Exploring Korean Drama: My Girl

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So what are My Girl’s merits?  One of the most notable is that Gong Chang, despite being a chaebol heir, is atypical for kdramas.  He dresses well, but he doesn’t swagger through his hotel.  He treats others with respect.  He’s not haughty to the female lead.  At first he judges her, all right: but not for her social standing.  They did meet because she was stealing from his family, so it’s understandable that he wouldn’t have a lot of patience for her at first.  He’s a bit exasperated by Yoo Rin, but he’s never mean to her.

my girl jung woo

I also like second male lead Jung Woo, and his interactions with Gong Chan: they’re cousins, and romantic rivals.

One of my favorite things about Gong Chan is his relationship with his assistant, Yoon Jin Kyung.  Most kdrama leading chaebols, if they have an assistant at all, have doofy, male ones that serve as comic relief.  Jin Kyung is a capable, powerful woman, and Gong Chan treats her as such.  She’s his close friend and confidante, but the show never implies any romantic tension between the two of them.  How rare is it to see close relationships between men and women on television, without any hint of sex or romance between them?  How rarer still for a kdrama leading chaebol to give professional respect to anyone who isn’t an aging member of a board (and thus his boss, in a way)?  I long for the day when we’ll get a kdrama about a young powerful corporate woman and her respected male assistant (and if that show exists, PLEASE tell me about it in the comments), but that doesn’t make me any less glad for Gong Chan and Jin Kyung’s relationship.

Of course, this s a Hong Sisters drama, so that means the real standout relationship is between the two leads.  They’re adorable from the beginning, even when Gong Chan is understandably suspicious and exasperated with Yoo Rin the con-woman.  It’s hard to put a finger on exactly what makes Hong Sisters leads so cute together, but it’s always there.  They always just match up and balance in all the right ways, and Gong Chan and Yoo Rin are no exception.

The forces keeping them apart actually make sense, too.  Often the family objects for no good reason, or a big deal is made of their difference in social classes, or the characters are just being stupid and stubborn.  There’s a bit of that, but there’s also the bit where Yoo Rin is living with Gong Chan’s family and pretending to be his long-lost cousin.  That’s a believable damper on a relationship, because even once they acknowledge their feelings for one another, it’s hard to act on them.

It’s understandable that Gong Chan’s family would disapprove of Yoo Rin once they find out the truth.  The extent to which the grandfather Seoul Woong takes it, how much he screams and the veins on his neck pop out, how he uses his health to emotionally  manipulate those around him, is what loses my sympathy.  Also, by this point in the drama viewers are just desperate to see the leading couple together, forget realism and consequences.

my girl dipMy Girl works best as a stepping stone kdrama, or as a recommendation for a kdrama fan who’s in a slump.  It’ll always hold a special place in my heart as my gateway to dramaland, and it’s still an enjoyable, entertaining show.

Kdrama tropes to watch out for: Most of them are listed above: evil scheming ex, terrible in-laws (in this case, mostly just the grandfather), forced separation/the “study abroad,” forced cohabitation.

 

You can find My Girl streaming on Hulu, or the DVD set on Amazon.

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