In case you missed it, we have yet another guest post series to enjoy, this month!
Unlike our previous guest post series, this one was kind of an accident, almost. I have Ele to thank for this one, because it was her innocent question about something, that made me casually talk about the off-the-top-of-my-head, hypothetical possibility of a guest post series on love, in the month of February, in honor of Valentine’s Day.
So many folks on Patreon responded enthusiastically to this idea, that I felt that it would be remiss of me, not to actually make it happen, come February.
And so, here we are. This month, we will enjoy a total of nine guest posts from patrons on Patreon, on the topic of love stories. The brief is pretty flexible, in that, each writer is free to go deep, or go wide, on anything around the topic of love stories in Dramaland.
Today’s post (our seventh!) is brought to you by Martina! Martina’s observations of characters and relationships are consistently tinged with deeper understanding and appreciation of nuances than most, because of her professional background in psychology. What a treat, then, that Martina turns her lens on my gateway drama, Goong, for this post! Thank you, Martina! ❤️
I hope you guys enjoy!
THE WISDOM OF LOVE
In dramaland Love is THE topic: it’s so important that it’s worth starting with a biblical quote (expressing the wisdom of centuries of thinking): “Love is hard as Death, and Desire is merciless…” (Song of Songs, 8:6).
Love lets us know ecstasy and agony (when it is not reciprocated or is impossible) at the same time, and all of us, regardless of our character, whether we are more cautious and shy, or more impulsive and extroverted, seek it all our lives. We also yearn for the stories that tell of it, and I certainly am quite hungry for these stories – and kdramas do not disappoint.
In this post I’d like to talk about GOONG (Princess Hours, 2006), as a tribute to KFG hosting our posts, because we know this was her gateway into kdramaland, and also because it is a very good story.
It tells in an extraordinary way, the teenaged love that, for the two main characters, represents both first true love, and “the love of their lives.” What a blessing indeed, for them, and for us who enjoy this story, that Show does not spare on the agonies and misunderstandings, but finally offers not only happiness, but a transformation of themselves.
[SPOILERS THROUGH THE REST OF THE POST, FOR GOONG / PRINCESS HOURS]
In “Goong,” South Korea is a constitutional monarchy and the crown prince, Lee Shin, played by an intense and young Ju Ji Hoon, attends an ordinary high school.
In the first episode, we see him arrive at school in a limousine accompanied by an escort, and he is greeted like an idol by many fangirls. You can tell right away that he has a superb and picky attitude. He has a relationship with a female student, who is an aspiring ballerina and who is symmetrically proud and sophisticated.
An ordinary art student attends the same school as them. Shin Chae Kyung, played by a bright and sparkling Yoon Eun Hye, is an ordinary art high school student. She hears totally unexpected news that, based on her grandfather’s will, she must marry the unemotional Crown Prince Lee Shin who attends the same high school. She is free-spirited, authentic and naïve.
They both reluctantly accept the arranged marriage (a super trope I really love in kdrama).
While Chae Kyung is naturally curious about Shin, and potentially attracted by him because she’s more openly affectionate and more emotionally self-confident, Shin is wary and haughty, still attracted to the ballerina who is so similar to him, and therefore easier to understand and admire.
Chae Kyung struggles to adjust to court life because she feels insecure outside of her ordinary environment, and Shin is very cold and disdainful towards her, whom he considers an awkward and childish girl.
And yet…and yet…love is not a feeling that can be caged to calm our insecurities; it is not the choice of a quiet road without too many shocks (as other choices in life can be, such as study or work), and it can not be tamed by humans.
It is interesting and exciting to see how Chae Kyung, instead of getting depressed by palace rules, transforms her surroundings into something full of life and grace, and somehow, similar to her.
Everyone is enchanted by her presence, and soon even Shin’s cold heart begins to beat for her, even if he doesn’t want to admit it. A further push to love, is the jealousy he feels towards his sentimental cousin and second-in-line to the throne, Yul, who falls in love with Chae Kyung immediately and doesn’t hide it.
We discover that all of Shin’s pride is actually a feeling of inferiority, and a sense of inadequacy, since originally his cousin Yul was supposed to become the crown prince, but then due to family events, Shin became Crown Prince.
As in all adolescent stories, the rivalry between males also becomes a way of growth and transformation.
We discover that Shin is disagreeable and haughty because of his insecurity and immaturity. He has a ruthless mother who is only interested in making him perfect as Crown Prince, and we discover, in a conversation between him and his mother, that she never allowed him to call her “Mom” like all other children in the world, but demanded that he refer to her by her royal title.
Shin begins to appreciate Chae Kyung for her spontaneity and sincerity, for her ability to comfort him and make him happy. and for the depth of her feelings towards him that she doesn’t hide.
She isn’t ashamed to love him, and doesn’t feel childish for that. She is able to accept him for who he is, flaws and all (this is a gift that Love gives us in life when we are lucky).
He also begins to admire Chae Kyung, by taking the point of view of his rival cousin who openly loves her (although this whole part of the drama is very rude because Chae Kyung is Shin’s wife!) and admires her resilient and bright character.
This is a typically adolescent miracle, to mirror oneself in a rival, in order to take on his or her point of view, to overcome the narrowness of one’s own point of view; a narrowness often due to the inexperience of life, and to one’s own infantile complexes still present in one’s developing personality.
In fact, Shin is jealous of the spontaneous confidence between his wife and Yul, and this shakes him to the point that he comes out of the attitude of detachment, and finally fights against his rival while also seeking the intimacy with and love of his wife, whom he desires and fears at the same time.
Chae Kyung also changes for the better over the course of the story.
She becomes more adult and self-confident. She is very insecure at first, but that doesn’t stop her from suddenly hugging Shin: these scenes are very funny because she seems unable to resist the desire to seek physical contact with him, to which he reacts with both excitement and disdain.
Here they are both childish, tender and embarrassed, as it is right to be, in the first hesitant approaches with the opposite sex. But then, as time goes on, the feeling grows between the two of them and becomes deep, and we are also served a good dose of love agony. They start to love each other in a serious way, and we can see that love is no longer a game, but a matter of life and death.
The first time we seriously love, we experience the irreducibility of the Other to our desires, and we must accept the risk of suffering and agony involved in giving ourselves completely to another.
If we are fortunate enough to experience this in adolescence, we realize that it is the first time in our lives that our entire life is in the hands of another, and that the absence of this other makes us literally feel dead.
it’s really nice to see how Shin and Chae Kyung grow up simultaneously with their feelings for each other.
He becomes more spontaneous and in touch with his inner self, at which point he realizes the inconsistency of his attachment to the ballerina, and becomes aware of the fact that she has tried to manipulate him away from his wife, and tie him to her.
There is a delicacy in the way Shin separates from the ballerina, with gratitude for being a special person from his adolescence, but as a young adult man, he now knows that he loves another woman for who she is, and not as a “reassuring other.”
The story does not spare us considerable doses of agony of love.
There are many moments in which we feel that the two protagonists have made many steps towards each other, and then gotten swept away from all the intimacy and trust, by many misunderstandings and manipulative traps created by those around them.
In fact, maybe the plot goes a little bit heavy on this, also because the drama is very long (24 episodes) and there are many narrative twists.
In any case it is very moving how they live their love just before a long separation, and are aware of this. Neither of them spares themselves, and they give each other their all.
But don’t worry a happy ending is assured.
On a more mundane note..
..I’m not surprised that Ju Ji Hoon and Yoon Eun Hye were rumored to be a couple in real life for a while after this drama.
Sometimes I wonder how actors manage all the emotions they give to the audience in order to make their characters unforgettable.
Yes, I’m not naive enough to think that there is always a fairytale atmosphere while acting.
I know very well that they are surrounded by many people from the troupe; there are the jitters, the lines to learn by heart, the scenes that are played not in chronological order, and that everything is confusion and blinding lights, but … if they act so well, if we identify with them and their story, it means that they have shared something of their inner self and are giving it to each other and to us.