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Weekend Drama Report [07.07.20]

If you’ve been able to catch up or start new dramas this week, what have you been watching? Are you enjoyably creeped out by It’s Okay Not to Be Okay? Did you start anything new?

Here’s what we started, finished, dropped, or kept watching this week.

(Note: We’ll mention some plot details, but major spoilers will have warnings.)

 

PAROMA

It’s Okay To Not Be Okay [1-6]

Watching this drama made me realize something about fairy tales. They’re almost all about children being abused by adults—usually, a parent. So, when Mun-young tells her students in the hospital that fairy tales are about facing the harsh realities of the world and waking up from your dreams, I can both appreciate the truth and the pained cynicism in her words.

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Mun-young’s constant refrain from the very first episode is that we should all accept who we are. Gang-tae’s refrain is that he doesn’t have the luxury to. This brings us to a delicious conflict between a man who’s constantly running from the past, his feelings, and even his own thoughts, and a woman who’s decided to accept the worst of herself and embrace the world’s censure if it means getting what she wants.

A good question to ask at this point is if Mun-young is really accepting of herself or if she’s just decided to believe what she’d been told she was and live as if it didn’t hurt.

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I’m particularly enjoying Gang-tae’s deep conflict as a young man shackled by love and obligation. I’ve loved Kim Soo-hyun as a North Korean spy before, so I know the man has range, but he’s brought an extremely poignant, dramatic presence to this role. As a quiet, repressed young man, he dutifully tries to give his older, autistic brother the best care he can, but wishes his burdens were less heavy, and suffers extreme guilt for having those thoughts.

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So, when Mun-young glibly dismisses her own ‘burdens’ and says exactly what’s on her mind, he erupts at her and accuses her of being abnormal.

This happens repeatedly. So much so that I want Mun-young to walk away from the young man who is trapped so deep in his own head that he refuses to see her as anything but an ‘other’. The stark contrast in his empathetic behavior towards the patients he cares for and the way he treats Mun-young speaks volumes about how much she triggers his own issues.

I’d be pretty happy if they pause the building romance and just do a few episodes of therapy sessions at this point.

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Finally, a note on watching pretty things die. My first thought at seeing child Mun-young tear a butterfly in half to test her friend’s devotion was—“Ah, so she doesn’t have empathy!” And that matched the show’s synopsis, as I would find out later. The PD very clearly wanted us to think that Mun-young was potentially a psychopath, or as her dad likes to call her—a monster.

But a few days after that episode, I thought back to my childhood and wondered if experimentally crushing ants and roaches made me a psychopath* too. Or do I get a pass cause they aren’t pretty, winged creatures of poetry and symbolism?

I don’t think children tend to have a whole lot of empathy to start with. It’s something learned. And if your parents are regularly abusing you, there’s a fairly good chance that your development could be stunted.

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The Mun-young I’ve seen so far doesn’t lack empathy or a capacity to feel. (Her reaction to Gang-tae’s words make that evident.) So, what does make her ‘not okay’? An unresolved trauma from her childhood? A recklessness that borders on self-harm because she simply doesn’t know how to care about consequences?

I guess we’ll just have to keep watching to find out.

*Don't fret. I grew up to regularly rescue and foster dogs, cats, and the occasional crows. I don't think I lack empathy. Though maybe for humans...

Backstreet Rookie [1-2]

There are some tropes that are like catnip to me, and someone planning a long game to win over their oblivious crush is quite high on that list. (It’s why I really enjoyed Ye Lu Ming’s strategic wooing of Fan Xing in Find Yourself despite his eventual second lead pigheadedness.)

After the cringe-y promos that emphasized Kim Yoo-jung’s youth against Ji Chang-wook’s ajusshi-ness, I was quite relieved to see snippets of their interactions in the first episode on social media, and about ready to start the drama.

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Then some of my friends watched it and brought up the scenes not being re-shared on Instagram and Twitter. Saya did an epic thread about it. Then she did one better and explained dramaland’s chequered past with minority representation in a wonderfully quotable post.

So, now my reasons for watching the drama had changed. I wanted to see the offending scenes in the context of the story and compare notes with my friends about my own reactions. Did I have a different perspective on it? Not a one. Saya was right. It was racist and horrible and my god what were they thinking!

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