Doi Nobuhiro (this episode), prod. Iyoda Hidenori, TBS Television, 2008. Final episode. Figure 1. View largeDownload slide Metonymic juxtapositions. Left: My Sassy Girl (Director’s Cut), dir. Gwak Jae-Yong, prod. Shin Cheol, Shin Cine Communications, 2001; Right: Ryokiteki na Kanojo (My Sassy Girl [J], dir. Doi Nobuhiro (this episode), prod. Iyoda Hidenori, TBS Television, 2008. Final episode. The emotional closeness of My Sassy Girl and its adaptation in this scene may indicate that, while transcultural adaptations might be expected to exhibit cultural variations in displays of emotion, more cognate cultures such as Korea and Japan are apt to show less variation. As Mesquita and Frijda argue, a schema for an event such as a bereavement implies the recognition of a particular, culturally shared meaning to events of that type (180). Further, they point to research which suggests that, ‘by and large, certain kinds of events elicit emotions in widely different cultures and that they tend to elicit the same emotions in these different cultures’ (181). There are, of course, wide variations within an individual culture, but cinematic representation is apt to offer viewers a familiar schema as a ground and familiar techniques, and the ‘same’ scene may produce a different affect. The American adaptation also retains the scene in which the girl (here ‘Jordan’) returns to the tree. It follows immediately from the scene in which the boy (‘Charlie’) reads the letter, and is linked by a dissolve from a close up of Charlie’s face to a close up of the old man’s face. The technique again seems to invoke the convention that a dissolve denotes a passage of time and viewers will momentarily assume that fifty years have passed and Charlie has grown older. The connection seems no more than a light-hearted teasing of the audience, however, and is dispersed by the old man’s apology for staring at Jordan and his assertion that old age brings licence and release from inhibition. Disinhibition is a significant theme in most of the texts, but is only a transient flicker at this moment. The scene is set in New York’s Central Park in a small hollow. Around are leafless trees, with passing traffic visible behind the trees, and the whole framed by tall buildings. There are no vistas, as in the other texts, and much of the scene consists of shot-reverse shot dialogue, in combination with extensive use of close-ups and low angle photography, in which the two characters argue about the relationship between destiny, agency and cathexis. In principle, the use of close-up—or what Carl Plantinga refers to as ‘the scene of empathy’ (101)—could replicate the level of affect achieved in the pre-text. Plantinga points to moments when ‘the camera lingers in close-up on the face of the protagonist under duress’, and suggests this is apt to happen after viewers have had time to develop a strong allegiance with the character. Emotion might then be elicited in viewers ‘through processes such as facial feedback, affective mimicry, and emotional contagion’ (101). In this scene, however, the performances are too unmodulated and the dialogue too banal to elicit emotion: Jordan: If he and I were meant to be together, I would have been healed by yesterday. Man: What kind of nonsense is that? Yesterday was one day ago—your healing was off by one day. Jordan: One very important day. Destiny has spoken … and to search for him would be like trying to mould and shape destiny and that just can’t be a good idea. Man: Just suppose that the shaping and moulding of destiny is in fact your destiny. Jordan: Huh … I never thought about it like that. It is difficult to empathize with a character who is asked to speak so portentously. The dialogue is structured cohesively, but this only serves to foreground the banality of the logic and the failure of the adaptation to find a strong equivalent for the original material. Central Park would not be a good location in which to evoke the vast space of separation in ‘Gyeonu and Jiknyeo’ or its analogues, but the folktale is in any case not accessible to adapters or audience. If it were, it could have been blended with or replaced by one of the otherworldly maiden analogues that do exist in Western folktale, such as stories of swan maidens, mermaids, or selkies. As Katrina Gutierrez explains, Eastern and Western versions of Otherworldly Maiden tales constitute an example of a global tale type and make use of symbols and images shared by a significant number of cultures. Versions of the tale can be connected by similarities in scripts, schemas, metaphors or functions, but the overarching script remains subject to modification by local scripts (22). Lacking the cultural resonance imparted by the folktale and choosing to film the tree episode in close-up in a confined space, the American film foregoes the possibility of effective visual metonymy and settles for visual memory as Jordan recalls a series of moments spent with Charlie. SCRIPT AND METACINEMA The American adaptation also departs from My Sassy Girl and differs from other adaptations by omitting the playful metacinematic elements which are a marked feature of My Sassy Girl, evident in the cinema release version and a little more pronounced in the Director’s Cut, where, for example, a sudden introduction of fast motion will produce a comic effect and disrupt quotidian realism. The film uses its metacinema to remind viewers that our alignment with the main characters is a constructed effect, which we can enjoy even as we are aware of its constructedness. Self-reflexivity for a comic effect is also a feature of the Hong Kong and Japanese adaptations, and is reproduced to some extent in Ugly and Crazy. Metacinema is most obviously apparent in My Sassy Girl in the writing of film scripts: in her aspiration to be a screen writer, The Girl writes two genre scripts—a futuristic thriller and a samurai adventure—and improvises a third, an absurd ending grafted onto ‘The Shower’, a romantic tragedy which is a classic of Korean literature. Each is embedded within the narrative with The Girl and Gyeonu in the major roles—she as the hero and he as victim or villain. They are conventional and clichéd, and as a result quite funny, but also act as a commentary on the functions of schemas, scripts, and metonymies in the production of film narrative. In her ‘samurai’ story, for example, a duel is fought in heavy rain and when the villain receives his death blow bright green grass is spattered with his blood: these are familiar visual metonymies for the imbrication of life with death, but are rendered absurd by the comical setting. Another amusing twist is that after their break-up Gyeonu writes the story of their time together, a transcription of life experience, which is hugely successful. It is, after all, the film the audience is watching. Although the American and Indian adaptations both retain the joke of casting the two leads as main characters in Kuhu’s and Jordan’s film conceptions, the metacinematic function has become very slight: Ugly and Crazy includes a futuristic thriller which substantially replicates that of My Sassy Girl, often shot by shot, and My Sassy Girl [US] includes a melodramatic parody of Titanic and a version of Calamity Jane, both with settings reminiscent of musicals. The parodic use of these intertexts is more a comment on the badness of Jordan’s writing than a self-reflexive comment on the film. The transcultural adaptation which most develops the original’s metacinematic humour is the Hong Kong film My Sassy Girl 2 (2010), written by a team which includes the writers of the original Korean film (Choe Seok-Min and Kim Ho-Sik). Jennifer Jung Kim’s comment that ‘Despite its attempt to tie itself to the original My Sassy Girl, this version has the least in common with the original, showing the largest degree of glocalization’ (92) seems to us to undervalue the film’s mode. It is an adaptation not of My Sassy Girl but of its underlying script, and is a clear demonstration of how the notion of script works. My Sassy Girl was a great box office success in Hong Kong, so the adaptation was able to employ it as much as an intertext as a pre-text and incorporate visual allusions with the assumption that audience members would recognize them. The adaptation thus takes core plot elements of the Korean original, adds visual images that allude to the pre-text, especially an isolated tree as a symbol of separation and loss, but develops a different story and includes a thematic commentary by way of a parallel sub-plot. My Sassy Girl 2 opens with scenes depicting the end of relationships: Shangzhen (this film’s ‘sassy girl’) has been abandoned by her partner in favour of a richer and more docile girl; Jianyu (the cowherd/Ondal figure) has been thrown over by his girlfriend because he is so boring. Shangzhen and Jianyu first meet in a restaurant in Seoul, where Jianyu is waiting to propose to his girlfriend. She doesn’t show up and subsequently ends the relationship. The restaurant is brought back at the close of the film, as a reminiscence of the original film and two of its remakes: after sending Jianyu away, Shangzhen goes to Seoul in search of him, visits the tree, and finally finds him in the restaurant where they first met. The tree is a visual allusion, but has a different function, as Shangzhen’s second meeting with Jianyu at the beginning of the film took place there, after his suicide attempt. At this point she takes him back to Hong Kong to work as her (unpaid) maid and to assist her to sabotage her ex-partner’s wedding. He stays in her apartment, where, as previously noted, he is made to sleep in the bath—an ironical inversion of the moment in ‘The Heavenly Maiden and the Woodcutter’ when the woodcutter captures the maiden by stealing her clothes while she is bathing in a pool. When Shangzhen goes to clean the bath, Jianyu engages in a fantasy in which she emerges wearing a short bathrobe—again a parodic allusion to the folktale, but primarily a spoof on fashion modelling (one aspect of this film’s metacinema is the playful citation of cultural clichés commonly repeated in film, TV drama, and advertisements). Hence the film makes direct allusion to My Sassy Girl but also demonstrates an awareness of the source’s pre-texts and its generic analogues. When, for example, Shangzhen wanders about Seoul in search of Jianyu, she appears in sites and physical postures reminiscent of moments from Winter Sonata, the popular TV drama series credited as a major influence in spreading ‘the Korean Wave’ (fascination with Korean popular culture) across Asia. A Cantonese dubbed version was released in 2002. Further, My Sassy Girl 2 develops its own form of metacinematic self-consciousness through multiple uses of freeze-frame, whereby the visual image pauses as dialogue or voice-over keeps moving, and by embedded fantasy sequences. Not only Jianyu but also Zhikai, the male lead in the sub-plot, is prone to fantasizing scenes: even during a date, Zhikai imagines that his love-interest, Yongzhen (Shangzhen’s sister and a martial arts expert), arrives to beat up any girl he goes on a date with (the motif of going on dates to forget the primary object of one’s love is a plot element picked up from the pre-text and elaborated extensively in the US remake). On the fourth date it turns out not to be a fantasy. The cinderlad motif is more strongly reflected in the sub-plot, since Zhikai, an ‘unmasculine’ designer of female lingerie, has joined Yongzhen’s taekwondo class to learn how to be more masculine—a task beyond this cinderella. As Nikki J. Y. Lee has well demonstrated, common strategies for transnational remakes in Asia not only include elements of co-production, but also stars, characters, locations and settings designed to appeal to target audiences (88). Thus another frame-breaking constituent of the film is its assemblage of a stellar cast from Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, and Singapore: for example, the appearance of Chinese Mainland polymath He Jiong in the role of Zhikai has huge entertainment appeal. Apart from his activities as singer, actor and university lecturer in Arabic, He Jiong is one of the anchors of Happy Camp, a Chinese variety show that has been running since 1997 and numbers its viewership in tens of millions, who will enjoy watching He Jiong have fun making a fool of himself. THE THEMATIC IMPORTANCE OF DISINHIBITION Engagement in disinhibiting behaviour runs deeper in these productions than the transgressive pleasure in watching media stars demean themselves: He Jiong wearing a bra stuffed with fruit; Cha Tae-Hyeon (as Gyeonu) being beaten with a vacuum cleaner tube or attempting to run in women’s high-heeled shoes; Ranvir Shorey (as Kabir) farting in the enclosed space of an elevator and almost asphyxiating another passenger; or beautiful Tanaka Rena (as Riko) vomiting on Kusanagi Tsuyoshi (as Saburo). The main function of disinhibiting behaviour is to challenge the inhibitory regulation of the gendered behaviours of both women and men. In their preamble to a study of dating and gender attitudes conducted in China, in which My Sassy Girl was used as a stimulus material for interviews and focus groups, Wang Xiying and Ho Petula Sik Ying begin with the film’s creation of ‘an attractive but aggressive image of a woman’, which they identify in other contemporary cultural texts ‘which also integrate the two seemingly contradictory concepts of love and violence into a visual presentation’ (624). They argue that young adults are being offered a new conception of relationships whereby ‘girls are pretty, wilful, and aggressive’ while ‘boys are loving, tender, and fragile’ (624). Inhibitory control of behaviour is, in these texts, suggested by discrepancies between normal behaviour and behaviour under disinhibiting conditions such as alcohol, depression and bereavement in the case of the girls, and strong fascination in the case of the boys (see Mesquita and Frijda 198). These conditions enable a carnivalesque ‘time out’ especially in the first half of My Sassy Girl, before The Girl eventually returns to a femininity more conventional within her culture. This trajectory becomes a script sustained across the adaptations and suggests the possibility of dialogue between resistance to and conformity with dominant gender regimes. The gender regimes within which the five transcultural versions of My Sassy Girl are produced range amongst Neo-Confucian, Hindu patriarchy and, for the American adaptation, postfeminist. We use the notion of postfeminism here because the trajectory of the film—‘a generic shift from comedy as social and gender transgression (courtship) to melodrama (separation) back to comedy as restoration of social order and reproduction of family/community (reunion)’ (Park 138)—closely coincides with a situation observed by Diane Negra, that is, that postfeminism ‘fetishizes female power and desire while consistently placing these within firm limits’ (4). Thus it seems that consistently across five cultures sassiness is a ‘time out’ period that tests gender boundaries, as each of the texts uses the carnivalesque mode as a means to affirm that it might be possible to change inhibitory regimes but assumes a more normative position by its close. The male protagonist of the Korean film, Gyeonu, is transgressive in terms of his soft masculinity, lack of prowess in physical sports, and avoidance of masculine control over the female, whereas Korean media representations, both film and TV drama, normally assume male dominance over women. Bollywood films commonly represent female autonomy as subordinate to the wishes of their male partners or to their families’ supposed ‘traditions’ and values (Bannaji 497; Nayar 81). Wang and Ho’s study found that young women welcomed the image of ‘sassiness’ and saw it as a way to redefine the traditional image of Chinese women, but young men reject the film’s gender representations and want to preserve both the conservative concept of masculinity and an ideal of femininity that maintains ‘all the traditional virtues of Chinese women: tenderness, goodness, moderation and humility, austerity, tolerance (wen liang gong jian rang), and being a ‘helpful wife and wise mother’ (xian qi liang mu)’ (628). Such an inhibitory attitude is embedded in the final episode (Episode 11) of the Japanese series. Tricked into thinking Riko has lost her memory, Saburo attempts to confront her with multiple examples of her carnivalesque behaviour only to be met with repeated expressions of horror: ‘I would never behave like that!’, ‘I would never do such a thing’. Ugly and Crazy is book-ended by an image of inhibited femininity that is much more overt than in its source text and accords with what Shamita Das Dasgupta concluded from her survey of Hindi woman-centred films in the twentieth century: ‘they recoil from letting women deviate from traditional role prescriptions. If not overtly, at least covertly, sacrifice and surrender still seem to be considered women’s crowning virtues’ (186–87). Kabir first encounters Kuhu at the train station and again on the train. As in My Sassy Girl, the visual scene is mediated by the male’s voice-over, as Kabir observes that although Kuhu is very beautiful she is very drunk, and his judgment, ‘Who would want a wife like that?’ invokes, in Banaji’s terms, ‘the traditional Hindi film dichotomies of “vamp/prostitute/dancing girl” and “chaste wife”’ (494). The metonymic juxtaposition when Kuhu slaps a seated youth to make him give up his seat and then drunkenly vomits on the old man she gives the seat to signifies a breach of decorum, but especially of feminine decorum. A schema for a stereotyped femininity is being suggested by the girl’s disinhibited behaviour, as a social norm is evoked by breaches of that norm and an anticipated audience attitude is cued by Kabir’s voice-over commentary. At the other end of the film, Kuhu has become an image of the desirable wife: she is so docile that, dressed in conservative Indian clothing instead of her often zany Western outfits, she is willing to enter an arranged marriage without asking anything about her prospective husband. The scene of reunion and reconciliation between Kabir and Kuhu thus conforms to what Sheila J. Nayar describes as foundational values in the Hindi film world, the fulfillment of one’s dharma (sacred duty), ‘a code of conduct that is appropriate to (and expected of) each individual depending on his or her social rank, stage in life, or kinship ties’ (81). These values bind the film to a steady and unchanging moral tradition. Another site of disinhibition in Ugly and Crazy is the song-and-dance vignettes—a Bollywood romantic comedy normally includes six or seven large ensemble song-and-dance routines (Morcom 1; Mooij 30), and the addition of six songs relocates the adaptation to a local genre, which entails a disruption of both the intimate scale and narrative arc of the original. This generic frame-breaking enables the film’s main two characters to demonstrate their dancing skills as part of audience entertainment, but also exploits the possibilities of convention in a more metacinematic way. That Kabir suddenly steps out of character to sing and dance in an accomplished style attributes him with a different personality and is another way a film can draw attention to its own constructedness. Disruptive disinhibition is most evident in the third song, which is framed as a fantasy spun by Kabir which through its excess appears to be an attempt to satirize Bollywood gender conventions. In case audiences miss the point, the sequence is immediately prefaced by a scene in which Kabir looks at a soft-core porn site on his computer, and then a curtain opens onto his fantasy. The fantasy is in two parts: in the first, an orientalist ‘harem fantasy’, a bevy of scantily clad European beauties, with Kuhu as the centre-piece, cavort around and in an indoor lily pond. That this, too, is soft-core porn is indicated by a featured ‘lesbian kiss’ motif. As Dianne F. Sadoff argues, ‘Girl-girl erotic scenes seem to demand a male spectator. Indeed, the “lesbian number” in pornography appeals to the male fantasy of himself making a third with the two women’ (272), and in one tableau one of the girls turns her head to make eye contact with the viewer. In the second section, Kuhu appears as a caberet performer (un-)dressed in a black and pink teddy and fishnet stockings. There is a Bollywood convention, as Maithili Rao observes (243), whereby such set pieces might include young women ‘disport[ing] in diaphanous saris under waterfalls’, to the pleasure of audiences within and outside the film. A decade later they have dispensed with the saris. This episode in Ugly and Crazy appears to satirize the continuing convention, but the song is catchy and the girls beautiful, and it seems doubtful that it functions effectively as a metacinematic comment on convention. Ugly and Crazy stands out from the other adaptations discussed here in that it nowhere acknowledges that it is a remake—and often a close reproduction—of My Sassy Girl. There is a delicate line between adaptation and plagiarism, which the film may have crossed, but in any case there is little prospect of playing the remake against the original, as happens in My Sassy Girl 2, because few audience members would have seen the earlier film. Viewers might thus make connections with Bollywood genres, as with the set piece song-and-dance segments. It is even probable that allusions to Bollywood films displace actual borrowings: for example, the second occasion on which Kabir carries Kuhu, drunk and unconscious, to a hotel is readily seen as an homage to a scene from one of India’s most successful films, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (The One with the Heart Wins the Bride, 1995): the abrasive couple Raj and Simran (performed by Bollywood superstars Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol) end up spending a night together after Simran gets drunk. In the morning Raj teases her by implying they had had sex together, but finally assures her that nothing happened and he recognizes that a Hindu woman’s chastity is her treasure.7 The connection affirms the norms of femininity which Kuhu’s behaviour seems to disrupt. Finally, Ugly and Crazy makes good use of visual metonymy to underscore thematic and emotional effects. For example, when Kuhu is searching for Kabir toward the end of the film she visits their familiar haunts, and on a rooftop they often visited finds the remnants of roses and messages he had left over the previous two years. She holds a dead rose and weeps (see Figure 2), in an overt metonymy of her emotional loss and the price she has paid for her transgressive behaviour. The function of the moment as commentary is emphasized by one of the film’s most frequent metacinematic effects: Indian films are rarely shot on location, so make heavy use of blue-screen shooting. The technique is very obvious in this still, where the sharp outline of Kuhu against the out-of-focus background serves to remind viewers that the two have been filmed separately and then combined. The film often appears to flaunt this aspect of constructedness. Figure 2. View largeDownload slide Metonymic juxtaposition (within an image) in Ugly Aur Pagli (Ugly and Crazy), dir. Sachin Kamlakar Khot, prod. Pritish Nandy, Dancing Dolphin, 2008. Figure 2. View largeDownload slide Metonymic juxtaposition (within an image) in Ugly Aur Pagli (Ugly and Crazy), dir. Sachin Kamlakar Khot, prod. Pritish Nandy, Dancing Dolphin, 2008. CONCLUSION Since many cultural elements such as folktales or film genres have local distributions or forms, transcultural adaptations may involve omission or substitution of incidents and other material. There is also an expectation that different audiences will not share a common response to particular elements, which may then be modified or omitted from the adaptation. Gross comedy can be problematic, for example, especially since humour does not consistently cross cultural boundaries. Early in My Sassy Girl, while standing in a train The Girl vomits on the head of a seated passenger. It is a scene of mock suspense as her attempts not to vomit are focalized by Gyeonu who in turn begins to experience an urge to vomit and involuntarily replicates The Girl’s facial contortions (see Figure 3). As cognitive film critics argue, film is able to represent a character having an emotion similar to that of another character, which is elicited by observation or imagination of the other’s emotion (Oatley 276). These emotions occur not only to characters in the film but empathetically to viewers. There is, we suggest, a further metacinematic element here characteristic of the film, as Gyeonu’s replication of what The Girl is feeling is marked as a model for what viewers are feeling. The event itself is represented graphically: first viewers see fluid spewing from her mouth, and then the camera cuts to a serving of noodles falling on and spreading across the head of the passenger. Viewer affective response is an ambivalent combination of revulsion and amusement—the event is disgusting, but it is also constructed, and these are noodles. The scene is reproduced in the Indian, Japanese, Taiwanese and most recent Korean adaptations, but greatly modified. Only the Taiwanese version approaches the comedic grossness of the original, but deflects the impact of the humour by substituting an ill-mannered young man for the original elderly victim. In Ugly and Crazy, viewers see Kuhu vomit, but do not see the result, so there is revulsion without comedy. The Japanese version develops the element of suspense by positioning Riko beside a passenger who is fast asleep with his head tilted back and mouth wide open, so there is a mounting sense of horror as she sways toward and away trying not to vomit. Because the series assumes a large part of the audience is familiar with the pre-text, there is a strong expectation she will vomit into his mouth, which would be an extraordinary breach of the Japanese taboo on pollution, and hence an affect much stronger than audiences elsewhere might feel. However, the train suddenly lurches, she struggles for balance, teeters toward Saburo, and vomits on his chest. As she does so, the camera moves from close-up to distance, and the outcome is not visible. This interplay between what viewers expect will happen and what does happen is a delightful and repeated aspect of the relationship between this adaptation and its pretext. Figure 3. View largeDownload slide One character mirrors the feelings of another. My Sassy Girl (Director’s Cut), dir. Gwak Jae-Yong, prod. Shin Cheol, Shin Cine Communications, 2001. Figure 3. View largeDownload slide One character mirrors the feelings of another. My Sassy Girl (Director’s Cut), dir. Gwak Jae-Yong, prod. Shin Cheol, Shin Cine Communications, 2001. The thematic core of the group of texts prompted by My Sassy Girl is cultural stereotyping of masculine and feminine gender roles, which are worked through by means of variations on the script established by the original film. Because My Sassy Girl is already a complex adaptation, subsequent texts have multiple possibilities in pre-texts and intertexts to develop the story in local, culturally nuanced ways. An adaptation will thus tend not to be based closely on a specific, recognizable pre-text but will draw on a fluid script evolved from prior retellings of a tale and from several variants of a tale or tale type. Thus the 2017 My Sassy Girl [K2] follows the original precursor step-by-step, but its version of the vomiting incident involves two scenes located within a television series “Joseon” setting: the first is aligned with the Japanese adaptation, in that Hye-Myeong now vomits on Gyeonu’s chest, and then the scene is repeated in the hotel room, focussing on Gyeonu’s facial mirroring of Hye-Myeong’s attempt to control her vomiting. The adaptation thus assumes audience familiarity with the settings and costumes of historical drama but also with more than one precursor. As with other adaptations discussed in this article, My Sassy Girl [K2] critiques gender stereotyping when Hye-Myeong is punished for her rebellious behaviour by being made to copy out and memorise the Confucian precept for female obedience. Her objection that this represents an anachronistic ideology in the “modern” age alludes to its persistence in contemporary culture. Gender stereotyping is foregrounded by a subversive use of humour and irony as a critique of normative ideals inherent in folktale pre-texts and contemporary cultural practices, but normativity is most strongly challenged and ultimately reaffirmed by the representation of disinhibiting behaviour, specifically in the forms of abuse of alcohol and in wilfulness and violence in the central relationship with the male protagonist. The basis of that relationship is explicitly articulated in Ugly and Crazy when Kuhu sets up and wins a game of chance whose stake is acceptance of a master-slave relationship, and thus she inverts the gender structure inherent in traditional Hinduism (but also in Confucianism). The often extreme disinhibitory behaviour of the female protagonist in all of the adaptations is not represented as a life-style choice toward which she is working, but as a carnivalesque ‘time out’ which is a prelude to a return, after a period of reflection in another city or country for one or two years, to a femininity more conventional within her culture. This trajectory becomes a script sustained in all of the adaptations and suggests that while dialogue between resistance to and conformity with dominant gender regimes is possible, permanent difference is always a variation of a traditional gender ground that limits female power and desire. Most of the texts unsettle the conventional romantic ending by running on, as an epilogue in My Sassy Girl or by running further images through the end titles. My Sassy Girl 2 does this extension as bloopers or film set vignettes, thus reaffirming the film’s metacinematic function. The Japanese series ends in zaniness, as Riko and Saburo leap off the cliff at the tryst tree while wearing wedding clothes and appear in the water in scuba diving gear. The most conservative close is that of the American adaptation, which ends with a passionate kiss that is then fixed as a photograph on a wall of restaurant memorabilia (see Figure 4). Figure 4. View largeDownload slide The Conventional Happy Ending—Closing Frames of the US Adaptation. My Sassy Girl (US), dir. Yann Samuell, prod. Paul Brooks, Vertigo Entertainment, 2008. Figure 4. View largeDownload slide The Conventional Happy Ending—Closing Frames of the US Adaptation. My Sassy Girl (US), dir. Yann Samuell, prod. Paul Brooks, Vertigo Entertainment, 2008. A significant feature of My Sassy Girl which is reflected to various degrees in the adaptations is its use of metacinematic techniques. These are often employed for comic effect, but the constant reminder that a film is a construct that needs to be viewed rationally as well as for pleasure is an important point. It is not unusual to assume that an adaptation will inevitably be in many ways inferior to its pre-text, and online chit-chat about these films is usually based on such an assumption. This is not surprising, as My Sassy Girl is a superb film from many perspectives: it is well made, socially challenging, deeply intelligent, and very, very funny. But at least since Linda Hutcheon’s Theory of Adaptation (2006) such a priori assumptions can no longer be taken for granted. Analysis of transcultural adaptation either within a single mode (that is, film to film) or from one mode to another (film to television series) must take into account the audience to which the adaptation has been targeted and its expectations about issues such as genre, and the social and material context within which an adaptation has been produced. The relationship between place, culture and the adaptation requires attention to the cultural and spatial divergences that account for any perceived gains and losses in the process of adaptation. NOTES 1 The Korean title means The Bizarre Girl, but we here use the familiar distribution title My Sassy Girl. Adaptations known by the same title are distinguished by adding initials of the country of production: My Sassy Girl [J] (Japan), My Sassy Girl [US], and My Sassy Girl [K2] (South Korea]. 2 There have also been other adaptations. A Telugu version, mostly a shot-by-shot transposition into an Indian context, was released under the title Maa Iddari Madhya (Between the Two of Us, dir. Ramesh Maddineni 2006). A Nepali film, Sano Sansar (Small World, 2008; dir. Alok Nembang) blends the underlying scripts of My Sassy Girl and You’ve Got Mail. In 2012, Taiwan’s Hunan TV screened an adaptation as a romantic comedy series, Qian Niu De Xia Tian (Qian Niu’s Summer; 28 × 45 minute episodes). The core plot reproduces the original narrative arc, including, for example, the vomiting incident on the train and the ‘Milky Way’ landscape in its final scene. ‘I Believe’, the theme song of the original film, is played during the final credits of each episode. A South Korea/China co-production produced an aesthetically and financially disastrous sequel, My New Sassy Girl, in 2016, and a thirty-two episode period drama series, based on the original My Sassy Girl and bearing the identical title, was produced in South Korea in 2017. 3 A script for attending a concert, for example, entails buying a ticket, going to the venue, finding one’s seat, paying attention, and returning home. Optional components might include employing a babysitter, choice of mode of transportation back and forth, and drinking coffee or wine at an interval in the program. 4 For a fuller account of the film’s sources than we have space for here, see Sung-Ae Lee 2014, 214–17. 5 When The Girl and Gyeonu come to the tree to bury the capsule, she sends him across to an opposite mountain and shouts across the void her unheard apology for leaving him. A shot-reverse shot sequence creates the illusion that the river below flows between them like the bridgeless Milky Way. This reference to the lovers divided by the Milky Way is reprised in the later episode but is already implicit in the film’s establishing shot, a view from the tree followed by a view of the tree. The camera work in the Director’s Cut print of the film makes a more explicit visual reference to the Milky Way and ‘Gyeonu and Jiknyeo’. In ‘The Fairy-Tale Film in Korea’, Lee has argued that ‘The scene [involving the two mountains] is more than a clever game with the folktale image, however—it is a metacinematic comment on the power of narrative to create, deceive and transform’ (215). 6 For conventional constraints on time traveller agency, see Sung-Ae Lee, ‘Adaptations of Time Travel Narratives in Japanese Multimedia’, 138–39; for discussion of time travel in Cyborg She, see Sung-Ae Lee and John Stephens, ‘Gynoids and Male Fantasy in East Asian Film and Anime’, 196–99. 7 Homages to scenes from Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge are a genre in themselves. 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Japan. 2008. Sadoff Dianne F. ‘Hallucinations of Intimacy’: The Henry James Films. Henry James Goes to the Movies . Ed. Susan M. Griffin. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2002: 254– 78. Stam Robert. Reflexivity in Film and Literature: From Don Quixote to Jean-Luc Godard . New York: Columbia University Press, 1985. Stephens John and Sylvie Geerts. “ Mishmash, Conceptual Blending and Adaptation in Contemporary Children’s Literature Written in Dutch and English.” Never-ending Stories . Eds. Sara Van den Bossche, and Sylvie Geerts. Ghent: Academia Press, 2014: 193– 213. Turner Mark. “ Double-scope Stories.” Narrative Theory and the Cognitive Sciences . Ed. David Herman. Stanford: Center for the Study of Language and Information, 2003: 117– 42. Ugly Aur Pagli (Ugly and Crazy) . Dir. Sachin Kamlakar Khot. India. 2008. Verevis Constantine. Film Remakes . Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006. Verevis Constantine. “ The Cinematic Return.” Film Criticism  40( 2016): 1– 2. Wang Xiying and Petula Sik Ying Ho. “ My Sassy Girl: A Qualitative Study of Women’s Aggression in Dating Relationships in Beijing.” Journal of Interpersonal Violence  22( 2007): 623– 38. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed  Wray Ramona. “ Nostalgia for Navarre: The Melancholic Metacinema of Kenneth Branagh’s Love’s Labour’s Lost.” Literature Film Quarterly  30( 2002): 171– 78. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Adaptation Oxford University Press

Transcultural Adaptation of Feature Films: South Korea’s My Sassy Girl and its Remakes

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Abstract

Abstract The South Korean romantic comedy My Sassy Girl achieved major box office success at home and throughout East and Southeast Asia, and its success has prompted adaptations in several countries. The adaptations reproduce the film’s romance formula but vary the components to accord with local culture and conventions. East Asian adaptations may draw upon other variants of the film’s main folktale pretext, which audiences may recognise. In contrast, the tale disappears from remakes in cultures where it is not known. A core thematic concern of My Sassy Girl is cultural stereotyping of gender roles. The affect scripts and schemas associated with masculinity and femininity within the culture are evoked, and in turn evoke comparable scripts and schemas in adapting cultures. The disinhibiting behaviour engaged in by the female protagonist, prompted by alcohol, depression, and bereavement, enable a carnivalesque ‘time out’ in the first half of the film and challenge the inhibitory regulation of gendered behaviour. However, in the original and its remakes the ‘girl’ always returns to a femininity more conventional within her culture. My Sassy Girl questions this return to docility by means of a metacinematic mode that is reproduced in most transcultural adaptations: the self-conscious display of the constructedness of cinematic genres, devices and conventions suggests that the outcome is the product of a cultural assumption which requires female rebelliousness to give way to social normality. Metacinema thus reminds viewers that the pleasure of the ending is a constructed effect of which viewers should remain aware. Box office hits produced in East Asia, especially in South Korea and Japan, have proved attractive for adaptation to other East Asian countries, to the Hollywood mainstream and, to a lesser extent, to Bollywood. The attraction lies in several aspects, but primarily cross-border adaptations are largely analogous to what Rick Altman describes as a ‘producer’s genre’: a successful film is identified and analysed to discover what made it successful, and then a new film is made ‘stressing the assumed formula for success’ (38). In the case of film adaptations, the new film remains a version of the original which has been relocated to a different culture and which aspires to preserve the core elements that made the original so successful, but there are major cultural and aesthetic challenges involved. One of the most adapted Asian films in the early twenty-first century has been Yeopgijeogin geunyeo/My Sassy Girl (2001), a renowned ‘pan-Asian hit Korean romantic comedy’ (Lee 2012, 83).1 When it was released locally in South Korea, the box office success of My Sassy Girl exceeded that of Titanic, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. It went on to attract large audiences across East and Southeast Asia, with subsequent remakes in film and television drama in countries which include Japan, Hong Kong, India, and the USA.2 Remakes continue to be produced up to the present time (2017). The original film is a reworking of the simple romance pattern of meeting, bonding, separation, and eventual reunion. Gyeonu, an awkward and inept young man, has a chance encounter with a drunk girl on a railway platform and takes responsibility for her. They subsequently meet from time to time and form a platonic bond, and even though The Girl is subject to severe mood swings and asks Gyeonu to perform unreasonable and embarrassing acts, he remains tolerant and supportive. The Girl is suffering the trauma of bereavement following the death of her fiancé, however, and, feeling guilty about her growing affection for Gyeonu, asks for a two-year separation. She then fails to turn up at the agreed time and meeting place, but after a further year they are accidently brought together by Gyeonu’s aunt, who is also the mother of the dead beloved. The structure and many particular schemas of the original film constitute a pattern which has formed the basis of all adaptations. A film’s local or regional success may depend largely on its representations of familiar cultural elements (folktales, social practices), on local developments in recognizable genres, and on local narrative forms and conventions. Little or none of this will make ready sense to audiences in more distant cultures, so transcultural adaptation may involve a stripping out of local components and, in general, substitution of some equivalent material and conventions. What is done with the source film may also depend on the degree of its box office success in the adapting culture. My Sassy Girl was not only the most successful comedy in South Korean film history, but drew large audiences in, particularly, Japan, China (via DVD), Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Nepal. An implication of this success for the process of adaptation is that the film makers can not only assume an eager, or at least curious, audience for a new version, but can engage their audiences in a playful dialogue between the versions. Thus a favourite incident in the original may be alluded to obliquely or given an unexpected twist, so the audience experiences both the pleasure of recognition and an appreciation of the play of difference. Possible audience familiarity with the pre-text is exploited to great effect in the Hong Kong adaptation, My Sassy Girl 2, which invites its audience to engage with its ebullient comedy in multiple ways, including (mis-)quotations from My Sassy Girl. For example, early in the film the male protagonist, Jianyu, makes a comically inept attempt at suicide beneath a tree which is a visual allusion to the tree under which the lovers in My Sassy Girl had arranged to meet but failed to do so. Likewise, the Japanese TV series, Ryokiteki na Kanojo (My Sassy Girl [J]) assumes that many viewers will recognize elements of the original film. It too refers to the trysting tree, but introduces a second tree, so that the lovers do attempt to meet but wait at different trees. In contrast, adaptations from India Ugly aur Pagli (Ugly and Crazy) and the USA (My Sassy Girl [US]) assume no prior knowledge and tend to replicate components of the source film more closely even while attempting to naturalise the adaptation in their respective Mumbai and New York settings. When the female protagonist (‘The Girl’) first appears in My Sassy Girl, her behaviour is disinhibiting, in contravention of traditional conceptions of femininity, and the mode of the first half of the film is carnivalesque. The adaptations necessarily retain elements of her disinhibiting behaviour, but also follow the original film’s narrative arc which brings the character into accord with a compliant and submissive femininity more acceptable within all cultures concerned. The apparent failure of the narrated challenge to the inhibitory regulation of gendered behaviour might prove disappointing to segments of the audience, but My Sassy Girl counters this outcome by a pervasive metacinematic element which highlights the constructedness of film genres and the tendency for endings to conform to common cultural assumptions. This metacinematic mode is reproduced in most of the transcultural adaptations. STEREOTYPES, SCRIPTS, AND SCHEMAS A core thematic concern of My Sassy Girl is cultural stereotyping of gender roles, and this concern in turn poses a major challenge for adaptations. A function of the opening sequence of My Sassy Girl is to instantiate several of what Hermann Kappelhoff and Sarah Greifenstein refer to as the ‘schemata [aka schemas] and affect scripts of everyday perception’ (187). Visual and attitudinal schemas for masculinity and femininity here interact within a series of scripts (or ‘narrative schemas’) which constitute a site for dialogue among those gender image schemas. Because a schema is a mental structure or model stored in the memory and used to identify and understand some aspect of the material and social world, it is malleable and updated continuously, so fictional narratives often strive to intervene to modify commonly held schemas. A script, which consists of a narrative sequence, is similar to a schema in that both consist of essential and optional components, and either can be instantiated by invoking one or more of the essential components.3 A script in this sense is different from a film script, since scripts apply in everyday life as well as in folktales and creative narratives of all genres. A text, especially when it has a folktale grounding, may be informed by a familiar narrative prototype, such as a sequence consisting of a chance meeting of two people, a consequent love relationship, an unhappy separation, and a final reunion. The elaboration of the prototype will involve choices amongst possible variants, but the coexistence of multiple story and character possibilities, for example, creates the range of options which are loosely imbricated within, or may be added to, a script. Adaptations may thus be based not only on a specific, recognizable pre-text but also on the fluid script evolved from other retellings of a tale and from several variants of a tale or tale type. Gender roles may have been structurally embedded in the script for centuries and persist as a trace in modern retellings, as is the case with My Sassy Girl, which alludes to two folktales still well-known in Korea, ‘Gyeonu and Jiknyeo’ and ‘Fool Ondal and Princess Pyeonggang’.4 The first tale, which furnishes the bulk of the folktale structure and motifs, belongs to a sub-set of the ‘Otherworldly Maiden’ tale type which is found throughout East Asia. This tale type ultimately derives from a Chinese legend, ‘Dong Yong and the Weaving Maiden’ and its close analogue, ‘The Buffalo Boy and the Weaving Maiden’, which have existed with multiple variants for around 2500 years, and which spread not only to Korea but also further east to Japan, where it is known as ‘Tanabata’, and south to Vietnam, under the title Thâ′t Tịch (Night of Sevens). The prominence of analogous scripts in these neighbouring countries, especially China and Japan, is likely to have contributed to the great box office success My Sassy Girl enjoyed across the region. The essential form of ‘The Legend of Dong Yong and the Weaving Maiden’ is as follows: When his father died, Dong Yong was so poor that he sold himself into servitude to raise money for a proper funeral. After the funeral he set out for the house of his new master, and while on the road met a beautiful young woman under the shade of a scholar tree [Sophora japonica]. She offered to be his wife, and together they went to the master’s house. She asked what was needed to release Dong Yong from his debt, and the master ordered her to weave three hundred bolts of double-threaded silk. She completed the task within a single month, and Dong Yong was freed. When on the way back home they arrived at the scholar tree, the woman said goodbye to Dong Yong and disappeared. She was a supernatural being sent by heaven to reward his filial piety. Numerous versions of the tale are set out by Wilt L. Idema in Filial Piety and Its Divine Rewards: The Legend of Dong Yong and Weaving Maiden with Related Texts (2009). The tale accrues many other features and takes many forms, but the most basic script beneath all embellishments consists of four components: The male protagonist is poor, but diligent and hard-working. He acquires a supernatural being as a wife. Through her consummate weaving skills the wife earns a lot of money. After some time she leaves her husband and returns to the heavens. Retellings of the tale may modify any or all of these four components: for example, in versions which are not primarily fables about filial piety the separation of husband and wife may be a punishment. Thus in the version known as ‘Cowherd and Weaving Maid’, the couple is separated because they take such delight in one another that they neglect their duties. They are then separated by the ‘river’ of the Milky Way and are allowed to meet once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, when magpies come together to form a bridge across the celestial river.5 This outcome is a common variant in adaptations of the Korean tale, ‘Gyeonu and Jiknyeo’ (the characters’ names mean, respectively, ‘cowherd’ and ‘weaving maid’). MY SASSY GIRL AND ITS ADAPTED SOURCES Set in contemporary Seoul, My Sassy Girl depicts an unstable, off-on, unconsummated relationship between Gyeonu, an engineering student, and an unnamed young woman (‘The Girl’). Although it is not an overt folktale adaptation, the film’s narrative arc parallels that of ‘Gyeonu and Jiknyeo’ while drawing on versions of ‘The Heavenly Maiden and the Woodcutter’ (Korea) and ‘The Buffalo Boy and the Weaving Maiden’ (China). However, all four components of the basic script are inverted: Gyeonu is indolent, not industrious; The Girl is not submissive but troublesome and sometimes violent; her creative talent is mediocre; and after separating they are more permanently reunited. Audiences are cued to look for connections from the beginning of the film because the male protagonist has the same name as the Korean folktale character and in an opening vignette from his childhood his mother is shown dragging him into a public bath-house with the title ‘Weaver Girl Bath-house’ (Jiknyeo tang) over the door. The bath motif is not found in ‘Gyeonu and Jiknyeo’, however, but has been taken from ‘The Heavenly Maiden and the Woodcutter’, in which a kind deed performed by the eponymous protagonist is rewarded with information about the location of a mountain pool to which heavenly maidens descend to bathe. Having stolen the clothing of one of the maidens, the woodcutter is able to compel her to remain and become his wife, until she eventually finds her clothes and returns to the heavens. The film thus works with a recognizable script, but embraces multiple intertextual folktale referents. Numerous motifs from the folktales appear in contemporary transformations, and audiences are, in effect, invited to play a recognition game as they view the film. The bathing pool is given another unusual twist when Gyeonu carries The Girl, hopelessly drunk and unconscious, to a hotel. While he is still naked after taking a shower to wash away his sweat and her vomit, two female police officers burst in and arrest him for abducting her. Such refashioning of motifs is only evident in a culture familiar with the folktale, so is elsewhere only reproduced in the Japanese TV series and the 2017 South Korean series. The Hong Kong Sassy Girl 2 (2010) makes a different joke—hired as the sassy girl’s resident maid, male protagonist Jianyu is compelled to sleep in the bath. In other transformations The Girl is depicted as an aspiring writer, rather than a weaver; the Sophora japonica is reflected in several works; and the Milky Way is imaged as various geographical features. While it may not matter if some of these motifs pass unrecognized, they are a part of the metacinematic mode that appears in most of these works. Metacinema—otherwise known as ‘reflexivity’ (Stam 255–58; Ames 6–11; Wray 172)—refers to a self-conscious display of the constructedness of cinema, especially of its structures, devices, and conventions. It disrupts the certainty of interpretation and the teleology of narrative by implying that outcomes may be the product of a discernible pattern, but the pattern is manifestly invented. If this mode is not perceived the genre of the film will be understood as, perhaps, melodramatic realism, as seems the case with the Hollywood adaptation. Rayna Denison has commented on other metacinematic qualities in the original My Sassy Girl, especially in the ‘metaphors of mediation and re-mediation’ in comedic retellings of Hollywood and local hit films and parodies of popular Korean melodramas, martial arts films, and teen dramas. Denison concludes that ‘the adaptation process produces a palimpsest of intertextual references that requires a knowledge not just of local cinema and television, but of wider cinema contexts’ (109). The adaptation process thus draws attention to itself as adaptation. The most overt response to the film’s metacinema appears in the 2017 television period drama series My Sassy Girl [K2], an adaptation within the same culture but useful to discuss here because of its implications for adaptation studies. The series well exemplifies Constantine Verevis’s principle that remakes coexist as new versions or variations that actualize a potentiality implicit in the source text(s) (2016, 1). One of over sixty film or television productions set during the Joseon Dynasty (1392–1897), the series builds on the propensity for parody and pastiche in the original My Sassy Girl to create an outrageous mashup of South Korean films and drama series. From its opening scenes in which Gyeonu, now presented as a famous young scholar, is depicted wearing anachronistic sunglasses and pursued by a horde of female groupies, as might befall the actor, Ju Won, in real life, the series constantly breaks the frame of cinematic illusion. The opening episodes assume the audience’s familiarity with the 2001 film and accumulate multiple jokes through the transposition of the story to a premodern era. Despite its audience-attracting title, however, the sixteen-hour series is not an extended adaptation of the original film, but a blending of it with the ‘palace intrigue’ script of the ‘Joseon’ historical narratives mixed with allusions to other series and, again anachronistically, to contemporary events. These allusions range from the pan-Asian hit series Dae Jang Geum (aka Jewel in the Palace, 2003), series set in the contemporary era such as Lovers in Paris (2004), and even the assassination at the beginning of 2017 of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Audiences are thus expected to have both a detailed particular knowledge of precursor texts or a less specific familiarity with scripts and schemas (see Verevis 143). Many of the narrative clichés of TV dramas are parodied: for example, retrograde amnesia (a stock motif), reunion of long separated parent and child, and Confucian rules for female obedience. Late in the series, Ju Won (Gyeonu) demonstrates a different type of intertextuality—same actor, similar role—when he reprises his leading role in the alternative history series Gaksital (Bridal Mask, 2012) by donning a mask visually evocative of the mask which gives the title to the earlier series. From our perspective for this study, however, the series as postmodern mashup does not engage deeply with the folktale sources. An incident which draws Gyeonu and the heroine, Hye-Myeong, into contact and conflict is that she dropped a jade ring at their initial meeting, and he picked it up and subsequently mislaid it. Some viewers will recognize that the incident is a transformation of the stolen clothes in ‘The Heavenly Maiden and the Woodcutter’. In contrast, in the earlier Hong Kong and Japanese adaptations the status of the folktale motifs seems foregrounded by the extent to which they are reproduced and by the effect of their absence from the American and Indian adaptations. Gyeonu’s lack of diligence is not just an inversion of the behaviour of the folktale cowherd, but a link to the second main folktale adapted in the film, ‘Fool Ondal and Princess Pyeonggang’. In this tale, the princess is repeatedly threatened by her father that he will marry her off to Ondal the Fool, an impoverished uneducated peasant who lives in a hovel with his mother. When Pyeonggang reached marriageable age, she refuses the marriages proposed by her father and insists she has been promised to Ondal. Her father disowns her, so she takes her valuables and goes to Ondal’s house and persuades him to marry her. By means of her wisdom and judicious use of her money, she educates Ondal and makes him rich and esteemed for his martial prowess. My Sassy Girl handles the Ondal-script very obliquely, depicting Gyeonu’s education in two phases: first, he develops emotional maturity by learning to empathize with The Girl and to tolerate her erratic behaviour; second, during the two years of their separation he masters physical skills such as swimming and kendo and becomes a film writer through describing their time together in an online blog (reflexively, his first film script is, of course, My Sassy Girl). ‘Fool Ondal and Princess Pyeonggang’ is not known outside Korea, but as a tale type it readily aligns with a broad cinderlad script whereby a gauche and indolent young man matures into a successful adult. This pattern is clearly demonstrated by Kabir (Ugly and Crazy), Charlie (My Sassy Girl [US]) and, with a stronger emphasis on developing a capacity for empathy, Saburo in My Sassy Girl [J]. Princess Pyeonggang offers an important pre-text for the bundle, in that her assertion of her agency and her ability to change her world overturns the assumptions of the Confucian precepts that have shaped Korean social attitudes for centuries. She is, as it were, the original Korean sassy girl. THWARTED REUNIONS: THE GIRL’S RETURN TO THE TRYSTINGTREE The self-reflexive blending of diverse sources within a script often entails a significant increase in playfulness in the form of parodic and metacinematic adaptations. A type of comic action which originates in anarchy and disruption (King 8) becomes foregrounded as comedic retellings disrupt familiar scripts and forms and create a dialogue between recognition and defamiliarization. An audience thus derives transgressive pleasure from rethinking the relationships of canonical texts to social ideology and practice, such that closure as a movement toward harmony and integration (King 8) may be identified as an overt textual construct and the teleology of the text is thereby exposed for scrutiny (Stephens and Geerts 195). In My Sassy Girl, the separation of Gyeonu and The Girl is marked by burial beneath a special tree (symbolically the Sophora japonica under which Dong Yong and the Maiden had met and parted) of a time capsule containing letters each has written, to be read when they meet again at the tree after two years. The Girl fails to keep the appointment, however, and in a series of dissolve scenes, which by cinematic convention indicate a passage of time, Gyeonu is depicted visiting the tree repeatedly. Eventually, the camera moves to a closer view of the tree and tracks down to show an old man sitting against the trunk. Viewers have no choice but to conclude this man is Gyeonu, maintaining his lonely vigil on the bank of the celestial river.5 But almost immediately The Girl, unchanged, walks up to the tree; the old man stares at her, and then apologizes for staring, excusing himself by saying that he had thought she was a heavenly maiden who had just descended. In a brief conversation, he discloses that he has read the letters, that the tree had been destroyed by lightning and Gyeonu had replaced it, and advises her not to leave things to chance but to search for Gyeonu, for one must ‘build a bridge to the one you love’—as Gyeonu had done by replacing the tree. He then leaves, she reads the letter, weeping, and as she gazes across the landscape (the celestial river) she sees a UFO cross the sky, bank, and disappear. The episode is complex and tantalising in its disruptive adaptation of elements from ‘Gyeonu and Jiknyeo’ and its introduction of characteristic magical realist elements (Faris 10, 17, 193) such as the intrusion of fantastic elements, disruption of the logic of narrative cause and effect, and the hesitation over the identity of the old man. When Gyeonu and The Girl are finally reunited she confirms her realization that the old man was Gyeonu from the future. Director Gwak Jae-Yong subsequently returns to the theme of time travel in Cyborg She (2008), the final film in his ‘Sassy Girl’ trilogy (My Sassy Girl, Windstruck [2004] and Cyborg She). In the later film he further sets aside the narrative convention that a traveller in time cannot act upon the past to change the future.6 In the earlier film, in contrast, the motif is contextualized by a frame-breaking metacinematic voice-over in which Gyeonu affirms that the ending is too pat and over dependent on coincidence. This self-reflexive element is a challenge for subsequent adapters. The episode of The Girl at the tree playfully adapts key motifs from its folktale pretexts in order to construct a subtle take on the question of the relationship between agency and cathexis. The reason for The Girl’s wayward and erratic behaviour, only revealed in the letter buried in the time capsule, is her grief over a boyfriend who committed suicide. By the time of her return to the tree, she is finally ready to move on with her life. The scene is replicated in the Japanese and USA adaptations, with the latter retaining more of the story line and the former developing a verbal and visual reference to the folktale ‘Tanabata’, the local analogue of ‘Cowherd and Weaving Maiden’. ‘Tanabata’ denies agency to the characters because they focus inwardly on their love, but in the TV series their separation occurs because Saburo, the male, is not unconditionally committed. As in My Sassy Girl and all the transcultural adaptations discussed here, Riko is an aspiring writer (a modern substitution for a weaver) and when she is offered an assignment to spend a year in Africa to write about what she experiences, Saburo encourages her to go, but refuses to go with her because of his university teaching/research position and because he wants to commit himself to helping his childhood friend Minami to recover from physical injuries she sustained when mugged by thieves. Riko’s grief for her missing lover has been resolved previously when Saburo discovers him dying in a hospice, and Riko can find some closure. This shift is part of a revised context for her return to the tree. Unlike all other adaptations of My Sassy Girl, Riko writes a very successful book, but on her return to Japan her meeting with Saburo fails to eventuate. In the original film and all adaptations, the couple’s first encounter is when Gyeonu prevents The Girl from falling in front of an oncoming train. In the TV series, this moment is reprised when Riko now catches Saburo when he stumbles at the edge of the platform and is about to fall. Angry because she thinks he failed to turn up at the trysting tree, she insists she doesn’t know him and later leaves a message on his phone to say she doesn’t want to see him again. Japanese narrative is apt to progress by juxtapositions and leave many hiatuses, and this kind of structure is evident in the final sequences of this series. Why Riko immediately returns to the tree is not explained, but the strategy employed functions to develop what Keith Oatley refers to as metonymic juxtaposition (277). Metonymic juxtapositions can occur within an image or be effected by cutting from one image to the next or by dissolves (see Figure 1). In the close of the tree episode in My Sassy Girl, the camera is behind The Girl as she gazes across the river at the distant shore (metonymically, across the Milky Way), while the soundtrack has moved on to an ‘Out of Service’ telephone recording; during the message, the visual image dissolves to a close up of The Girl’s tear-stained face (an obvious metonym of grief). The episode in the Japanese adaptation begins with an image of Saburo sitting in deep desolation on the balcony of what used to be Riko’s studio apartment juxtaposed, via a dissolve, with an image of Riko walking up the path to the tree. The episode at the tree is very brief: the old man appears and points out that there are two cliffs separated by a bay, and they are known as Lovers’ Cape, which reiterates a name painted on a post shown at the beginning of the scene. As Riko gazes across the water towards the misty cliff opposite the camera is also positioned behind her so that the name Lovers’ Cape and the visual image strongly evoke Tanabata and the dividing Milky Way. Both scenes thus use metonymic juxtaposition to express metonymies of separation, loss, loneliness and grief. Figure 1. View largeDownload slide Metonymic juxtapositions. Left: My Sassy Girl (Director’s Cut), dir. Gwak Jae-Yong, prod. Shin Cheol, Shin Cine Communications, 2001; Right: Ryokiteki na Kanojo (My Sassy Girl [J], dir. Doi Nobuhiro (this episode), prod. Iyoda Hidenori, TBS Television, 2008. Final episode. Figure 1. View largeDownload slide Metonymic juxtapositions. Left: My Sassy Girl (Director’s Cut), dir. Gwak Jae-Yong, prod. Shin Cheol, Shin Cine Communications, 2001; Right: Ryokiteki na Kanojo (My Sassy Girl [J], dir. Doi Nobuhiro (this episode), prod. Iyoda Hidenori, TBS Television, 2008. Final episode. The emotional closeness of My Sassy Girl and its adaptation in this scene may indicate that, while transcultural adaptations might be expected to exhibit cultural variations in displays of emotion, more cognate cultures such as Korea and Japan are apt to show less variation. As Mesquita and Frijda argue, a schema for an event such as a bereavement implies the recognition of a particular, culturally shared meaning to events of that type (180). Further, they point to research which suggests that, ‘by and large, certain kinds of events elicit emotions in widely different cultures and that they tend to elicit the same emotions in these different cultures’ (181). There are, of course, wide variations within an individual culture, but cinematic representation is apt to offer viewers a familiar schema as a ground and familiar techniques, and the ‘same’ scene may produce a different affect. The American adaptation also retains the scene in which the girl (here ‘Jordan’) returns to the tree. It follows immediately from the scene in which the boy (‘Charlie’) reads the letter, and is linked by a dissolve from a close up of Charlie’s face to a close up of the old man’s face. The technique again seems to invoke the convention that a dissolve denotes a passage of time and viewers will momentarily assume that fifty years have passed and Charlie has grown older. The connection seems no more than a light-hearted teasing of the audience, however, and is dispersed by the old man’s apology for staring at Jordan and his assertion that old age brings licence and release from inhibition. Disinhibition is a significant theme in most of the texts, but is only a transient flicker at this moment. The scene is set in New York’s Central Park in a small hollow. Around are leafless trees, with passing traffic visible behind the trees, and the whole framed by tall buildings. There are no vistas, as in the other texts, and much of the scene consists of shot-reverse shot dialogue, in combination with extensive use of close-ups and low angle photography, in which the two characters argue about the relationship between destiny, agency and cathexis. In principle, the use of close-up—or what Carl Plantinga refers to as ‘the scene of empathy’ (101)—could replicate the level of affect achieved in the pre-text. Plantinga points to moments when ‘the camera lingers in close-up on the face of the protagonist under duress’, and suggests this is apt to happen after viewers have had time to develop a strong allegiance with the character. Emotion might then be elicited in viewers ‘through processes such as facial feedback, affective mimicry, and emotional contagion’ (101). In this scene, however, the performances are too unmodulated and the dialogue too banal to elicit emotion: Jordan: If he and I were meant to be together, I would have been healed by yesterday. Man: What kind of nonsense is that? Yesterday was one day ago—your healing was off by one day. Jordan: One very important day. Destiny has spoken … and to search for him would be like trying to mould and shape destiny and that just can’t be a good idea. Man: Just suppose that the shaping and moulding of destiny is in fact your destiny. Jordan: Huh … I never thought about it like that. It is difficult to empathize with a character who is asked to speak so portentously. The dialogue is structured cohesively, but this only serves to foreground the banality of the logic and the failure of the adaptation to find a strong equivalent for the original material. Central Park would not be a good location in which to evoke the vast space of separation in ‘Gyeonu and Jiknyeo’ or its analogues, but the folktale is in any case not accessible to adapters or audience. If it were, it could have been blended with or replaced by one of the otherworldly maiden analogues that do exist in Western folktale, such as stories of swan maidens, mermaids, or selkies. As Katrina Gutierrez explains, Eastern and Western versions of Otherworldly Maiden tales constitute an example of a global tale type and make use of symbols and images shared by a significant number of cultures. Versions of the tale can be connected by similarities in scripts, schemas, metaphors or functions, but the overarching script remains subject to modification by local scripts (22). Lacking the cultural resonance imparted by the folktale and choosing to film the tree episode in close-up in a confined space, the American film foregoes the possibility of effective visual metonymy and settles for visual memory as Jordan recalls a series of moments spent with Charlie. SCRIPT AND METACINEMA The American adaptation also departs from My Sassy Girl and differs from other adaptations by omitting the playful metacinematic elements which are a marked feature of My Sassy Girl, evident in the cinema release version and a little more pronounced in the Director’s Cut, where, for example, a sudden introduction of fast motion will produce a comic effect and disrupt quotidian realism. The film uses its metacinema to remind viewers that our alignment with the main characters is a constructed effect, which we can enjoy even as we are aware of its constructedness. Self-reflexivity for a comic effect is also a feature of the Hong Kong and Japanese adaptations, and is reproduced to some extent in Ugly and Crazy. Metacinema is most obviously apparent in My Sassy Girl in the writing of film scripts: in her aspiration to be a screen writer, The Girl writes two genre scripts—a futuristic thriller and a samurai adventure—and improvises a third, an absurd ending grafted onto ‘The Shower’, a romantic tragedy which is a classic of Korean literature. Each is embedded within the narrative with The Girl and Gyeonu in the major roles—she as the hero and he as victim or villain. They are conventional and clichéd, and as a result quite funny, but also act as a commentary on the functions of schemas, scripts, and metonymies in the production of film narrative. In her ‘samurai’ story, for example, a duel is fought in heavy rain and when the villain receives his death blow bright green grass is spattered with his blood: these are familiar visual metonymies for the imbrication of life with death, but are rendered absurd by the comical setting. Another amusing twist is that after their break-up Gyeonu writes the story of their time together, a transcription of life experience, which is hugely successful. It is, after all, the film the audience is watching. Although the American and Indian adaptations both retain the joke of casting the two leads as main characters in Kuhu’s and Jordan’s film conceptions, the metacinematic function has become very slight: Ugly and Crazy includes a futuristic thriller which substantially replicates that of My Sassy Girl, often shot by shot, and My Sassy Girl [US] includes a melodramatic parody of Titanic and a version of Calamity Jane, both with settings reminiscent of musicals. The parodic use of these intertexts is more a comment on the badness of Jordan’s writing than a self-reflexive comment on the film. The transcultural adaptation which most develops the original’s metacinematic humour is the Hong Kong film My Sassy Girl 2 (2010), written by a team which includes the writers of the original Korean film (Choe Seok-Min and Kim Ho-Sik). Jennifer Jung Kim’s comment that ‘Despite its attempt to tie itself to the original My Sassy Girl, this version has the least in common with the original, showing the largest degree of glocalization’ (92) seems to us to undervalue the film’s mode. It is an adaptation not of My Sassy Girl but of its underlying script, and is a clear demonstration of how the notion of script works. My Sassy Girl was a great box office success in Hong Kong, so the adaptation was able to employ it as much as an intertext as a pre-text and incorporate visual allusions with the assumption that audience members would recognize them. The adaptation thus takes core plot elements of the Korean original, adds visual images that allude to the pre-text, especially an isolated tree as a symbol of separation and loss, but develops a different story and includes a thematic commentary by way of a parallel sub-plot. My Sassy Girl 2 opens with scenes depicting the end of relationships: Shangzhen (this film’s ‘sassy girl’) has been abandoned by her partner in favour of a richer and more docile girl; Jianyu (the cowherd/Ondal figure) has been thrown over by his girlfriend because he is so boring. Shangzhen and Jianyu first meet in a restaurant in Seoul, where Jianyu is waiting to propose to his girlfriend. She doesn’t show up and subsequently ends the relationship. The restaurant is brought back at the close of the film, as a reminiscence of the original film and two of its remakes: after sending Jianyu away, Shangzhen goes to Seoul in search of him, visits the tree, and finally finds him in the restaurant where they first met. The tree is a visual allusion, but has a different function, as Shangzhen’s second meeting with Jianyu at the beginning of the film took place there, after his suicide attempt. At this point she takes him back to Hong Kong to work as her (unpaid) maid and to assist her to sabotage her ex-partner’s wedding. He stays in her apartment, where, as previously noted, he is made to sleep in the bath—an ironical inversion of the moment in ‘The Heavenly Maiden and the Woodcutter’ when the woodcutter captures the maiden by stealing her clothes while she is bathing in a pool. When Shangzhen goes to clean the bath, Jianyu engages in a fantasy in which she emerges wearing a short bathrobe—again a parodic allusion to the folktale, but primarily a spoof on fashion modelling (one aspect of this film’s metacinema is the playful citation of cultural clichés commonly repeated in film, TV drama, and advertisements). Hence the film makes direct allusion to My Sassy Girl but also demonstrates an awareness of the source’s pre-texts and its generic analogues. When, for example, Shangzhen wanders about Seoul in search of Jianyu, she appears in sites and physical postures reminiscent of moments from Winter Sonata, the popular TV drama series credited as a major influence in spreading ‘the Korean Wave’ (fascination with Korean popular culture) across Asia. A Cantonese dubbed version was released in 2002. Further, My Sassy Girl 2 develops its own form of metacinematic self-consciousness through multiple uses of freeze-frame, whereby the visual image pauses as dialogue or voice-over keeps moving, and by embedded fantasy sequences. Not only Jianyu but also Zhikai, the male lead in the sub-plot, is prone to fantasizing scenes: even during a date, Zhikai imagines that his love-interest, Yongzhen (Shangzhen’s sister and a martial arts expert), arrives to beat up any girl he goes on a date with (the motif of going on dates to forget the primary object of one’s love is a plot element picked up from the pre-text and elaborated extensively in the US remake). On the fourth date it turns out not to be a fantasy. The cinderlad motif is more strongly reflected in the sub-plot, since Zhikai, an ‘unmasculine’ designer of female lingerie, has joined Yongzhen’s taekwondo class to learn how to be more masculine—a task beyond this cinderella. As Nikki J. Y. Lee has well demonstrated, common strategies for transnational remakes in Asia not only include elements of co-production, but also stars, characters, locations and settings designed to appeal to target audiences (88). Thus another frame-breaking constituent of the film is its assemblage of a stellar cast from Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, and Singapore: for example, the appearance of Chinese Mainland polymath He Jiong in the role of Zhikai has huge entertainment appeal. Apart from his activities as singer, actor and university lecturer in Arabic, He Jiong is one of the anchors of Happy Camp, a Chinese variety show that has been running since 1997 and numbers its viewership in tens of millions, who will enjoy watching He Jiong have fun making a fool of himself. THE THEMATIC IMPORTANCE OF DISINHIBITION Engagement in disinhibiting behaviour runs deeper in these productions than the transgressive pleasure in watching media stars demean themselves: He Jiong wearing a bra stuffed with fruit; Cha Tae-Hyeon (as Gyeonu) being beaten with a vacuum cleaner tube or attempting to run in women’s high-heeled shoes; Ranvir Shorey (as Kabir) farting in the enclosed space of an elevator and almost asphyxiating another passenger; or beautiful Tanaka Rena (as Riko) vomiting on Kusanagi Tsuyoshi (as Saburo). The main function of disinhibiting behaviour is to challenge the inhibitory regulation of the gendered behaviours of both women and men. In their preamble to a study of dating and gender attitudes conducted in China, in which My Sassy Girl was used as a stimulus material for interviews and focus groups, Wang Xiying and Ho Petula Sik Ying begin with the film’s creation of ‘an attractive but aggressive image of a woman’, which they identify in other contemporary cultural texts ‘which also integrate the two seemingly contradictory concepts of love and violence into a visual presentation’ (624). They argue that young adults are being offered a new conception of relationships whereby ‘girls are pretty, wilful, and aggressive’ while ‘boys are loving, tender, and fragile’ (624). Inhibitory control of behaviour is, in these texts, suggested by discrepancies between normal behaviour and behaviour under disinhibiting conditions such as alcohol, depression and bereavement in the case of the girls, and strong fascination in the case of the boys (see Mesquita and Frijda 198). These conditions enable a carnivalesque ‘time out’ especially in the first half of My Sassy Girl, before The Girl eventually returns to a femininity more conventional within her culture. This trajectory becomes a script sustained across the adaptations and suggests the possibility of dialogue between resistance to and conformity with dominant gender regimes. The gender regimes within which the five transcultural versions of My Sassy Girl are produced range amongst Neo-Confucian, Hindu patriarchy and, for the American adaptation, postfeminist. We use the notion of postfeminism here because the trajectory of the film—‘a generic shift from comedy as social and gender transgression (courtship) to melodrama (separation) back to comedy as restoration of social order and reproduction of family/community (reunion)’ (Park 138)—closely coincides with a situation observed by Diane Negra, that is, that postfeminism ‘fetishizes female power and desire while consistently placing these within firm limits’ (4). Thus it seems that consistently across five cultures sassiness is a ‘time out’ period that tests gender boundaries, as each of the texts uses the carnivalesque mode as a means to affirm that it might be possible to change inhibitory regimes but assumes a more normative position by its close. The male protagonist of the Korean film, Gyeonu, is transgressive in terms of his soft masculinity, lack of prowess in physical sports, and avoidance of masculine control over the female, whereas Korean media representations, both film and TV drama, normally assume male dominance over women. Bollywood films commonly represent female autonomy as subordinate to the wishes of their male partners or to their families’ supposed ‘traditions’ and values (Bannaji 497; Nayar 81). Wang and Ho’s study found that young women welcomed the image of ‘sassiness’ and saw it as a way to redefine the traditional image of Chinese women, but young men reject the film’s gender representations and want to preserve both the conservative concept of masculinity and an ideal of femininity that maintains ‘all the traditional virtues of Chinese women: tenderness, goodness, moderation and humility, austerity, tolerance (wen liang gong jian rang), and being a ‘helpful wife and wise mother’ (xian qi liang mu)’ (628). Such an inhibitory attitude is embedded in the final episode (Episode 11) of the Japanese series. Tricked into thinking Riko has lost her memory, Saburo attempts to confront her with multiple examples of her carnivalesque behaviour only to be met with repeated expressions of horror: ‘I would never behave like that!’, ‘I would never do such a thing’. Ugly and Crazy is book-ended by an image of inhibited femininity that is much more overt than in its source text and accords with what Shamita Das Dasgupta concluded from her survey of Hindi woman-centred films in the twentieth century: ‘they recoil from letting women deviate from traditional role prescriptions. If not overtly, at least covertly, sacrifice and surrender still seem to be considered women’s crowning virtues’ (186–87). Kabir first encounters Kuhu at the train station and again on the train. As in My Sassy Girl, the visual scene is mediated by the male’s voice-over, as Kabir observes that although Kuhu is very beautiful she is very drunk, and his judgment, ‘Who would want a wife like that?’ invokes, in Banaji’s terms, ‘the traditional Hindi film dichotomies of “vamp/prostitute/dancing girl” and “chaste wife”’ (494). The metonymic juxtaposition when Kuhu slaps a seated youth to make him give up his seat and then drunkenly vomits on the old man she gives the seat to signifies a breach of decorum, but especially of feminine decorum. A schema for a stereotyped femininity is being suggested by the girl’s disinhibited behaviour, as a social norm is evoked by breaches of that norm and an anticipated audience attitude is cued by Kabir’s voice-over commentary. At the other end of the film, Kuhu has become an image of the desirable wife: she is so docile that, dressed in conservative Indian clothing instead of her often zany Western outfits, she is willing to enter an arranged marriage without asking anything about her prospective husband. The scene of reunion and reconciliation between Kabir and Kuhu thus conforms to what Sheila J. Nayar describes as foundational values in the Hindi film world, the fulfillment of one’s dharma (sacred duty), ‘a code of conduct that is appropriate to (and expected of) each individual depending on his or her social rank, stage in life, or kinship ties’ (81). These values bind the film to a steady and unchanging moral tradition. Another site of disinhibition in Ugly and Crazy is the song-and-dance vignettes—a Bollywood romantic comedy normally includes six or seven large ensemble song-and-dance routines (Morcom 1; Mooij 30), and the addition of six songs relocates the adaptation to a local genre, which entails a disruption of both the intimate scale and narrative arc of the original. This generic frame-breaking enables the film’s main two characters to demonstrate their dancing skills as part of audience entertainment, but also exploits the possibilities of convention in a more metacinematic way. That Kabir suddenly steps out of character to sing and dance in an accomplished style attributes him with a different personality and is another way a film can draw attention to its own constructedness. Disruptive disinhibition is most evident in the third song, which is framed as a fantasy spun by Kabir which through its excess appears to be an attempt to satirize Bollywood gender conventions. In case audiences miss the point, the sequence is immediately prefaced by a scene in which Kabir looks at a soft-core porn site on his computer, and then a curtain opens onto his fantasy. The fantasy is in two parts: in the first, an orientalist ‘harem fantasy’, a bevy of scantily clad European beauties, with Kuhu as the centre-piece, cavort around and in an indoor lily pond. That this, too, is soft-core porn is indicated by a featured ‘lesbian kiss’ motif. As Dianne F. Sadoff argues, ‘Girl-girl erotic scenes seem to demand a male spectator. Indeed, the “lesbian number” in pornography appeals to the male fantasy of himself making a third with the two women’ (272), and in one tableau one of the girls turns her head to make eye contact with the viewer. In the second section, Kuhu appears as a caberet performer (un-)dressed in a black and pink teddy and fishnet stockings. There is a Bollywood convention, as Maithili Rao observes (243), whereby such set pieces might include young women ‘disport[ing] in diaphanous saris under waterfalls’, to the pleasure of audiences within and outside the film. A decade later they have dispensed with the saris. This episode in Ugly and Crazy appears to satirize the continuing convention, but the song is catchy and the girls beautiful, and it seems doubtful that it functions effectively as a metacinematic comment on convention. Ugly and Crazy stands out from the other adaptations discussed here in that it nowhere acknowledges that it is a remake—and often a close reproduction—of My Sassy Girl. There is a delicate line between adaptation and plagiarism, which the film may have crossed, but in any case there is little prospect of playing the remake against the original, as happens in My Sassy Girl 2, because few audience members would have seen the earlier film. Viewers might thus make connections with Bollywood genres, as with the set piece song-and-dance segments. It is even probable that allusions to Bollywood films displace actual borrowings: for example, the second occasion on which Kabir carries Kuhu, drunk and unconscious, to a hotel is readily seen as an homage to a scene from one of India’s most successful films, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (The One with the Heart Wins the Bride, 1995): the abrasive couple Raj and Simran (performed by Bollywood superstars Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol) end up spending a night together after Simran gets drunk. In the morning Raj teases her by implying they had had sex together, but finally assures her that nothing happened and he recognizes that a Hindu woman’s chastity is her treasure.7 The connection affirms the norms of femininity which Kuhu’s behaviour seems to disrupt. Finally, Ugly and Crazy makes good use of visual metonymy to underscore thematic and emotional effects. For example, when Kuhu is searching for Kabir toward the end of the film she visits their familiar haunts, and on a rooftop they often visited finds the remnants of roses and messages he had left over the previous two years. She holds a dead rose and weeps (see Figure 2), in an overt metonymy of her emotional loss and the price she has paid for her transgressive behaviour. The function of the moment as commentary is emphasized by one of the film’s most frequent metacinematic effects: Indian films are rarely shot on location, so make heavy use of blue-screen shooting. The technique is very obvious in this still, where the sharp outline of Kuhu against the out-of-focus background serves to remind viewers that the two have been filmed separately and then combined. The film often appears to flaunt this aspect of constructedness. Figure 2. View largeDownload slide Metonymic juxtaposition (within an image) in Ugly Aur Pagli (Ugly and Crazy), dir. Sachin Kamlakar Khot, prod. Pritish Nandy, Dancing Dolphin, 2008. Figure 2. View largeDownload slide Metonymic juxtaposition (within an image) in Ugly Aur Pagli (Ugly and Crazy), dir. Sachin Kamlakar Khot, prod. Pritish Nandy, Dancing Dolphin, 2008. CONCLUSION Since many cultural elements such as folktales or film genres have local distributions or forms, transcultural adaptations may involve omission or substitution of incidents and other material. There is also an expectation that different audiences will not share a common response to particular elements, which may then be modified or omitted from the adaptation. Gross comedy can be problematic, for example, especially since humour does not consistently cross cultural boundaries. Early in My Sassy Girl, while standing in a train The Girl vomits on the head of a seated passenger. It is a scene of mock suspense as her attempts not to vomit are focalized by Gyeonu who in turn begins to experience an urge to vomit and involuntarily replicates The Girl’s facial contortions (see Figure 3). As cognitive film critics argue, film is able to represent a character having an emotion similar to that of another character, which is elicited by observation or imagination of the other’s emotion (Oatley 276). These emotions occur not only to characters in the film but empathetically to viewers. There is, we suggest, a further metacinematic element here characteristic of the film, as Gyeonu’s replication of what The Girl is feeling is marked as a model for what viewers are feeling. The event itself is represented graphically: first viewers see fluid spewing from her mouth, and then the camera cuts to a serving of noodles falling on and spreading across the head of the passenger. Viewer affective response is an ambivalent combination of revulsion and amusement—the event is disgusting, but it is also constructed, and these are noodles. The scene is reproduced in the Indian, Japanese, Taiwanese and most recent Korean adaptations, but greatly modified. Only the Taiwanese version approaches the comedic grossness of the original, but deflects the impact of the humour by substituting an ill-mannered young man for the original elderly victim. In Ugly and Crazy, viewers see Kuhu vomit, but do not see the result, so there is revulsion without comedy. The Japanese version develops the element of suspense by positioning Riko beside a passenger who is fast asleep with his head tilted back and mouth wide open, so there is a mounting sense of horror as she sways toward and away trying not to vomit. Because the series assumes a large part of the audience is familiar with the pre-text, there is a strong expectation she will vomit into his mouth, which would be an extraordinary breach of the Japanese taboo on pollution, and hence an affect much stronger than audiences elsewhere might feel. However, the train suddenly lurches, she struggles for balance, teeters toward Saburo, and vomits on his chest. As she does so, the camera moves from close-up to distance, and the outcome is not visible. This interplay between what viewers expect will happen and what does happen is a delightful and repeated aspect of the relationship between this adaptation and its pretext. Figure 3. View largeDownload slide One character mirrors the feelings of another. My Sassy Girl (Director’s Cut), dir. Gwak Jae-Yong, prod. Shin Cheol, Shin Cine Communications, 2001. Figure 3. View largeDownload slide One character mirrors the feelings of another. My Sassy Girl (Director’s Cut), dir. Gwak Jae-Yong, prod. Shin Cheol, Shin Cine Communications, 2001. The thematic core of the group of texts prompted by My Sassy Girl is cultural stereotyping of masculine and feminine gender roles, which are worked through by means of variations on the script established by the original film. Because My Sassy Girl is already a complex adaptation, subsequent texts have multiple possibilities in pre-texts and intertexts to develop the story in local, culturally nuanced ways. An adaptation will thus tend not to be based closely on a specific, recognizable pre-text but will draw on a fluid script evolved from prior retellings of a tale and from several variants of a tale or tale type. Thus the 2017 My Sassy Girl [K2] follows the original precursor step-by-step, but its version of the vomiting incident involves two scenes located within a television series “Joseon” setting: the first is aligned with the Japanese adaptation, in that Hye-Myeong now vomits on Gyeonu’s chest, and then the scene is repeated in the hotel room, focussing on Gyeonu’s facial mirroring of Hye-Myeong’s attempt to control her vomiting. The adaptation thus assumes audience familiarity with the settings and costumes of historical drama but also with more than one precursor. As with other adaptations discussed in this article, My Sassy Girl [K2] critiques gender stereotyping when Hye-Myeong is punished for her rebellious behaviour by being made to copy out and memorise the Confucian precept for female obedience. Her objection that this represents an anachronistic ideology in the “modern” age alludes to its persistence in contemporary culture. Gender stereotyping is foregrounded by a subversive use of humour and irony as a critique of normative ideals inherent in folktale pre-texts and contemporary cultural practices, but normativity is most strongly challenged and ultimately reaffirmed by the representation of disinhibiting behaviour, specifically in the forms of abuse of alcohol and in wilfulness and violence in the central relationship with the male protagonist. The basis of that relationship is explicitly articulated in Ugly and Crazy when Kuhu sets up and wins a game of chance whose stake is acceptance of a master-slave relationship, and thus she inverts the gender structure inherent in traditional Hinduism (but also in Confucianism). The often extreme disinhibitory behaviour of the female protagonist in all of the adaptations is not represented as a life-style choice toward which she is working, but as a carnivalesque ‘time out’ which is a prelude to a return, after a period of reflection in another city or country for one or two years, to a femininity more conventional within her culture. This trajectory becomes a script sustained in all of the adaptations and suggests that while dialogue between resistance to and conformity with dominant gender regimes is possible, permanent difference is always a variation of a traditional gender ground that limits female power and desire. Most of the texts unsettle the conventional romantic ending by running on, as an epilogue in My Sassy Girl or by running further images through the end titles. My Sassy Girl 2 does this extension as bloopers or film set vignettes, thus reaffirming the film’s metacinematic function. The Japanese series ends in zaniness, as Riko and Saburo leap off the cliff at the tryst tree while wearing wedding clothes and appear in the water in scuba diving gear. The most conservative close is that of the American adaptation, which ends with a passionate kiss that is then fixed as a photograph on a wall of restaurant memorabilia (see Figure 4). Figure 4. View largeDownload slide The Conventional Happy Ending—Closing Frames of the US Adaptation. My Sassy Girl (US), dir. Yann Samuell, prod. Paul Brooks, Vertigo Entertainment, 2008. Figure 4. View largeDownload slide The Conventional Happy Ending—Closing Frames of the US Adaptation. My Sassy Girl (US), dir. Yann Samuell, prod. Paul Brooks, Vertigo Entertainment, 2008. A significant feature of My Sassy Girl which is reflected to various degrees in the adaptations is its use of metacinematic techniques. These are often employed for comic effect, but the constant reminder that a film is a construct that needs to be viewed rationally as well as for pleasure is an important point. It is not unusual to assume that an adaptation will inevitably be in many ways inferior to its pre-text, and online chit-chat about these films is usually based on such an assumption. This is not surprising, as My Sassy Girl is a superb film from many perspectives: it is well made, socially challenging, deeply intelligent, and very, very funny. But at least since Linda Hutcheon’s Theory of Adaptation (2006) such a priori assumptions can no longer be taken for granted. Analysis of transcultural adaptation either within a single mode (that is, film to film) or from one mode to another (film to television series) must take into account the audience to which the adaptation has been targeted and its expectations about issues such as genre, and the social and material context within which an adaptation has been produced. The relationship between place, culture and the adaptation requires attention to the cultural and spatial divergences that account for any perceived gains and losses in the process of adaptation. NOTES 1 The Korean title means The Bizarre Girl, but we here use the familiar distribution title My Sassy Girl. Adaptations known by the same title are distinguished by adding initials of the country of production: My Sassy Girl [J] (Japan), My Sassy Girl [US], and My Sassy Girl [K2] (South Korea]. 2 There have also been other adaptations. A Telugu version, mostly a shot-by-shot transposition into an Indian context, was released under the title Maa Iddari Madhya (Between the Two of Us, dir. Ramesh Maddineni 2006). A Nepali film, Sano Sansar (Small World, 2008; dir. Alok Nembang) blends the underlying scripts of My Sassy Girl and You’ve Got Mail. In 2012, Taiwan’s Hunan TV screened an adaptation as a romantic comedy series, Qian Niu De Xia Tian (Qian Niu’s Summer; 28 × 45 minute episodes). The core plot reproduces the original narrative arc, including, for example, the vomiting incident on the train and the ‘Milky Way’ landscape in its final scene. ‘I Believe’, the theme song of the original film, is played during the final credits of each episode. A South Korea/China co-production produced an aesthetically and financially disastrous sequel, My New Sassy Girl, in 2016, and a thirty-two episode period drama series, based on the original My Sassy Girl and bearing the identical title, was produced in South Korea in 2017. 3 A script for attending a concert, for example, entails buying a ticket, going to the venue, finding one’s seat, paying attention, and returning home. Optional components might include employing a babysitter, choice of mode of transportation back and forth, and drinking coffee or wine at an interval in the program. 4 For a fuller account of the film’s sources than we have space for here, see Sung-Ae Lee 2014, 214–17. 5 When The Girl and Gyeonu come to the tree to bury the capsule, she sends him across to an opposite mountain and shouts across the void her unheard apology for leaving him. A shot-reverse shot sequence creates the illusion that the river below flows between them like the bridgeless Milky Way. This reference to the lovers divided by the Milky Way is reprised in the later episode but is already implicit in the film’s establishing shot, a view from the tree followed by a view of the tree. The camera work in the Director’s Cut print of the film makes a more explicit visual reference to the Milky Way and ‘Gyeonu and Jiknyeo’. In ‘The Fairy-Tale Film in Korea’, Lee has argued that ‘The scene [involving the two mountains] is more than a clever game with the folktale image, however—it is a metacinematic comment on the power of narrative to create, deceive and transform’ (215). 6 For conventional constraints on time traveller agency, see Sung-Ae Lee, ‘Adaptations of Time Travel Narratives in Japanese Multimedia’, 138–39; for discussion of time travel in Cyborg She, see Sung-Ae Lee and John Stephens, ‘Gynoids and Male Fantasy in East Asian Film and Anime’, 196–99. 7 Homages to scenes from Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge are a genre in themselves. 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AdaptationOxford University Press

Published: Mar 1, 2018

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