EVERYONE, TODAY IS A DAY OF CELEBRATION. Why, you ask? BECAUSE I HAVE FINALLY, AFTER SIX MONTHS OF TRYING, FOUND A KOREAN DRAMA I BOTH ENJOYED AND WAS ABLE TO SEE THROUGH TO THE END AND NOW I AM HERE TO SHARE MY JOYOUS FEELINGS WITH YOU.
The drama of which I celebrate is I Do, I Do. For those not in the know, the premise of this drama is that a high-powered executive designer has a drunken one-night stand with a directionless young man ten years her junior. As a result of this drunken one night stand, our leading lady, Hwang Ji-an, ends up pregnant because drama. On top of that, Ji-an’s an executive shoe designer at a high-end shoe company and our leading lad, Park Tae-kang, is a kid from the streets who sells knockoffs of the very shoes she designs. Also, neither of the two even realize that Ji-an is pregnant. Tae-kang has also somehow landed a position working for Ji-an while Ji-an has just started semi-dating-sorta someone else. This may also be Ji-an’s last chance to have a child. Because of early onset menopause (is that even really a thing?).
At this point, we’re also only about three episodes into the total sixteen. So yeah. Things get messy-complicated fast.
However, before I go any further I do want to take a moment to qualify here that this isn’t a drama that may appeal to everyone. This drama deals heavily with the question of career vs. family, single parenthood vs. both parents present and involved, abortion vs. carrying a baby to term, doing what you want vs. what you feel you should, and etc. These are topics that people tend to have strong opinions on–myself included–so I want to throw it out there that if you watch this drama, you may not agree with everything it has to say. I know I didn’t. At the same time, I will say I feel the drama did a nice job of exploring both sides of most of these issues, so the things I didn’t agree with different really bother me. It could be the same for you.
Continuing on, though, if you manged to stick with the capslock at the beginning you’d seen that this is the first drama I’ve actually managed to make it through. If you must know, my trend with Korean dramas is to start one, enjoy the first few episodes, ultimately become very bored/frustrated with the story-line, and then wander off to check out something new and shiny elsewhere on the internet. Now, to be fair, this happens with a lot of dramas regardless of origin. I have often frustrated my family and friends with my often enthusiastic start to a series, only to drop said series halfway through for various issues. Sometimes boredom, more often because of rage-issues with the plot and/or characters.
So yeah. Despite my history of commitment-issues, I managed to stick with I Do, I Do. Part of this reason was that I found the plot fascinating and the other was that for once I did not hate a single character. Okay, I mean I did. (Ji-an’s father, please just go away. Forever.) But I really liked the central four, and those are the characters I often have issue with.
Real quick: in Korean dramas, I’ve noticed that there tends to be a central cast of four. There is of course the central couple. Then you have the two foil characters. One to play against your leading lady and one to play against your leading lad. Often these characters mainly function as romantic foils. For example, in I Do, I Do, for a while Ji-an is dating a baby doctor by the name of Eun-sung. However, the moment Eun-sung finds out she’s pregnant with another dude’s baby, he drops her. Can’t quite deal with the idea of raising progeny that didn’t spring from his own loins. However, then Tae-kang comes prancing along and in his puppyish devotion declares he doesn’t care who’s baby it is, he loves Ji-an and would raise the child as his own regardless (kid is unfairly kept out of the know as to who the real father is for a real long time). Eun-sung then starts to reevaluate his own ideas about what it means to be a parent. So not only have character traits been revealed and explored, but one of the themes of the show–what makes one a good parent?–is brought to surface. It’s sharp storytelling, and I really enjoy that.
However, sometimes one of the central four is just such a horrible person that I can’t get past their personality traits to see the deeper story. That’s about the time I jaunt over to some other part of the internet. Luckily in I Do, I Do I really liked almost everyone. Not to say they weren’t horrible people at times, but they were horrible in ways that I could deal with.
But of course, this drama would be nothing if it didn’t have a main couple that didn’t jive. Here is where the drama is really engaging, at least for me. In the majority of Korean dramas I’ve come across, our leading lad is a rich and powerful stud and our leading lady is a down-on-her-luck lass who wins over his heart with her never-ending-cheerfulness-and-whimsy. Which, yeah, cool. But I like cheerful, whimiscal guys. I don’t care much for guys who come sad and angry and sarcastic and need to be healed by love. How about you come already happy and healed, yeah? That sounds better to me.
So imagine my intrigue when I hear of a drama where the lady is the high powered rich one and boy is bumbling sweetheart off the streets. Hmmm, rumbles my bitter shriveled K-drama soul, this may be the one. This could be the show you have been searching for. Because if there is one thing I really love, it is messing with standards. At one point I believe Tae Kang is even referred to as a male-Cinderella. Which, oh man, in the middle of typing that sentence I realized the inherent connection between the Cinderella story and the shoe motif rampant in this drama. There’s even this poster:
But I digress.
So originally I tuned in for the switcherro roles. But then I got addicted because somehow the central conflicts of the story–career vs. family; single parenthood vs. deciding not to have a baby at all; conforming to society’s standards of a happy family vs. defining what kind of family makes you happy–were all ones that hooked me. I like seeing those conflicts explored, and I never really go the sense that I Do, I Do had some sort of moralistic agenda to fill. More like, “Well, this is what is happening and these are the sorts of choices people need to make. Not all of them are pretty or fair, but this situation isn’t pretty or fair, and people make mistakes. Life is not simple. Our solutions to life aren’t either.”
That kind of storytelling sits well with me.
And of course I just really do like the leads a lot. Ji-an is that cool-under-fire, ambitious-I-will-rise-to-the-top sorta lady who also can admit that sometimes having something more than an empty apartment to return to would be nice. Tae-kang is that puppy-like, head’s-not-screwed-on-quite-right-but-heart’s-in-the-right-place sorta lad that makes me swoon.
So yeah. This drama might not be for everyone. But I loved it, it was exactly the sort of show I was looking for at the time, and if I can find a box set of this while I’m in Korea, I’m sure as hell buying it.
If anyone is interested in Korean dramas, I highly recommend checking out the website DramaBeans. Great site with up-to-date info on current K-dramas and awesome recaps of recent episodes.