Exploring Korean Drama: My Girl

my girl featured image

Every kdrama addict has their story of the feverish few days when they first got sucked into the genre.  For me, it involved a weekend with my two best friends and a strange show called My Girl about which I felt initially dubious, but which I wanted to keep watching forever by the end of the weekend.

My Girl was the perfect introduction to the wide world of kdramas.  It contains many of the hallmark tropes that now bother me, but at the time they were new and addictive, and they also helped prepare me for what was to come.  The best part, however, is that the show is full of the Hong Sisters’ trademark zany humor and so-adorable-you-want-to-die main leads.

my girl caught

What a meet cute: being caught stealing.

The show stars Seoul Gong Chan as a chaebol heir, though he’s much less haughty than others of his ilk, and Joo Yoo Rin, a hyper heroine.  Yoo Rin’s a grifter: that’s how her father raised her, and she doesn’t know how to make a living any other way.  She meets Gong Chan because she’s been stealing and selling the fruit that grows on his family’s vacation estate on Jeju Island.

Gong Chan, of course, chases Yoo Rin away.  He encounters her again in Seoul, but soon finds that he needs her.  His ailing grandfather’s last wish before he passes is to be reunited with the granddaughter he’s never met.  He’d disowned his daughter because he disapproved of her choice of husband.  The couple moved to Japan, where they had a daughter before dying in an earthquake.

Gong Chan’s grandfather, Seoul Woong, is dying in the hospital, so Gong Chan hires Yoo Rin to pretend to be his cousin, the long-lost granddaughter, just so his grandfather can think he’s met her before he dies.  But — cue the wacky trombone — meeting his “granddaughter” again revives  Seoul Woong, and now he wants his granddaughter to move in with the family.  Cue another wacky sound effect.

Having seen, and recommended here, so many other kdramas since My Girl, including ones where the Hong Sisters further honed their skills, it’s almost hard to recommend the drama.  Although it was a breath of fresh air when it aired in 2005 — it was only the sisters’ second drama, and it was slicker, quicker, and had higher production values than their still groundbreaking debut, Delightful Girl Choon Hyang — in retrospect it doesn’t have much to offer.  Its merits are strong, but you can find them in other, later kdramas that sidestep some of its problems.

my girl snowy

So much pretty.

Yet, I still can’t help recommending it, just for a perhaps more narrow audience than I might for other dramas I feature here.  If you’re a kdrama addict who’s seen everything recent but wants more, My Girl should definitely be your next viewing selection.  If you’re really curious about kdramas and aren’t sure where to start, it’s a great leaping off point.  My Girl just isn’t for the casual viewer — it could be, because I was and it hooked me, but it’s hard for me to recommend it for casual viewers when I know of so many other less problematic kdramas out there.

My Girl  runs the full gamut of tropes: forced cohabitation (though I admit I have a soft spot for this one), forced separation, time jump, sad second male lead, terrible disapproving family, and evil ex.  For years I couldn’t stand the actor playing the horrible grandfather in this show, until I saw My Girlfriend is a Gumiho and the Hong Sisters redeemed him there, including with a nod to his role in My Girl.  I still can’t stand the poor actress who plays Gong Chan’s ex; her casting as the female lead in Coffee House is the only thing that’s prevented me from watching what I’ve heard is a fantastic show.

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