Dear kfangurl: Can you talk about the whats, whys and wheres of noble idiocy?

Antonio writes:

Hi Fangirl,

Recently due to Noble Idiocy I abandoned the vision of a drama that I really enjoyed: Monthly Home Magazine.

Could you do a post with the list of dramas that contain this detestable gimmick?

I remember getting so mad on Clear With Passion With Me Now too and I would like to avoid investing hours of my life to be so disappointed. In the comments your readers could integrate the list and it would be a really useful service in my opinion.

Well! Let’s take a good look at noble idiocy, then, shall we?

Dear Antonio,

I hear and feel your frustration!

Yes, noble idiocy can be very frustrating to encounter indeed, especially if you were enjoying a perfectly fine show, until it raised it pesky head. 😅 It’s doubly aggravating, when you encounter it in quick succession, one drama after another!

In this post, I’ll do my best to shine the spotlight on noble idiocy, and the shows where it makes an ungraceful appearance. I have to admit though, that I appear to have scrubbed quite a few instances of noble idiocy from my memory, ie, it may have happened on my screen, but my brain seems to refuse to remember that it ever did. Coping mechanism, most likely, heh.

This means that I’m going to need everyone’s help in pitching in with more titles in the comments, so that we can come up with a list that will help Antonio. You guys can help me out, though, right?

WHAT IS NOBLE IDIOCY?

Hands up, if you’ve seen a noble idiot before!

So first and foremost, in case there is any doubt, I thought it would be useful to define what noble idiocy is.

It’s basically when one of the leads decides that they need to break off the relationship / remove themselves from their loved one’s life for the other person’s good. That bit, that it’s for the other person’s good, is what makes it “noble.” And often, the reasons for the break-up, are pretty dumb, which is what makes it “idiotic.”

In such a breakup, it’s like some kind of drama law, that the breaker-upper doesn’t tell the other person the real reason they’re breaking up with them. Instead, some substitute reason is often given, or worse, they just up and leave, without giving any explanation at all, for the sake of the other person’s wellbeing.

Cue angst, tears and much gnashing of teeth.

WHY NOBLE IDIOCY?

I had my reasons, I promise.. 😅

Essentially, noble idiocy tends to be introduced at a story’s three-quarter mark, or thereabouts. The reason for this, is that writer-nim is looking to introduce a Final Conflict that will take us into our finale, which, hopefully, works out to be a Happy Ending.

With most stories centered on a main romance, the most obvious Final Conflict would be some kind of separation for the OTP (One True Pairing). And because it has to be a fixable conflict that would give us a believable happy ending, the separation reasons tend to lean on the flimsy side of things. Cue noble idiocy, to fill the gap. Because the reason for the separation is idiotic, it becomes relatively easy to solve, in the few episodes that Show has left.

The Dramas Over Flowers ladies have a great guest post from author Anja de Jager on this very topic, which you can check out here.

WHEN IT MAKES NARRATIVE SENSE IT’S NOT IDIOCY

When it’s a good reason, it doesn’t hurt as much, I think..?

At this point, I thought it would be important and quite useful to mention that not all OTP separations count as noble idiocy. I mean, it’s only idiocy when it’s idiotic, right?

So if there is a real reason that the OTP actually needs to separate, and it’s not handled in an idiotic manner, I consider it a valid, non-tropey path for a narrative to take, and do not hold it against writer-nim.

Basically, let’s not be too quick to point fingers and yell, “NOBLE IDIOCYYY~!!” whenever an OTP separates on our screens. 😉

A SAMPLING OF SHOWS THAT SUFFERED FROM NOBLE IDIOCY 

Here’s a sampling of dramas that I felt suffered from the inclusion of noble idiocy. I realize that this is not a dealbreaker for most people, so I’ve also included some remarks on whether I think the show is still worth watching, despite it containing noble idiocy as a trope.

As I mentioned earlier, please feel free to add other titles and thoughts in the comments!!

Beauty Inside

Noble idiocy alert: episode 14 of 16

Still worth the watch?

I thought Show was frustrating for about 1.5 episodes, but overall, I didn’t hate it. I think Show can be predictable but quite pleasant, if you don’t take it too seriously.

Review is here.

DoDoSolSolLaLaSol

Noble idiocy alert: episode 15 (or so I’m told) of 16

Still worth the watch?

I haven’t seen this one, but apparently Show very much goes very, very south in its final two episodes, so I think it’s probably best to avoid this one, or watch up to episode 14, and then make up your own ending. 😅

Hospital Playlist 2

Noble idiocy alert: episode 4 of 12

Still worth the watch?

If you liked Hospital Playlist Season 1, then yes. The noble idiocy only affects one of the various lovelines, and I didn’t find it too much of a downer, overall.

Review is here.

Kill Me, Heal Me

Noble idiocy alert: episode 16 of 20

Still worth the watch?

The angst brought on by noble idiocy lasts about an episode, so it’s not too bad. If you like the rest of the show, this isn’t much of a downer on the story. If you don’t like the rest of the show, this nobly idiotic break-up is the least of your worries. 😅

Open Threads are listed here.

My Girlfriend is a Gumiho

Noble idiocy alert: episode 14 of 16

Still worth the watch?

Because this is an older drama, it’s almost expected, that Show would use noble idiocy as part of its story. I personally felt it was a fun show in spite of the noble idiocy, and Show brings it all back solidly, in its finale.

Open Threads are listed here.

Nice Guy / The Innocent Man

Noble idiocy alert: episode 20 of 20

Still worth the watch?

I.. did not enjoy this show as much as its fans, so I would’ve been quite happy to have given this a pass. However, if revenge melos are your thing, &/or you’re a big Song Joong Ki fan and just want to see him flex his acting chops, &/or you don’t mind suspending disbelief, this could work for you. 😅

Flash Review is here.

Prime Minister and I

Noble idiocy alert: episode 15 of 17

Still worth the watch?

No, not really. The coming back together of the OTP is infamously unsatisfying. [SPOILER] She breaks up with him to let him return to his recently-revealed-not-dead wife, whom he never said he wanted to return to, and then at the finale, the OTP finally meets again – and the show ends on a handshake. 🙄 [END SPOILER]

Review is here.

Save Your Last Dance For Me

Noble idiocy alert: episode 15 of 20.

Still worth the watch?

That depends. This is a vintage kdrama, so tropes – including noble idiocy – are par for the course. If you’re in a retro melo sort of drama mood, &/or are a fan of Ji Sung &/or Eugene, &/or are curious about where real life spouses Ji Sung and Lee Bo Young met, &/or really enjoy violin crescendoes in your background music, you might well like this one. 😉

This was my second kdrama ever, and I will always have a soft spot for it, and the double amnesia that it serves up. I just snuck an episode in the other night (well, highlights of an episode, anyway), and sank happily into all those familiar feels. 🥰

Touch Your Heart / Reach of Sincerity

Noble idiocy alert: episode 13 of 16

Still worth the watch?

I would say yes. Partly because the rest of the show is really sweet and cute, and partly because the noble idiocy is understandable, in the context of our story. Is it still noble idiocy, though? Yes. Which is why I included it on this list. But is it something that I can understand from the point of view of the noble idiot? Also yes.

Review is here.

Where Stars Land

Noble idiocy alert: episode 16 of 16 (or 32 of 32, depending on where you watch)

Still worth the watch?

Y’know what, not really. Show is admittedly quite messy on the writing front, but I did find the characters in this rather warm and relatable. I didn’t regret watching it, but this could’ve honestly been a lot better. And the kicker is, Show doesn’t resolve the noble idiocy in a satisfying manner. For some mysterious reason, they don’t even show male lead Lee Je Hoon’s face in the final time skip. 🙄

Review is here.

Winter Sonata

Noble idiocy alert: episode 10 of 20, and then 19 of 20.

Still worth the watch?

Ahaha. I kinda love the fact that Save Your Last Dance For Me features double amnesia (a trope of which I’m fondly amused), but I’d forgotten that Winter Sonata serves up the even rarer double noble idiocy! 😆

If you’re looking for a trope-free love story, this is not for you. But if you’re in a retro sort of mood, &/or are curious about what worked out to be quite the Event Drama for early Hallyu, this is worth a look. Just brace yourself for Melodrama with a capital M.

BONUS: SHOWS WITH WELL DONE ENDINGS

To soothe the sting of talking about all these dramas that feature noble idiocy, I thought it would be good to end the post with a quick spotlight on some dramas that I feel have solid endings, and which don’t feature noble idiocy.

Fair warning that “good” and “well done” are subjective labels, and so, what I personally feel is a well done ending, might not be a satisfactory ending in your books. 😅 Still, I wanted to share at least a handful of titles that I personally felt delivered endings that felt solid and narratively satisfying.

At Eighteen / A Moment At Eighteen

An understated, earthy coming-of-age story that leans thoughtful and poignant. The ending leans open-ended and hopeful, and I thought the entire show was very well done. Excellent, even if you’re not typically into high school stories.

Review is here.

Be Melodramatic

Quirky and refreshing, Be Melodramatic is a show I didn’t know I needed in my life, until it arrived in my life. I loved the central friendship, but I also appreciated each key character’s individual arc. The ending leans open-ended yet firmly hopeful. I managed to come away feeling satisfied, amid the poignance.

Review is here.

Familiar Wife

A fantasy do-over story that works out to be warm and satisfying. The ending isn’t super exciting, but it’s very pleasant and positive, and I came away from this show feeling very content.

Flash Review is here.

I’m Not A Robot

A very cute show with a very cute OTP, that’s just fun to watch. Suspension of disbelief is required, based on the premise itself, but Show makes it worth your while with lots of OTP cuteness, sprinkled with lashings of thoughtfulness and poignance. The ending is also full of The Cute, so no complaints whatsoever.

Review is here.

My Mister

A beautiful show that I wouldn’t hesitate to call a masterpiece. Such a haunting yet heartwarming exploration of what it means to be human. The ending leans open-ended and poignant, and I was perfectly satisfied with that.

Review is here.

Search: WWW

A refreshing and empowering tale of three women, their friendship and their various love interests. I loved this show, and found the ending completely satisfying.

Review is here.

Secret Love Affair

Thoroughly absorbing because of our story, our leads, their soul connection, and an amazing OST that makes the watch even more immersive. The ending leans open-ended but hopeful, and I thought that was perfect.

Review is here.

She Would Never Know

A sweet, earthy romance that I feel deserves more love than it gets. I found it swoony and absorbing, and altogether a very enjoyable watch. I found the ending solidly happy, and perfectly satisfying.

Review is here.

The Light in Your Eyes / Dazzling

A beautiful, poignant story that makes you think, and feel, and then feel some more. The ending leans bittersweet, but I found it pitch perfect and fulfilling.

Flash Review is here.

Thirty But Seventeen

A really sweet, earnest and heartfelt show, with so many feels. I really enjoyed this one and would highly recommend it. The ending is a touch bittersweet, but solidly satisfying.

Review is here.

Navillera

A beautiful, inspiring story that I loved from beginning to end. There’s so much tenderness in the writing, direction, and overall execution of the show. The ending leans bittersweet, but is so beautiful in that bittersweetness, that I couldn’t ask for more.

Review is here.

VIP

I found this show engaging and even rather cracky, in its angsty-emo sort of way. I remember slurping up episodes of this, because I just wanted to know what happened next. The ending leans poignant, but I found it solid, satisfying and hopeful.

Flash Review is here.

IN CLOSING

I do hope that this post helps to add some clarity around the whats, whys and wheres of noble idiocy!

I personally wish Dramaland would come up with better and more organic conflicts for our stories’ final chapters, but until Dramaland learns to do that, I continue to consider noble idiocy a bit of an almost necessary evil, almost.

Writers keep it in their backpockets for emergency Final Conflicts when they run out of time, energy &/or ideas (remember all the pressures and perils of the live-shoot system, which I covered in this post?), and I continue to close one eye to it – as long as the rest of the drama is enjoyable. And as long as noble idiocy isn’t suddenly applied to all dramas. Now that would be terrible. 😳

At the same time, YES, there are other undesirable ways in which a Final Conflict can be introduced, and I’ll be doing a post soonish, on the Forced Separation Trope (thanks, Molu16, for the question!).

Like I said earlier, if you guys have other titles, thoughts or insights to add, please share them in the comments!

Thanks, you guys.

Smooches. ❤️

~kfangurl

I hope that helped! ❤️

POST-SCRIPT:

1. If you feel that I missed anything, or if you have your own insights that you’d like to share with the rest of us, do tell us about it in the comments!

2. Do you have a question of your own? Drop me a comment here or on the Dear kfangurl page, or send me an email!

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Elaine Phua
Elaine Phua
15 days ago

Hmm to call out another Shin Min Ah show I was extremely frustrated with her character for noble idiocy in the last quarter of Arang and the Magistrate!! Not just giving ML the cold shoulder but also preparing to make a very very bad deal for idiotic reasons. Not saying what it was to avoid spoilers but suffice to say I loved the first three quarters of the show but not the end game,the ending and pay off was not that well done in my opinion.

Deepa
17 days ago

I have read soo many of your posts in the last two years and have always wondered what OTP stood for and I was too embarrassed to ask..finally I know!

Nati S
18 days ago

In “Because this is my first life” the separation between the characters in the last part of the show made absolutely no sense, you can put that one on the list of noble idiocy troop, IMO…I was so mad about the way that show changed in the last 2 episodes that up to this day I can’t watch a Korean show…I will go back to kdramas, I know I will, but not right now

BE
BE
18 days ago

In You Are My Spring, show did an interesting flip on the Noble Idiocy meme in which its ML, who believing because of his health condition, FL could not really love him, goes the Noble Idiocy route…but he is a radio psychologist who when raising the issue on his show gets roundly made a fool, and all his friends blast him into smithereens for such a stupid pose. Show takes several typical rom com memes and turns them on their head, and so in all ways but one OTP is very touching as a result.

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
19 days ago

I second Fated To Love You.

BE
BE
19 days ago

One has to admit that there is a bit of this in Nirvana in Fire with regard to Lin Shu and Nihuang.

CarpControl
CarpControl
19 days ago

The mention of ‘Begin Again’ reminds me of a classic.
Autumn’s Concerto.
SIGH.
>.<

CP
CP
17 days ago
Reply to  CarpControl

Oof this one hits hard hahahahhaha. Shot during the height of Taiwan’s tropiest idol drama phase, but tbh even though it has every trope in the book, still manages to be one of the best classic TW dramas for me. Maybe it has the halo of nostalgia for me, because I was thorougly over Begin Again the second I smelled the tropes coming.

Jiyuu
Jiyuu
19 days ago

I remember the double amnesia on Save the Last Dance for Me. I rolled my eyes even back then but enjoyed the show still. I think it’s more commonly used in dramas produced back in the 2000s.

DONE SLIGHTLY FRUSTRATINGLY:
My memory is a bit hazy but I think most of the Hong Sisters’ dramas have this in varying degrees (My Girl, Big, Master’s Sun, Hwayugi).

Also for an episode or two (or was it just plain separation?):
My Love from the Star
The Heirs / Inheritors
City Hunter

DONE ACCEPTABLY (FOR ME):
Agree with Touch Your Heart (that it has this trope but done understandably). Also who can forget that bus stop scene with that OST.

Probably the longest was Fated to Love You (aka You Are My Destiny) which has it for like 6.5 episodes. I noticed those who went in expecting the show to be all fun and light hated this part with a passion. In my case, I got tinges of the angst early on and was fully expecting it when it came. I understood the motivations behind the use of the trope too (but maybe they could have shortened it by one episode at least?).

City Hall used this for maybe two episodes too but the writing built the story up to a satisfying crescendo I think he really had no choice (though he could have been slightly less jerk-ish about it).

Scent of a Woman had it for like half an episode (lying part) and afterwards it’s just about them resolving their feelings about the issue. I’m not into melodramas but Lee Dong Wook is just sooo good looking I ended up enjoying the show.

Eric
Eric
13 days ago
Reply to  Jiyuu

I really enjoyed Master’s Sun (it has the Wonder Girls singing Nobody But You and a ghost who communicates by banging a trash can in a mall, wonderful). But the version of noble idiocy (is that what it was?) in the end part of the show had me completely confused. I had absolutely no idea what the FL was doing or thinking. ML loved her and said he loved her and showed it. And she went through this whole strange phase of lying to him about several things – her emotions, the state of her ghost abilities, etc. – for no clear reason I could understand. Knocked the show that could have been A+ down to B+ for me.

I guess this bothers me most in shows I otherwise like. Same goes for Begin Again, where just this one aspect prevented it from being among the best C drama romances ever. Leads were great, chemistry was great, parts of the story were at least enjoyable, but bam!

Jiyuu
Jiyuu
1 day ago
Reply to  Eric

I didn’t like that part too. I think partly because of the extension (the show was having good ratings so it added an extra episode and became 17) that they had to come up with more reasons to “stretch” the angst. Within the story, their explanation is FL got traumatized by what happened/could happen again to ML that she finally decided to not involve him in her life at all costs.

Most of the Hong Sisters dramas suffer from separation somewhere towards the end (because their OTPs are usually so good together right from the beginning). Sometimes, the reason for semi-separation is done alright but in others it gets frustrating. In Hwayugi, they did this too but I didn’t care about the OTP as I was watching it for all the other fun characters so the couple’s issues were negligible.

MC
MC
19 days ago

Oh nice post! I hate this tripe so much, along with the fated lovers/ childhood link thing. One suggestion though – do you include Because This Life Is My First? Not exactly noble idocy but frustrating still!

Eric
Eric
19 days ago

Thank you for writing this thread! This trope can be the ultimate killer of great dramas and is a sign of failure by the writers. Spoiler heavy comments:

  1. Agree about Do Do So So La La So. The noble idiocy was just one of the many ways that show (which was among the best Noona romances ever up until about episode 12) went completely off the rails. If the writers had just stayed in light hearted rom-com mode this show could have been awesome.
  2. The most horrible version of this trope was in Delightful Girl Choon-Hyang. The bad guy is literally trying to kill ML, so FL goes to marry evil psycho guy to protect ML. Yuck! So she’s basically being raped for a few years? Who can enjoy this kind of story?
  3. Begin Again deserves special mention for a horrible version of this. FL loves ML and is convinced he is a wonderful person and will be an awesome father. They are married. She gets pregnant. She gets a vague hint from mother in law that it would be better for ML’s career for him to be single and take a foreign fellowship. So she divorces him without a word, cuts and contact and hides the existence of the child for about 5 years. This gets 10/10 for idiocy and a special 30/10 for cruelty to her partner (imagine realizing this happened!), her son and herself. Ruined an otherwise excellent drama.
  4. My Dear Boy is a CN noona drama that started off a bit like Witch’s Romance. Meet Cute. They become friends. Etc. Enjoyed the first 10 episodes or so. But the version of noble idiocy where FL ditches ML was so cruel – she didn’t just break up with him she told him that he was a complete joke, a total loser, that she could never possible be attracted to him, etc. An again, hides the existence of a child. 10/10 stupid. 10/10 cruel.

I agree that it is an important point that in so many cases the plot completely fails to justify the behavior. Which makes the character doing it look psychopathic, cruel, disrespectful and unreasonable. Begin Again gets special marks for this. The justification for FL’s action is so unbelievable thin. She really believed that a nice career opportunity would make it fine for ML to be dumped without explanation by his wife that he loved? She took MIL’s word for it without asking him about it once? And to miss the first 5 years of his child’s life and to only learn the child existed by accident? How could any sane person believe this? If I saw this in the real world I would not want them to get back together but would just want ML to get custody and protect the poor child from his crazy mom and FL.

Jiyuu
Jiyuu
19 days ago
Reply to  Eric

Whaaaat. I was planning on watching Delightful Girl Chun Hyang recently (I didn’t enjoy the bits I saw when it first aired).

j3ffc
j3ffc
19 days ago
Reply to  Jiyuu

I just finished “Delightful Girl” and I don’t think I saw the plot quite the same way Eric did.

Plot spoilers
The bad guy/second lead wasn’t trying to kill the ML, but rather ruin his career and get the FL. And she wasn’t actually with BG/SL at all, he was in Japan pretending to be married while she was doing her own thing in Busan.

There are plenty of things that might put someone off of DGCH (tropey, old-fashioned, and, yes, noble idiocy) but the show wasn’t nearly as dark as Eric’s description would indicate.

j3ffc
j3ffc
19 days ago
Reply to  Eric

Eric, I did kind of enjoy DGCH, but maybe we watched different shows (details under Jiyuu’s comment)….🙄

Last edited 19 days ago by j3ffc
Eric
Eric
19 days ago
Reply to  j3ffc

Sorry! You are probably right. I may have confused this with another from that era. Please don’t be put off that particular show.

j3ffc
j3ffc
19 days ago
Reply to  Eric

No worries! If I had a dime for every time I confused one plot with another, I’d have, uh….a lot of dimes. 😅

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
16 days ago
Reply to  j3ffc

Great comment j2ffc! 🤣😂😅