Jennie is criticized for making her acting debut with “The Idol”, but various female stars have previously debuted with just as explicit projects.
Many famous Korean stars have made their mark in the acting industry by starring in projects with adult scenes. In fact, some have quickly become A-list artists thanks to their bold and uninhibited performances, without compromising artistic value. In these projects, many actresses managed to break free from the safety of their comfort zones and gained recognition from both the industry and audiences. However, these explicit, R-rated scenes also brought these stars to heavy criticism from the public.
Among stars that debuted with an explicit project is Kim Tae Ri, who is considered a “late bloomer” in the Korean showbiz industry. At the age of 26, she shone in the film “The Handmaiden”, which is directed by Park Chan Wook and based on the novel “Fingersmith” by Welsh writer Sarah Waters. The actress, born in 1990, surpassed 1,500 other candidates to land the role of maid Sook Hee.
“The Handmaiden” contains many bold and provocative scenes, depicting a lesbian relationship between Lady Hideko (Kim Min Hee) and Sook Hee (Kim Tae Ri). These scenes did not hinder Kim Tae Ri’s progress in the acting world. Instead, they helped her advance in her career, as her acting skills were praised by both professional critics and audiences.
To act out these adult scenes, Kim Tae Ri and Kim Min Hee rehearsed multiple times in front of the camera, meticulously planning each movement and gesture to evoke emotions and avoid awkwardness. Despite being a newcomer, Kim Tae Ri did not feel overshadowed by her senior colleague. When the camera rolled for these scenes, only female staff members were present to directly shoot the scenes, with all the necessary equipment ready, creating a space for the two actresses to excel in their performances.
After the success of “The Handmaiden”, Kim Tae Ri received the Best New Actress award at various award ceremonies, including the prestigious Blue Dragon Film Awards. She also received various offers for both big screen and small screen appearances, even though she is rather selective when it comes to picking a project.
This careful selection, in the end, has proven to be effective for Kim Tae Ri, as most of the projects she has participated in, received huge acclaim. So far, Kim Tae Ri has collaborated with top stars such as Song Joong Ki, Ha Jung Woo, and Yoo Hae Jin on the big screen. Meanwhile, “Mr. Sunshine”, where she co-starred with Lee Byung Hun, and “Twenty Five Twenty One”, where she appeared alongside Nam Joo Hyuk, are TV dramas that help Kim Tae Ri make a deep impression on audiences.
Similarly to Kim Tae Ri, Kim Go Eun also made her acting debut with an explicit project. In particular, at the age of 20, Kim Go Eun transformed into the female lead of “Eungyo” (also known as “A Muse”). Here, the actress portrayed a high school student, and had intimate scenes with a veteran actor Park Hae Il, as well as intense love scenes with fellow co-star Kim Moo Yul.
With its erotic nature, “Eungyo” sparked huge controversies, and was even dubbed “the Lolita of South Korea”. Nevertheless, it also brought Kim Go Eun numerous Best New Actress awards in the Korean film industry.
On the other hand, the beautiful “Running Man” star Song Ji Hyo also rose to fame through explicit scenes. In 2008, she broke away from her innocent image established in “Princess Hours” and “Jumong” to portray a queen in the R-rated historical film “A Frozen Flower.”
At the time, the film shocked South Korea with its intense themes of love and hate, as well as various explicit scenes. In bed scenes alongside actor Jo In Sung, Song Ji Hyo almost fully exposed herself, and revealed a lot of sensitive parts on her body.
Naturally, the film received mixed opinions, with Song Ji Hyo facing criticism for her intimate scenes, even accused of “seeking fame”. However, the impact of “A Frozen Flower” cannot be denied, as the film has received high praise for its story, meaning, and the performances of the cast, including Song Ji Hyo.
It is known that despite mixed reception, Song Ji Hyo has never regretted her decision to star in”A Frozen Flower”. In fact, she shared that she gave her all for nine months, and each scene was meticulously planned and rehearsed. When accepting the role, Song Ji Hyo didn’t focus on how much she had to expose or how many times she had to be nude, but rather on how to best convey the inner emotions and psychological development of her characters.
“Besides acting in the way the director wanted, I also paid attention to my facial expressions. We didn’t film explicit scenes just because this is an adult film,” the actress said in an interview with Hancinema.
Another notable figure who gained attention by debuting with an explicit project is BLACKPINK Jennie, who recently made her venture into Hollywood with “The Idol”. So far, both audiences and critics don’t have much to say about Jennie’s acting, but there has been an intense debate revolving around her bold dance moves and seductive expressions in the series.
In particular, numerous comments criticized Jennie’s participation in the film, claiming that the work as whole is cheap and lacking in artistic value. Korean media outlets even stated that “The Idol” was a mistake made by Jennie, as it did nothing but stain her normally chic and elegant image, especially as a Kpop idol.
Although Jennie’s scenes were short, they brought a lot of attention. It is known that the BLACKPINK member took on the role through an invitation from The Weeknd, without any interference nor involvement of her management company. According to Jennie, she simply tried to “be herself” for “The Idol”.
The series was invited to the Cannes Film Festival last month, where the first two episodes were screened and received a myriad of scathing comments. Critic reviews are not at all optimistic, with “The Idol” receiving a 2/10 rating on IMDb, a 25% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 5.9/10 rating on the film review site Metacritic.
Amid ongoing controversies surrounding Jennie’s acting debut, the sensational Netflix drama “The Glory”, which stars Song Hye Kyo, was also mentioned. In particular, the two works were compared because they both had explicit elements, adult scenes, and nudity. In addition, to fit her character, Song Hye Kyo broke away from her “goddess image” for the first time.
While both Jennie and Song Hye Kyo’s projects got the two breaking away from a “designated image”, Song Hye Kyo was highly praised. In one scene, the actress removed her outer clothes to reveal the scars on her body, which came from tortures inflicted by her high school bullies.
It is known that to achieve the desired effect for this scene, the actress and the makeup team spent around 4 to 5 hours creating the scars. Song Hye Kyo also had to be nude for several hours for this makeup process, and actively tried to lose weight for two months to fit the scene.
In the end, Song Hye Kyo’s “transformation” and dedication in “The Glory” earned the actress ample recognition from the public and critics alike, at the same time causing a sensation throughout Asia. At the 2023 Baeksang Awards, Song Hye Kyo even won Best Actress in the TV Drama category.
In the end, the different reactions towards Jennie and Song Hye Kyo’s projects may have to do with the messages conveyed through explicit scenes. It may also be partly due to the public and fans being harsher towards “idols” – who generally have to be more careful about their images.