One thing that Dramaland has taught me, is that true love simply cannot be forced.
Whether you’re one of the leads trying to make it work with a chaebol-parent-approved love interest, or a second lead working hard to earn the affection of the lead that you’re one-sidedly crushing on, no amount of effort will produce true love.
I don’t know which I am in this drama analogy (maybe I’m a lead character and Boyfriend is a chaebol-parent-approved, er, boyfriend? Hur); what I do know is, after 10 episodes of trying – like, really working – to love Boyfriend, I’m finally realizing that I’m just never going to love this show, no matter how hard I try.
Not gonna lie; I basically checked this show out for the love of Park Bo Gum. I’m pretty indifferent towards Song Hye Kyo as an actress, but I’ve historically enjoyed quite a few noona romances, and this show was getting a fair amount of positive buzz, and – did I mention that I love Park Bo Gum?
Again, not gonna lie; I cringed throughout this OTP’s initial encounter in Cuba, which basically made up episode 1. I found everything prettily filmed, but also, very illogical and cheesy. [MINOR SPOILER] I mean, why would anyone take a sleeping pill, then allow herself to sit down – very sleepily, I might add – on the edge of a parapet? Or did she know that a handsome young man would conveniently sit down next to her, just in time to catch her head on his shoulder? [END SPOILER]
I’ll admit that having the characters back in Korea made me feel more interested in the story. Both Soo Hyun and Jin Hyuk (Song Hye Kyo and Park Bo Gum) were now in their natural habitats, and they needed to figure things out, and adjust, and all the cringing and squirming and stolen glances and curiosity was more interesting to me, than the dream-like encounter in Cuba.
The thing is, though, I found that I really, really struggled to get on board with this show. Each episode, I found myself wrestling with my thoughts, wondering just what about this show wasn’t working for me. Like, why was Soo Hyun’s behavior as a CEO bugging me so much, when it was in service of growing the OTP connection?
I started to seriously wonder if I had a gender bias, because I’d had no problems with recent dramas featuring lovelines between CEOs and their direct-reporting staff, like in What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim? and Strong Woman Do Bong Soon. Well ok, I had other problems with the shows I mentioned, but the fact that the CEO was romancing his secretary/bodyguard wasn’t an actual issue for me. Was it because the CEOs were men, and I had an internal unconscious bias towards men?
This possibility disturbed me quite a bit, to be honest.
But then, I met my dear friend DDee for our biannual ice-cream drama-chat date, and she completely set me thinking in the right direction, when she asked me, “Is it a genre thing?”
OMG. As it turns out, YES, it is a genre thing.
THE CORE PROBLEM
It was while watching episode 7, that I managed to finally pinpoint my problem with this show.
See, the thing is, this is a drama world in which there are two groups of people: those who believe they live in a rom-com world, and those who firmly believe they don’t live in a rom-com world. Turns out that when you try to smush rom-com type expectations into a non-rom-com world, things get problematic.
[SPOILERS THROUGH TO THE END OF THIS POST]
Driver Nam (Go Chang Suk) getting all excited and saying that it made his heart flutter, when Soo Hyun made her statement in front of all the reporters, about being in a “some” kind of relationship with Jin Hyuk, definitely has his rom-com lenses on. Jin Hyuk feeling his heart race in that moment, is also in a rom-com world. However, Soo Hyun wants to be in a rom-com world, but is expected to face real-world consequences.
Honestly, all the romancing comes across as very awkward to me, because it all takes place in a drama world which resembles the real world, with real-world expectations and consequences.
We see Soo Hyun apologizing to the board of directors, saying that she won’t allow her personal life to affect the company. This is supposed to be a scene showing us how she’s showing some steel and standing up for herself.
The problem, though, is that this isn’t just an issue of her personal life. She’s not simply dating some younger man, and that just happened to come up and muddy the company’s event and reputation. She’s dating a staff member, someone who’s much more junior than she is, and who’s still very new to the company. This is a legit problem if you exist in the real world.
If Show had decided to be a rom-com, where boards of directors wouldn’t take you to task for dating an employee, that would be a different matter. Like What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim, or Strong Woman Do Bong Soon, or, for a gender-flip, 2009 Hollywood rom-com The Proposal – which I loved, for the record. But, serving up rom-com style romantic plot points which are considered irresponsible in real life, and then making the characters face real-life type standards and consequences, is problematic. I can’t get lost in the fantasy, because Show is making sure that the fantasy is regularly snuffed out by purveyors of real life. Also, if I were sitting on a board of directors, and the CEO of the company was announced to be in a romantic relationship with his or her employee, I would feel very uncomfortable about it.
Soo Hyun and Jin Hyuk thinking – and even saying – that their relationship has nothing to do with the company, is bizarre. It’s a total conflict of interest, and the PR team is already demonstrating that in the way that they treat Jin Hyuk.
The scene where Soo Hyun goes to the PR team’s office, on the pretext of thanking everyone, but really to see Jin Hyuk, is really awkward to watch. All the other staff know why their CEO is there; their CEO is there to see her young “some” boyfriend. How very awkward, that everyone would make excuses and leave, while pretending not to notice the gigantic elephant in the room.
After this realization at the episode 7 mark, I found each subsequent episode to be struggle. Let’s take a look at episode 9, as an example.
First, I do think the kiss at the ball was inappropriate, because it was a work event. But, I was ok with the date after that, because that was on their personal time, and I was mollified by the fact that Jin Hyuk is determined to play by the rules, and not allow his relationship with Soo Hyun to gain him any advantage at work. I was also mollified that Soo Hyun is willing to go along with Jin Hyuk’s determination.
But Driver Nam pooh-poohing Mi Jin’s (Kwak Sun Young) concern over the articles about Soo Hyun going on a New Year’s date, doesn’t sit well with me. If Jin Hyuk wasn’t Soo Hyun’s employee, then yes, the articles aren’t a big deal and their date shouldn’t be anyone’s business. But it’s precisely because Soo Hyun is Jin Hyuk’s CEO, and he’s her brand-new trainee, that this would be salacious news.
Eventually, my watch of this show began to somewhat remind me of my experience with Pretty Noona Who Buys Me Food. Out of context, the lead couple can be cute. But it’s how Show deals with their context that bugs me. I found myself continually wrestling with this rom-com with real-world consequences thing, and I realized I just wasn’t having a good time.
Yes, by episode 10, I’d started to find Mi Jin’s loveline with Dae Chan (Kim Joo Heon) more appealing than I’d had at first, but I’m gonna call that too little, too late. I just wasn’t looking forward to more episodes of this show, and I’ve decided that if I’m dragging my feet to get to the next episode, then Show can’t be my One True Love, Bogummy or no.