I Need Romance 3 (I… am… conflicted…)

unhappy Wan photoOr, in the immortal words of Scooby Doo, “R’oh r’oh!” And… everything after this is going to be a great big spoiler for episodes 5 and 6…

So it started off really, really well. I adored that Joo-yeon’s first reaction to realizing ugly little Sweet Potato…

Before

had grown up into gorgeous Allen…

After

was, “It’s a miracle!” Of course, then she remembered that Wan had totally lied to her, and that (as far as she knew) Allen had played her. So she slaps him and they have a very grumpy birthday…

unhappy birthdayAnd Wan totally reverts — despite his very best efforts — into the annoying little brother Joo-yeon had known him as. He whines, he sulks, he acts cutsey — pretty much the exact opposite of the smooth, suave, tall, handsome stranger he had been when Joo-yeon didn’t know him and treated him as this mysterious love-interest. Which I loved, because I think it’s true. It’s hard to break out of the role family has put you in. (I think it also underlines why he went along with the lie in the first place. Being treated like a man by Joo-yeon — that was a heady temptation.)

unhappy memoriesI also really, really loved that Joo-yeon hits him with the truth about their “idyllic” childhood. Sure, it was great for him — but it was work for her. He was her charge and he was a typical kid and his great memories weren’t all that great for her. (That his gift of a piggybank got her accused of being a thief struck me as the most painful reframing moment. Talk about the exact opposite of what he thought he’d achieved.)

Anyway — I loved all that stuff. It set up the hill Wan was going to have to climb, and it showed that the hill wasn’t just Joo-yeon being stubborn or mean. There were real issues to deal with.

Team Wan
But then came episode  6 and the realization that I was completely wrong and we really are dealing with a love-triangle here. And now I am deeply conflicted and a wee bit (or a lot bit, if I’m being honest) scared.

cluelessThe story itself is being well told. It was a clever reveal, with lovely little hints laid out ahead of time. That Joo-yeon is deeply in love with her boss but hasn’t realized it yet explains so much about her — clicking a lot of little things into place. And it makes perfect sense that Wan — who is becoming an expert on what makes Joo-yeon tick — figured it out first. And it works well with the ways Joo-yeon and Tae-yoon mirror each other.

They’re both crustaceans and Wan wasn’t wrong about injuries hitting their type deeper. Only, Joo-yeon isn’t nearly as injured as Tae-yoon is. (He quit his job and wandered the desert after breaking up with Se-ryung. That’s a deep, deep injury right there.) His not responding to her interest (especially since she’s not even realized her interest) doesn’t rise to the same level.

So I kind of suspect the story to come will have Joo-yeon gaining new strength from Wan, recognizing her love for Tae-yoon, and using her newly realized strength to heal Tae-yoon. And they’ll live happily ever after. Which is too bad for Wan, and not the endgame I’m actually rooting for, but doesn’t break my heart. Fairytale Love(For one, they’re setting it up that he’s still caught up in a fairy-tale version of love, so this could be a growing experience for him.)

What terrifies me is that this follows a very similar path to the previous I Need Romance dramas. Those two stories were all about the woman submitting herself to her man — forgiving his peccadilloes and being his supportive helpmeet no matter how much he hurt her. Peccadilloes that, for me, were deal-breakers. So I actually found the  endgame “romances” anything but romantic.

sweet Tae-yoon Thus far, Tae-yoon isn’t that kind of ass. But we have no idea what kind of boyfriend he makes. He’s a good boss, but a boss is not (and should not be) a boyfriend. I don’t like that Joo-yeon hero-worships him so strongly. I don’t like that she falls into Susie Q. homemaker routines for him. I feel like those are things she’ll need to get over when (if) they start dating, but I’m really scared the show doesn’t agree with me.

I’m also not thrilled that the endgame may include her “beating” Se-ryung by snagging the man Se-ryung wants, rather than the two of them healing their broken friendship. It falls into the worst kind of ideas on how women handle friendship (once a man gets involved, women throw their friends to the curb), and it leaves Se-ryung being slut-shamed.

SeRyung(I will add — I’m still on Se-ryung’s side because I do feel that she’s been unfairly treated as a successful and beautiful woman. Those rumors that she slept her way into her position… I’m reading those as ugly and untrue and something the show will ultimately refute. But I really would like something other than my hopes and expectations to back that theory up. More insight into Se-ryung would be great, show!)

And then there’s Min-jung. Sexually free and independent… and hit upside the head by the “old” stick. I am deeply worried that her storyline is going to actually punish the idea that a woman can be independent. She’s not even forty years old and suddenly her eyesight is going bad and she’s menopausal?!? Really show? This is where you’re going with her?(And the news is broken to her by a cold male doctor. And that he actually says, “as your body dries up” — which I hope to hell was just a translation glitch or an idiom that becomes crueler in translation than it is in Korean MinJungbecause I wanted to smack him in his smug, uncaring face.) It’s the worn out, “grab a man now or you’ll be sad and lonely when you’re old” shtick and I’m very frowny-faced at that.

Of course, all of this could turn around in the next episodes. Thus far the show hasn’t actually done anything wrong. (Well — except for sticking Min-jung with menopause — that was an odd and cruel choice.) These are all my fears based on past experience with the franchise. I really, really, really hope I’m wrong. That the similarities end here.

God, I really, really hope…
hope

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10 thoughts on “I Need Romance 3 (I… am… conflicted…)

  1. Whew. Now I’m glad I decided to wait on this. I don’t want to watch another INR with the same predictable ending. Once was enough.

    • I’m still holding out hope that I’m wrong. It’s all based on what I fear might happen — not what’s actually happening. But… Such a similar path… I’ll keep you informed, though! Good, bad or ugly — I’m going to keep watching. For now. 🙂

  2. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about characters being “punished” for being strong women in the INR dramas (and Kdramas in general). I think the quintessential example is Joon Pyo’s mom in Boys over Flowers—in the beginning of the drama, she was the master of her own universe. But by the end, she had been very literally sentenced to a lifetime of imprisonment at home, spoon-feeding her disabled husband. It felt like the show was not only getting revenge on it’s “bad guy,” but also making a statement about powerful women. And now there’s INR—at the starting block, all the female leads are driven career women. (Who also happen to have all the flaws of powerful women; they’re bossy and cold, and their jobs have turned them into unyielding, neutered pseudo-men.) But by the time the previous shows wrap up, each of the women has a “happy ending” that requires her to embrace more delicate womanhood and traditional monogamous relationships. I suspect that’s where we’re going in season three—broken women made whole (and put in their place) by the love of men. I’m not looking forward to it, no matter how much I want to love this show.

    • Good point about BOF, Amanda! I remember wondering why just the mom was the bad guy since the dad was a parent, too. My first drama — I’ve since learned bad moms are a thing. (I’m always a tiny bit thrilled with it’s the dad who turns out to be the bad guy. Rare, but it does happen.)

      And not only did the women sink into a lesser-than place — they forgave pretty bad (in the case of INR2012, I’d even say toxic) behavior from their partners. There was never a sense of balance there — that each side had issues and rough edges to work through because living together with someone is hard and requires compromise, etc. It was simply, men behave badly and women just have to put up with it because… ??? (I was never able to figure out what the “because” was.)

      Currently, I love Joo-yeon. She needs to learn to soften a little — but I’m not wanting her to change entirely. (I want her to keep her sass, like Hye-sung in I Hear Your Voice.) And thus far I love Wan and quite like Tae-yoon. But since the love-triangle shoe has dropped, now I’m worried about the “also, your chosen romantic partner is an ass” shoe dropping. I want Joo-yeon to stay strong but learn how to open up to and trust a partner. I want her to have a partner who adores her strength, recognizes her weaknesses, and helps push her forward if she needs an assist. Basically, I want a romance of equals. No one punished, no one put down into a place.

      It goes completely against what INR has given us before, but wouldn’t it be lovely?

  3. It was such a disappointment that they had to introduce the love triangle. I was so happy there didn’t seem to be one. Ugh! I really hope they don’t go the way of the other seasons with the female chars. Korean preoccupation with marriage is just so alien to me. It is quite possible to be single and happy.

    I’m going to put INR3 on a hold till I see which way the story is going.

    • I’ll still be watching, so I’ll keep you informed. 🙂

      I’m worried about what might happen now that a love-triangle is on the scene but… maybe it’ll be okay? *crosses fingers*

      (I’m trying to remember if I’ve seen a k-drama with a happy single person… Or even the eccentric single on par with say, Sherlock Holmes or Miss Marple… I’m drawing a blank now, but I’ll continue to ponder.)

      • So, you’ll be taking one for the team then? 😉

        There really don’t seem to be happy single people and especially single women content with their lot in kdramas. Of the cuff, the only one I can think of is Wang Bit Na’s char in ‘The Woman Who Still Wants to Marry’. She was quite awesome too.

        • In “Return of Iljimae” I think Mr. Bae (or was it Lord Bae? the guy who took in the orphan, played by Kang Nam-gil) was a bachelor. At least, I’m pretty sure he didn’t say anything about a departed wife… That’s all I can think of though. And “Return of Iljimae” was a really unique drama in a whole lot of ways I didn’t fully appreciate when I first watched it.

          And I will take one for the team! 😀 Though… from what I’ve seen thus far, things are looking up. *crosses fingers* (I’ll explain further in a reaction post.)

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