Let Your K-Drama, Bollywood and Hollywood Heroes Help You Write!
Updated: Sep 29
When we start meeting to discuss essay topics, some of my students say, they have “nothing” to write about - Nothing to say about themselves. However, there are usually stories hiding right where you would never expect to see them. The purpose of this blog post is to challenge you to let your favorite movie/tv / etc. heroes to inspire your own choices when you write your college applications. This time around, let them help you! [WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS!!!!!!]
Case Study #1: Itaewon Class
Business Insider India says “'Itaewon Class' is an addictive revenge drama with a diverse cast” - and that it is! It could also be an entry point for thinking about how to approach your college applications. Specifically, a few days after I binge-watched this show, I was struck by how perfectly some of the main character's choices would be a perfect response to some of the University of California Personal Insight Questions- the short responses for the application.
Namely, UC PIQ #5 asks you to:
Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement?
Under the prompt, the UC helps you by explaining that challenge is something you can interpret broadly:
Things to consider: A challenge could be personal, or something you have faced in your community or school. Why was the challenge significant to you? This is a good opportunity to talk about any obstacles you’ve faced and what you’ve learned from the experience. Did you have support from someone else or did you handle it alone?
If you’re currently working your way through a challenge, what are you doing now, and does that affect different aspects of your life? For example, ask yourself, “How has my life changed at home, at my school, with my friends or with my family?”
What if you were Park Saero-yi? What would you do, with the cards dealt to you? In his case, he had quite a few significant challenges - the traumatic loss of his father, expulsion from school (because he stood up to a bully - trying to do the right thing), and even ended up in jail. Yet, he made his 15-year plan - and stuck by it. Along the way, he met different people who would become friends and future business partners.
Park Saeroyi is like a Pied Piper, attracting people into his long-term plans. Most compelling is that he sticks by his beliefs. Korea Joong Ang Daily notes:
...what’s fresh about this one is that it’s a new style where the protagonist doesn’t perish along with their opponent. He doesn’t do whatever it takes for him to get his revenge. Instead, he plans it thoroughly and realizes his plan step by step, while still being righteous and taking control of his goals.
Seung-kwon, his former jail buddy, credits him for letting him see a world beyond criminality - he ultimately follows Saeroyi into the restaurant business when Saeroyi opens the pub in Itaewon.
He gave Jang Geun-soo, the second son of his arch-enemy, a safe place to land when he needed a job. Imagine that! By the end of the series, it is not shocking to see them reconcile - because Saeroyi helped Geun-soo change forever. Even when he could treat his arch-enemy Jang Dae-hee with disrespect, etc. he acts with civility and even feeds him inside the Itaewon location, where all the magic started.
Throughout the show, you see how he teaches his friends to accept and respect themselves, under his tender care. Who knew? For a guy who is not exactly chatty, he’s a natural nurturer!
So for Park Saero-yi, he overcame the problem of being a middle school dropout and ex-convict by having an extremely successful business - with the help of all the steps within his multi-year plan!
Case Study #2: Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year
[DISCLAIMER: Rocket Singh isn’t standard Bollywood fare - many years on, the film is considered to be “underrated.”]
When I was watching “Itaewon Class” it actually reminded me of another Cinderella-ish story, “Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year” which I saw many years ago. This film is also something of a Cinderella tale - of how a young man faces adversity to find great success in the business world while adhering to his principles.
“The feel of the corporate world has been captured very realistically. The writing (Jaideep Sahni) is top-notch too, with several scenes making a great impact – the first job interview, conversations between Harpreet and his senior manager Nitin, the scene in the club where Harpreet is insulted by his boss when his boss gets to know about his secret company, his confrontations and many more.”
How did he go from being a proverbial zero to a hero? He could very well also answer UC #5 - the one about a significant challenge? Unlike Saeroyi, he didn’t go to prison, and his arch-nemesis doesn’t control everybody - however, he has a powerful villain/villains of his own. Despite being constantly bullied by others in his workplace, he slowly earns the respect of some of his co-workers to the point that he can recruit them into his IT startup! What a challenge indeed!
Times of India notes:
And there is an alluring everyman quality to this character Harpreet. He never understood numbers in school. He can barely fathom their significance in salesmanship. Since he proverbially never let school interfere with his education, he can still see humans beyond competitors. He also figures that honestly creating and sharing wealth is the finest premise behind startups and successful enterprises. These values, it is evident, serve capitalism well in the long-run.
Park Saeroyi’s story of the scrappy bunch of friends making it through a tough time together - that also reminded me of Rocket Singh. TheNew York Times notes:
Harpreet starts his own secret business on the side, runs on hard work and honesty. A Sikh, he forms a kind of Indian rainbow coalition when he brings in partners: the beautiful receptionist who has been passed up for promotion; the man who serves tea and is dismissively called Cup-Plate; and even a snaky salesman, who comes to appreciate doing business Harpreet’s way.
What a cool guy!
Case Study #3: Black Panther
Marvel’s film, “Black Panther” among the top ten of the biggest movie blockbusters of all time- in part succeeds because so many of the lead and supporting characters are facing significant challenges! What made this such a global hit?
When Your Life is A Piece of Cake...Until Your Villain Shows Up!
You would think King T’Challa, would have an easy life. Born into a royal family, life should be a piece of cake, right? Oh but wait...his cousin and fellow Wakandan Erik Killmonger turns out to be his worst enemy!!! It’s not exactly a fun time when Killmonger even takes the crown!!! Yes, that is a significant challenge!
When You Are Torn
Okoye, the official military commander, struggles when the villain, Erik Killmonger, becomes the king - should she continue to support a regime she does not find honorable? Or should she fight for what she believes is the right thing to do? She experiences a tug-of-war between her duty, and her heart. That could be a significant challenge!
Enlighteens Education Perspective
We bring you this blog post so that you can see the potential for essay ideas everywhere, even from your favorite TV/movie heroes! We hope you stay inspired and creative in your writing process as you prepare your college applications.