Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Let's Learn History with Running Man!

Episode 124 of Running Man contains perhaps one of the most remarkable pieces of sustained improvisation I think I've ever seen. The final game has the usual rules of tearing off each others' name tags and last one standing wins, except this time there is a twist. One of the competitors is the King and cannot have his or her name tag removed. Instead, the others have to find a ballot paper and vote for a new king.

As I watched this, it reminded me of real history: Kings rise and fall, alliances are made and loyalty is tested. Using my limited knowledge of history and a lot of searching on Wikipedia, I discovered which parts of history that were reflected in this episode.

For example, Gwangsoo begins as King and his reign is a bloodthirsty one as he chases after his competitors mercilessly. The others quickly decide on who will be the next King: Ji Suk Jin, who won't be as threatening and will give them time to think. However, Gwangsoo eliminates his rival only to be finally overthrown by a queen, captured and finally removed from the game.

This is uncannily similar (with a little imagination) to the fate of Edward II, an unpopular king, who executed the pretender to the throne, John Deydras, but was finally deposed by his wife, Queen Isabella who imprisoned him before finally executing him.

After the fall of Gwangsoo, Han Hyo-Joo took over as Queen. Immediately she accepted the offer of Kim Jong Kook to be an ally, and so the two of them commence a new reign of fear. Finally, Jong Kook is surrounded and has his name tag removed, and so the defenceless queen is deposed.

This was harder to find in reality, since there are far fewer queens in history. At first I thought of Cleopatra and Mark Anthony, but they died by committing suicide. The closest I got was Mary Queen of Scots, whose closest ally was her secretary David Rizzio. He was assassinated, which had serious repercussions for her reign and eventual capture and execution.

It's not a great match, since David Rizzio never represented his Queen on the battlefield, but it's the best I can do.

Finally, a new King comes to power, Yoo Jae Suk, but is undone by his trust of another who had already plotted his downfall from the very beginning, Song Ji Hyo.

If we ignore gender for a second, this is sort of similar to the fate of Lady Jane Grey, who was Queen of England for nine days in 1553, until Mary deposed her and took the throne on a wave of popularity, having already made plans to take the succession for herself (and, in fairness, her claim to the throne was much stronger that Lady Jane's).

I find it very interesting that such a simple game should reflect history so nicely. In fact, I think the producers noticed this, and so they kept a bit at the end where the guests say how amazed they are that it was all done without scripts. This is definitely one of those episodes were everything fell together so neatly, that it could almost be written.

Just goes to show, history really does repeat itself, even on game shows.

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