A/N: I promise more recaps of Awl will be forthcoming. I just had to get this rant out of my system!
Even when life got tough recently for Shamrockmom, it wasn’t enough to keep me from watching Korean drama shows. However, I made several major errors in judgment–namely watching high-level ridiculousness and not dropping these shows like hot potatoes. This is how I know things are going off the rails for me–I keep watching stuff I know is bad for my brain. Thankfully, I have turned a corner, as I quickly dropped “Imaginary Cat”, which has the most annoying female lead I’ve seen to date. I cannot decide if the actress is plain awful, or if her character is merely written that way. As much as I wanted to see the cuteness of both the cat and Yoo Seong Ho, I couldn’t even make it to Episode 4.
*screencaps from Viki.com and Dramacool.cc*
Let’s start with the end of “She Was Pretty”. After Episode 13, I was confident that the show would go into freefall, and introduce some crazy dark ending. I was frankly shocked at the fluff and cuteness that we viewers were served up, but even more shocked at how many loose ends and plotholes were left by the writer. Here’s a biggie:
Back in my high school days, I spent some time hanging out with the theater nerds that were also band nerds. I managed to learn one thing from that experience: Chekov’s Gun Principle. That principle states that if a gun is hanging on the wall in the first act, it better go off by the end of the drama. In SWP, the writer violates this in a maddeningly frustrating way. Dear Writer-nim, please don’t show me this empty fridge (or even the one filled with water bottles and nothing else) along with multiple other clues that the Main Male Lead has a severe eating disorder–and then sweep it all under the rug at the end of the show, especially under the umbrella (pun intended) of a ‘Happily Ever After’ ending. Viewers like me are not gonna necessarily buy into the True Love Fixes Everything trope. Even in the drama, “It’s OK, It’s Love” where the main male character has a major mental health problem, it doesn’t get this much of a gloss-over treatment.
SWP has a multitude of series ending issues I can get riled about, from the fact that Seong Joon was still an a-hole to his colleagues at the magazine, to the “let’s toss a bone to the second female lead” by pairing her with an attractive younger guy, and the cop-out way the character of Shin Hyeok was written out. It seemed plain to me that Choi Si Won was exhausted and possibly also frustrated with how his character was handled by the end of the show, judging from the bags under his (lovely deep brown) eyes.
I have to comment on one criticism I read about CSW’s acting. The commentator said that all CSW had to do was “play himself” so it really wasn’t a difficult role for him. I call BS. First of all, there were too many BTS pics showing him making meticulous script notes and other cast members praising his work ethic and attention to detail. Secondly–if this is CSW ‘playing himself’ then I want to see more as soon as he finishes his military service! There’s nothing wrong with playing yourself if you are as cool as CSW played his Shin Hyeok character. His comedic timing, especially in scenes with Park Seo Joon was spot-on. His ability to pull off all kinds of scenes from crazy:
to straight-up comedy:
makes me wonder what anyone could possibly criticize about his acting range. Full disclosure: I had no idea who Choi Si Won was before this show, or that he was in the K-pop group Super Junior which has like a Billion-with-a-B person fandom. It’s also good to know that I wasn’t the only one who was unhappy with the ending–a much needed ‘corrective’ fanfic has been started by a viewer who melted down over this show’s ending kinda like I did over Secret Love Affair. Two months after this show ended, I’m still grousing about the ending to SWP, and wondering why I had so many issues with a show that everyone else seemed to love. Please DramaGods, bring CSW back quickly from his military service and have him find a huge pile of amazing movie and TV drama scripts waiting for him on his desk. Help him pick the best one, and put any naysayers to shame. Let that be his reward since CSW was the best part of SWP. He stole the show right out from under Park Seo Joon–and that’s no easy feat.
Next on my list is the Japanese drama “5-ji kara 9-ji made” which I will shorten to “From 5 To 9”. This one started out problematic in the extreme and left me with a horrible drama hangover….defined as that feeling you get when you watched something that enrages you, but you watch it anyways…and the next episode too…and the next one after that!
Honestly, until I started watching Kdramas, I never thought of myself as a feminist. My oldest son (who hooked me first on mangas, TYVM) thought that I might like to watch mangas that had been adapted for TV since I was so impatient for the manga translations. He recommended one he knew was popular with some of his female friends–and of course, that was “Boys over Flowers”. Knowing it was based on a manga, I gave it a ton of slack in the reality department. But that slack was nowhere near enough! I remember storming into his room, ranting about how could Jun Pyo be so mean and treat a girl like that! And was bullying this bad over in Korea? I already had some experience with my kids getting bullied here, but nothing like this. What in blazes was wrong with all these people?! I swore and cried like never before at a TV show/movie, and I even binge-watched 4-5 episodes in a day. I was an emotional wreck after finishing the show. I’d never watch BOF now, and if I did, I’d surely lose an electronic device in a massive meltdown/tantrum. A few cute moments can’t even begin to make up for the underlying issues of BOF–or F5T9.
Side note: My son redeemed himself by recommending the next Kdrama I watched. He knew I liked action films (and hot guys) so he thought I would go for “City Hunter”. He was correct. Flaws and all, I loved that show!
Warning to my 3 readers: If you have ever had to file a restraining order against a former boyfriend, don’t even attempt to read further or heaven forbid–watch F5T9.
The drama starts out very positive, then embarks on a huge downhill run. Sakuraba Junko is everything (and then some) that I could want as a lead female character in a drama. As an English teacher at a private tutoring academy, she is skilled, bright, goal-oriented, kind to others and well respected with both male and female colleagues. She’s got not one, but two guys who love her at work; the wimpy Mishima who looks like he’s 16 and in the throes of his first crush, and the older and much more mature boss, Makoto, with whom Junko is clearly smitten. Her ultimate goal is to live in New York City and work for her company teaching English. I’d say her secondary goal is to have a relationship with Makoto, but I think she restrains herself because he’s older and he’s her boss. I could not for the life of me understand why Makoto was not an option for Junko. He seemed to respect Junko, he was honest, he was a widower without children, (translation: single and available) he knew Junko was intelligent, and most importantly, he seemed to be the only male character that was comfortable with Junko having a career/life of her own.
Too bad Junko has a major problem with drawing boundary lines, first with her family who set her up for an arranged marriage, and then with Takane, the Buddhist monk who fell in love with her at first sight and got her parents to go along with the arranged marriage idea. Takane’s initial idea of courtship–overnight imprisonment at his temple. WTF! Is this guy out of his mind?
Why I didn’t drop this show right here is proof of the huge depressive funk I was in at the time. It’s embarrassing in retrospect that I watched this show to its conclusion. Don’t get me wrong–there were some cute side characters in the show, especially Momoe, the goofy gal-pal of Junko’s who is addicted to yaoi mangas and her patient boyfriend Arthur who even goes to the fan meetups with her. The way Junko’s family immediately takes to Takane and how he loves all the simple things they do together is refreshing. It reminded me of BOF and how Jun Pyo liked to hang out with Jan Di’s humble family–one of the better parts of BOF as far as I was concerned.
Additional characters in this drama that plague poor Junko include the super-disapproving grandmother of Takane who is the head honcho at the temple, and Takane’s punk-ass bro Amane who looks–and more importantly, acts–a whole lot like he should be hanging out with the local wannabe Asian gang members in my ‘hood. The Grandmother totally disapproves of Junko, and puts every imaginable obstacle in Takane’s path to keep him from marrying her. She’s a master manipulator and knows how to use guilt to her maximum advantage. Takane tries to be as respectful as he can, but he’s definitely not interested in the bland and fawning Kaori who is his Grandmother’s pick for his bride. Amane is a total scumbag from the first scene he’s in, and I was particularly disturbed at how he forcefully kissed Kaori in Episode 8–another Shamrockmom warning for highly triggering content:
At least she gives him a well deserved smack!
Amane loves to play his Victim Card: “Wah-Wah, I was never the favored child”, and trust me–that gets old really quick.
I know a lot of reviewers really liked F5T9. Admittedly, it seems cute and funny at first, but the more I thought about this show, the more I hated it. It’s disturbing on several levels, especially with how little Takane cares about the effect that being a highly traditional temple wife will have on the thoroughly modern Junko. The show is extremely dismissive of the heroine’s goals and dreams for her life, and gives the viewer the message of “True love
borders on equals obsessiveness”. How can I root for a male lead who says this to the woman he purportedly loves?
If my son was asked about how many miles per gallon of gas one of the exotic cars he works on every day might get, I’m sure he’d say: “Your mileage may vary”. I think that I would agree with that assessment for this show. Perhaps you might be able to overlook the things that bother me and go for the cuteness and fluff. If so–then good for you. I just can’t. The 10 episodes of F5T9 are short at ~45 minutes each, so if you do decide to watch it, the commitment is less than a typical Kdrama of 16 one hour shows. You might be wondering–Does this show have a happy ending? Again, the answer is….maybe. Depends on your point of view. After a full episode of pure
noble idiocy where Takane brutally tells Junko that he never loved her (TBH I was hoping she’d take the opportunity and run to Makoto) Junko and Takane reconcile and get married. Then she immediately leaves for New York and a new job, the one she has dreamed about for years. Takane is flailing along behind her as she runs to catch her plane. It’s not entirely clear to me if he’s going with her or not. I never understood why he couldn’t be a monk in NYC or run a temple there. Don’t they need monks in NYC too? There’s plenty of Buddhist monks in my area. Just sayin’. By this point in the show, I just wanted Junko to escape Takane, and for Takane to go back to the temple and reflect on his obsessive behavior. I can easily imagine the train-wreck their marriage will be in a few years–if it lasts that long!
After the twin burns of “From 5 to 9” and “She Was Pretty”, you can bet that I was extremely tentative about picking another show to watch. Honestly, I was planning to avoid (like the plague) any show with obsessive behavior, beauty, or weight as an issue. Again, because of the funk I was in, I made another crummy decision. My bad! After about half of the episodes were aired, I caught up to “Oh My Venus”. The prevailing wisdom (which I should know better to blindly trust) went on and on at how marvelous this show was, and especially praised the hawtness of So Ji Sub’s character John Kim/Young Ho and the fact that he emphasized Shin Min Ah’s character Joo Eun’s health more than her weight. I will give the show some credit for that. But there’s no way I could give OMV any kind of ‘thumbs-up’ recommendation. In fact, it’s got a whole slew of issues that it deals poorly with too.
Joo Eun used to be both a smart gal and a hottie back in the day, but a sedentary life and law school have packed on the pounds after graduation. The extra weight has not affected her brain though, as she is portrayed as a competent lawyer. Show also makes a point of letting us know that she was just as smart back then as she is now, and she is nobody’s doormat. Cool. I like this so far; Joo Eun is another strong female lead I can root for. But JE’s unhealthy lifestyle including wayyyy too much caffeine and a too tight girdle/corset finally gets the better of her, and she collapses on a plane, giving trainer and fellow passenger John Kim/Young Ho the opportunity to cut off her clothes (how convenient!) and ‘rescue’ her. I think I counted six times in the first 4 episodes that he had to ‘rescue’ her. Ugh. Enough already with the damsel-in-distress trope!
Similar to SWP, the female lead starts off with highly jerky behavior. Joo Eun finds out her rescuer YH is John Kim aka the “Trainer to the Stars” in Hollywood and also an MMA coach. YH is desperately trying to conceal his whereabouts from his wealthy chaebol family due to a poorly defined scandal with a former client. So…our lawyer heroine decides that to keep YH’s secret, a little blackmail is in order so he can be her trainer! OMG. Show, how could you go there??! I mean, she’s a lawyer for crying out loud! Just like in SWP, the immediate deceit on the part of the main female character is completely glossed over and is a catalyst for the show to move forward. *headdesk* I can’t get on board with this at all–but I still keep watching the show. When YH’s minions Ji Woong and Joon Sung bust into JE’s house and clear out her cupboards to rid the house of unhealthy food a few episodes later, it also comes across as overbearing and presumptuous.
Now Young Ho gets his turn to behave like a jerk. He starts to fall in love with JE, and utters this right before they kiss at the end of Episode 6:
Umm, YH….since when do you get to claim ownership of her body? Is JE just a possession to you? He takes her glasses off (great idea–make sure she’s got blurry vision. /sarc) and utters this woeful line:
At this point, I’m ready to lock YH in the Buddhist temple prison cell from F5T9 and throw away the key! WTH! The worst part–show portrays this as sexy and cute. Yeah dude, she can– and more importantly, she has the right to say no to you. My take: JE is likely in a weakened mental state after being dumped by her narcissistic long-term boyfriend of 15 years (has that guy ever heard of the saying “Fish or Cut Bait“?) and probably the physical changes too from losing weight and starting thyroid supplement medication. Down for the count (pun intended), JE buys into this crap and kisses YH! Another moment where I have to wonder why in the heck I didn’t just shut this show down right here. I must have not been the only one flipping virtual tables over this scene, because in a later episode, JE finally tells YH that her body belongs only to her. I am darned sure that line got written and included after negative viewer blowback from this episode, and several others where YH gives JE the “Your body belongs to me” line. Too little, too late, IMHO.
OMV tries and fails miserably to tackle other difficult topics brought up in the drama. Dear Writer-nim, if you can’t narratively handle difficult and sensitive subjects like DV and suicide, don’t bring them up. Joon Sung’s mother is shown to be the victim of an extremely abusive husband (she put JS up for adoption to get him out of harm’s way many years before) and the drug overdose/suicide of YH’s much younger half-brother. Neither of these plot points are fully developed, and that was a shame. My 3 readers know I’m all about shows that can take a strong stand against DV and suicide. This show was pure weak-sauce.
Another thing that OMV presented as cute was the stalker fangirl/model attracted to Joon Sung. Annoying in the extreme, she went to all kinds of crazy lengths to hang around him. If the OMV writer had a brain, they would have cut this entire line from the story. None of it was appealing. I truly felt sorry for JS. He never got a break. Girls stalking guys is just as bad as guys stalking girls. Period.
Possibly the worst part of the OMV storyline had to do with the car accident and injuries sustained by YH in Episode 13. After it is disclosed that because of the damage from the current accident and his previous knee problems due to the surgeries for osteosarcoma that he might not walk again, YH isolates himself from JE. Why? After YH blathers on about being there for her and supporting her, she’s not given the chance to be supportive of him. How selfish of YH to act like this; he can’t bear to be anything other than physically perfect for JE. I have no idea why the show does this, other than to create faux dramatic tension. Totally lame. How awesome would it have been to see JE helping YH with his rehab, working as a team, helping him like he helped her, and encouraging him every step of the way? (I swear I can’t stop with the puns today. Forgive me!) They needlessly separate for about a year after a heartbreaking scene at the hospital where JE tearfully confesses that she loves YH, and YH’s buddy Ji Woong has a fantastic few moments where he swears he won’t cry in front of YH, but can barely hold back his tears. For a young guy, that was a fine piece of acting, and I was very impressed.
The ending of this show should have been Episode 14, but with 2 more hours to fill, Show went for the fluff and cute instead. That was all well and good up until the very end, where it is revealed that JE is now pregnant with twins, and has gained back the ~25 kg she previously lost in only 3 months of pregnancy! *begins to cry* WTH, show! That’s supposed to be funny? And then OMV signs off with YH berating JE about the weight gain….ahhhhh, I’m out. I’m so angry at myself for watching this show. I’m certainly capable of making better viewing decisions.
Similar to SWP, the silver lining in this show was in the side characters, and this time it was Ji Woong played by Henry Lau that totally impressed me. If he is also acting “just like himself” then I will take more, please! A concert-level classical pianist and violin player, Henry emigrated from Canada when he was 16 to sign with SM Entertainment. His amazing energy level has to be seen to be believed. My biggest question: Does he have an uncle about my age? And if so, is that uncle single? I need someone with that kind of enthusiasm in my life. How can he be so upbeat? Even in my 20’s I wasn’t that energetic.
So the lesson Shamrockmom has learned here is: Bad times and bad dramas all have an ending. Better times and better shows are around the corner. I am very excited about what I have seen so far in “Jang Yeong Sil”, “Remember” and “Assembly”–the big brother companion show to “Awl”. If YAI’s new movie “Like for Likes” comes to the CJ E&M theater near me in mid-February, I plan to review it for the blog. Heh….another adventure awaits!
Final side note–I also started to wonder if there was something wrong with me…..so many female viewers went ga-ga over So Ji Sub and his perfect body, especially in this bath scene:
I’ll admit for a guy pushing 40, he’s got a rockin’ bod. Obviously, he works out and eats right. He’s tall and well built, with a nice deep voice. Like his character, SJS had health problems as a child that he overcame. But SJS’s acting and especially his facial expressions….I dunno, they just leave me cold. He seems to smirk in various ways, which is cute, but limited. I just didn’t find him that appealing. It also rankled me that his character seemed to not desire JE as much as she desired him, especially in some of the later episodes. It was like having sex with her was a chore or a burden. All the chemistry between the leads felt manufactured to me. What was wrong here?
I wondered if perhaps my ovaries had completely croaked. I looked at some screencaps I had on my computer of Joo Jin Mo from last year’s melo “My Love Eun Dong”, and I felt a little better. Perhaps this was just a minor and temporary mental malfunction on my part. Then a new pictorial of Yoo Ah In appeared, including this fan fiction side-story inducing pic:
The tagline used in the bedding company’s ad is the line from Secret Love Affair “I will remember you by your body”! Why this pic doesn’t come with a “Caution: Flammable” warning label is beyond my understanding!
I can’t even breathe…..because I know it’s Seon Jae, lying on the bed in the hotel after his concert that evening, watching his goddess-turned-wife take off her necklace and earrings…and slowly let her hair out of the pins and combs holding it up. It gracefully tumbles down past her shoulders and she turns and looks at him on the bed…..
Okay, then! Good to know I’m still alive. Now I need to go and figure out how to put this scene that has been so graciously given to me into the final chapter of the FF! Thanks YAI and Sesa Living for firing up Shamrockmom’s imagination!