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 8th!) is brought to you by Shahz! Shahz has been a real trooper, continuing to write these guest posts for us, even while recovering from the effects of covid. Thank you so much Shahz, for digging so deep for us. We love you! 😘
I hope you guys enjoy!
PS: Because our 9th mystery writer has been rather overwhelmed with some real-life developments, their post will be published in March instead. You can look forward to that! 😃
You big romantic
So it should come as no surprise to anyone who visits KFG’s website regularly, that no matter how logical or rational you think you are, you are, in fact, a big old romantic at heart!
Grand gestures vs everyday ordinary love
Initially, I was going to write my post on my favourite trope, which is the friends (sometimes enemy precedes this) to lovers trope.
However, the recent Netflix documentary around The Tinder Swindler, and a Twitter tweet I read, around being programmed to associate love with grand gestures rather than the banal minutiae of sharing your life with someone every day, got me thinking about our beloved dramas perhaps making us more susceptible to the “love con.”
And look, I love sweeping romances such as Crash Landing on You, as much as everyone else, but there are many dramas that celebrate ordinary everyday love, and also flag what toxic love looks like.
My favourite trope ”friends to lovers” plays right into that everyday ordinariness.
Often the OTP get to know each other deeply, warts and all, before they fall in love. To accept and cherish their romantic partner’s foibles, beats grand gestures every day, in my heart and mind, at least.
So, this blog is a celebration of dramas that people would deem as ordinary.
If you crave a quick sugar fix, these may not be for you, as most of the shows listed are slow burn. I have also tried to focus on dramas that may have passed you by, rather than the hard hitters, in recognition of ordinary everyday love.
The Ordinary School Romance
Suddenly this Summer
KFG wrote: “An earthy youth-to-young adult story of growing up, and learning to love yourself and others, Suddenly This Summer is understated, poignant and relatable in all the right ways.”
A word of warning: this show is not cuddly like A Love So Beautiful. It is angsty, and sometimes it is very hard to watch.
But oh my, I inhaled the first eleven episodes watching Bai Yu as Zhang Yuan and Bu Guan Jin as Luo Luo fall in love. And do you know what I loved most about the show? Simply put, there is no crash, bang moment, no sweeping gestures; they simply fall in love with each other through their daily interactions.
Although the show absolutely put my heart through the ringer from episode fifteen onwards for what felt like an eternity, it feels infinitely relatable.
Who hasn’t had points where they have looked back and realised foolish pride had gotten in the way, or recognised that they hadn’t understood how to articulate how they’d felt, because if the other person had been dismissive it would have wreaked havoc in their heart?
The show also introduced me to Bai Yu as an actor, and I am forever grateful, as two of my eternal favourite shows are The Bond and The Long Night.
Friends to Lovers in a Fantasy setting
This was a show in China that people didn’t really expect, but it caught everyone’s attention. I only watched this as I was going through a drama slump and needed something different.
So, what is it about?
Well, a plant alien hybrid Si Teng is killed and buried in a hill by her enemies. Si Teng is finally resurrected by Qi Fang, whom she forces, with her powers, to help her assimilate into the modern age.
Is it as bizarre as it sounds? Yes! Will Dr Who lovers who love rubbish CGI lap it up? Yes.
So where is the ordinariness?
Well, it comes from Qi Fang. He is just the loveliest partner an alien hybrid plant would want to meet. Okay, I admit all of us would like to meet. Kdramas would have made him a second lead!
Si Teng does not believe in love, and for very valid reasons, believes love is dangerous. However, like Si Teng, you cannot fall in love with Qi Fang, as he supports her through her journey, and tries his best to understand her needs.
It is the simple things he does for her that win your heart. Also, she is pretty cool as the female lead as she saves him time and time again. One final note: Jian Tin as Si Teng has the most gorgeous wardrobe and looks stunning in a Qipao!
So I have had In Time With You on my list for what feels like forever, after KFG’s review caught my attention, because of course it has my favourite trope! But geo-restrictions be damned, and yes, I know there are ways around this, but I hate watching dramas on a laptop as I spend my working life on a laptop.
The Time We Were Not In Love
Anyway, there is a K drama remake called The Time We Were Not In Love, and it is adorable!
Ha Ji Won and Lee Jin Wook play longtime friends that everyone knows should be together, but for various reasons early on in their school years, friend-zoned each other.
We follow them as they enter relationships doomed for failure, but what remains constant, is that they are in a mutually supportive relationship, and each is always there, when the other needs them.
This show is probably the best show I could find, that fits into the “ordinary life” category; they both have ordinary but fulfilling jobs.
Also, you know I talked about accepting your partner for all their eccentricities. Well, these two have seen each other at their lowest points, but that only makes them love each other more, and they have seen each other in love with other individuals.
I know Ha Ji Won has her detractors for playing naive female leads, and this show probably does nothing early on, to perhaps dissuade her detractors, but I have to admit I really love Ha Ji Won, as she always makes me empathise with her character, no matter which show she is in.
Do her characters frustrate me? Absolutely! But does my heart bleed for her when she struggles? Again, absolutely yes. Which makes me think she doesn’t get the credit she deserves for her acting.
And do not let Lee Jin Wook’s recent foray in Bulgasal put you off. Here, he plays the kindest man you could come across. Give it a go if you also like the friends to lovers trope. I do not think you will be disappointed.
Sending You the Galaxy
So many of us wrote about Lost in our end-of-year reviews. and like I said in my end of year blog, I am not here to persuade you to like it or love it. I adore it and this is one show I will never expend my energy trying to dissuade its detractors. I frankly do not care if you like it or not, as I will always love it.
Again, this is about two ordinary people struggling with the burdens of life and the disconnect / alienation from the people around them. Worst of all, they are disconnected from themselves.
On paper they have nothing in common; their life experiences are hugely different, and there is a big age gap between them, but they just connect with each other, and they seek to understand each other without judgment.
I think at the very basic human level, we just want to connect, to understand and be understood. Your friend/lover doesn’t have to be the same as you; they don’t even have to like the same things. You just need to connect.
[SPOILER FOR LOST]
My favourite romantic gesture of all time isn’t a grand gesture, but a simple text that Kang Jae sends saying, “The Galaxy has arrived so I’m sending it to you”.
Reaper, I have also realized that this is another Noona romance, apart from Secret Love Affair, that I loved.
JJ, my drama bestie, forever sending you, the galaxy…
Just Between Lovers
I cannot express how humbled and privileged I felt when JJ wrote this piece.
For people who see our exchanges over at Patreon this comes as no surprise. I drop dramas at the drop of a hat and JJ sees everything to the end. And I admit I am probably feistier and more opinionated, whilst JJ leads with kindness. We shouldn’t, but we just work as drama besties. We always find common ground.
I am not going to say much more about the show as JJ has said it all but again this is a romance with no grand gestures. In fact, they meet in the park, or travel on the bus together, and yet they are so sweet together.
And the show carries references to Liverpool FC and the Istanbul miracle. Oh, did I forget to mention Junho?!
Every trope you can imagine
Because of Love
This show has every trope you can imagine! Here is a little checklist.
- Secret Love child x2
- Lovers separated by evil parent
- Terminal illness off said evil parent
- Sick child
- Revenge by secret love child
- Noble idiocy
But I loved it. Leslie described this as very slurpable, despite not being high art. And word of warning: this show is slow-paced, and that is where the ordinariness comes from.
It takes its time after all, to roll out all the above tropes, but the reason I loved it so much was because of the amazing performances by Wallace Chung and Li Xiao Ran who play ex-lovers reunited through unexpected circumstances.
Every inch of their bodies seems to ache for each other when they are alone together, and you can see they have a barely restrained passion for each other. Take a look here:
Love is for everyone
As you get older, you are supposed to become more conservative in your approach to life. Well, I feel like the exact opposite! When I was younger, as an ethnic minority female, I had enough of my own issues and didn’t really spend much time thinking deeply about others, and also the culture I come from has deeply entrenched views on homosexuality.
And to be clear I would not let anyone be bullied for their sexuality, but I stood on the fence around gay marriage.
However, I remember attending an LGBTQ talk as part of a work conference by a young bright man who came from a family with deeply entrenched Christian views, and he was left homeless when his family abandoned him when he came out.
I just could not imagine as a parent, abandoning my child, for their sexual orientation. It made me really question my beliefs/culture. And honestly my conclusion is, I would rather abandon my religion and society than my child. But it did lead me to think, would my parents have shared my same view if I had chosen a different life path?
Anyway, that experience and completely being in love with Cam and Mitch from Modern Family made me realise that sitting on the fence is not a great position! We all have a responsibility to question and challenge beliefs that cause distress to others.
To My Star
So in the interest of diversity, and in acknowledgment that love comes in all forms and should be celebrated, I wanted to include a BL drama/film.
I know that there are millions of fans around the world around who love BL romances and that includes heterosexual people, but I have to admit I have no experience in this genre. So, colour me surprised when I watched To My Star and adored the film! There is also a web series over at Viki.
The show’s premise is that once popular actor Seo Joon is caught in a controversy, and circumstances dictate that he ends up living with a deeply introverted chef Han Ji Woo.
On paper, yet again, they shouldn’t work, but they fall in love through ordinary interactions such as cooking and playing basketball together.
Han Ji Woo tries his utmost not to fall in love with Seo Joon. After all, he is a star who will at some point return to his own world, and who wants to get their heart broken? Despite that, he falls head over heels in love with Seo Joon.
Look, I admit I have a huge soft spot for tsundere characters (the non-toxic ones) and Kim Kan Min completely stole my heart as awkward Han Ji Woo. But what completely blew me away was how enamoured I was with Seo Joon, played by Son Woo Hyun. And why was that?
Because Seo Joon understands and respects boundaries.
[SPOILERS FOR TO MY STAR]
When he first confesses to Han Ji Woo, and Han Ji Woo rejects his advances as he believes that Seo Joon pities him, he does not push or force his romantic feelings. He instead assures him that it is love, but that he knows his confession made Han Ji Woo feel uncomfortable, so he will stop pushing. Something Jin Seok from currently airing Thirty-Nine could learn about!
If this is too hard for you, I will go to you
And here is the next thing that completely surprised me: Seo Joon then goes and tops all that!
At what seems to be their last meeting, leaving Ha Ji Woo heartbroken but unable to express his feelings, without an ounce of pride, Seo Joon says, “If it is too hard for you, I will go to you.”
Talk about understanding what is needed and when. This is right towards the end so a bit spoilerish but take a look if you are on the fence about watching the show.
No personality transplants!
One of my pet hates is that when the OTP gets together their personalities change. Well, not in this show. Even in their sweeter moments together, Ha Ji Woon is still shy and introverted and shows his love by doing little things for Seo Joon, while Seo Joon continues to be an adorable puppy, demanding affection, but also completely appreciative of Ha Ji Woon’s small acts of love.
If you want to watch a show that has healthy boundaries, give this a go. I completely forgot this was a BL, and these two have now made into my top tier OTPs.
For Adults Only
Love and Leashes
So this show I only checked out of curiosity, expecting to bail 20 minutes in. Well, I was shocked that this was actually heartwarming and uplifting.
Jung Ji Hoo (Lee Jun Young) is an office manager who is into BDSM and his preference is to be submissive. He meets Jung Ji Woo (Seohyun) who discovers his secret due to a mixup in package delivery (as their names are similar). A series of events unfold, and she agrees to be the dominatrix to his submissive.
This does not sound heartwarming but both leads give it their all.
Lee Jun Young has this soft gentleness to him, but carries a nervousness about his secret being outed and being rejected, and you can see why Ji Woo would fall in love with him. He might be submissive, but he isn’t a weak personality. Often people confuse gentleness with weakness.
Plus, Jun Young gives the BDSM role his all. There is a scene in a hotel which had me in hysterics. Let us just say it involved him barking….
But it is Seohyun’s Ji Ho that brings the show all together. She approaches Ji Hoo’s interest in BDSM in a logical and rational way. She treats his BDSM interest as the most ordinary thing in the world. He is not harming anyone (except himself) so why should he not do what enjoys (ahem).
When she agrees to be his dominatrix, she invests time in researching and trying to do the right thing, mindful that she does not want to abuse the power that Ji Woo has trusted her with.
I also liked the fact that the show demonstrated that those who sit in judgment around other people’s life / sexual orientations, were doing more harm in their personal lives.
I think if the world adopted Ji Ho’s approach to live and let live, life would be much simpler.
So that concludes my ordinary love stories.
Do let me know in the comments if you have any hidden gems you have come across, that celebrate everyday love.