I’m always in a state of re-watching In Time With You, and now that my kdrama slump has dug it’s heels in (I’m hoping Unemployed Romance will get me out), I’ve found myself staying up way past my bedtime thinking about You Qing and Da Ren and their world. I’m on episode 11 of the original episodes, and I’m revisiting my hatred of Ding Li Wei, falling in love with Da Ren’s smiles and angst, marveling at You Qing’s outfits and complexity, noticing the motifs of time/clocks and wanderlust/airplanes, and loving the intricacy and fullness of the world presented to us.
Episode 11 comes right after You Qing discovers that Da Ren is in love with her, and she meets up with Maggie to confront her about it. Maybe I’ll fix up the notes I’ve been jotting down and manage to make a coherent post, but for now I’ll just leave this here:
Please tell me why I should answer seriously any question from a fool who won’t face her own problems seriously. Whether you now feel awkward, uneasy, tormented, or are thinking, ‘How do I get rid of my boyfriend and fling myself into Li Da Ren’s embrace?’ These unhappy feelings, you should endure them on your own.
Do you know that I hate women like you? You clearly have ulterior motives, but under the guise of ‘good friends’ you think you can get away with overstepping your bounds. You turn us into sacrificial lambs to illustrate how close you guys are, how much tacit understanding you have, and how special you are. And after that, if we get jealous or envious, it looks like our hearts aren’t generous enough. Like we’re simpleminded. We’re superficial and don’t respect you ‘exalted friendship.’
What a load of crap.
I think what Maggie says here is unfair to You Qing as an individual, but totally and completely warranted when applied to their situation. Her feelings are justified, and much as I love You Qing and Da Ren, I can’t help but cheer for Maggie’s vindication.
The scene begins with You Qing being her composed and introspective self, and even though she’s the one who’s called this meeting to ask something of Maggie, it’s like she has the upper hand, like whenever she’s giving advice to her friends and colleagues. Maggie, meanwhile, has this cat-like smile on her face, and she’s flippant and amused, because she’s the one with the knowledge here, not You Qing, and she has nothing left to lose in this little drama of theirs. She can just sit back and watch and be entertained. You Qing sits up straight and gingerly sips her drink, while Maggie sits back, looks away from You Qing, and shrugs at her questions. But when You Qing asks her to be serious, it strikes a nerve, and she wholly changes.
I want to pair You Qing’s “be serious, please” request with Maggie’s “I hate women like you.” When first watching the show we think we’ve seen Maggie before: she’s an amalgam of the bright and bubbly Candy character and the clingy second lead girl who’s just there to mess up the real romance. She’s a nuisance. But the beauty of ITWY is that each and every character is fully bodied, so Maggie isn’t simply the character christened by fandom as the bitch or the cloying, inconvenient plot device. Her character has a developed arc of her own.
You Qing has always been a little patronizing to Maggie (which is an awesome thing, ‘cause the trope is usually that our heroine is a kindly saint, and the second leading lady is just inherently awful). Part of this has to do with her own insecurities about her age, part of this has to do with Maggie being Da Ren’s girlfriend, part with Maggie’s overzealousness in pursuing Da Ren and always (seemingly) butting into her friendship with him. Either way, she was…small towards her. And her asking Maggie to be serious recalls all the previous times she’s told Maggie to do so, recalls how Da Ren asked her to be serious about marriage, and throws all the teasing “Da Ren-ge” name calling her colleagues adopted after she called him that into relief. I get the feeling that Maggie’s been dismissed before, and this suggestion that You Qing’s treatment of her is how she’s always been treated pairs really well with the suggestion that what she faces with You Qing and Da Ren’s friendship is what every other one of Da Ren’s past girlfriends have faced. And she responds to all this, to You Qing, who has the gall to be stern with her, with ‘No. I’m not the ridiculous one here. You are.’
Usually after the second lead lady is dumped/left behind she’s defanged and she poses no threat to our OTP, as if not getting the leading guy is the ultimate defeat (which would mean that she and the heroine are pit against one another and the only field on which they can negotiate their relationship/interactions is one in which they’re romantic rivals), and it’s true that Maggie poses no romantic threat (not that she ever did), but she actually gains power after Da Ren dumps her. She effects their relationship, and not because she seeks to do so, but because You Qing and Da Ren are so obtuse in their romantic entanglements that they seek her out.
And ITWY is so painfully truthful that Maggie says goodbye to You Qing without giving her what she wants, smiles and walks away, but when she turns we see he smile fade from her face. Vindication is great, but it’s still not what she wanted. She’s still someone who was hurt, and while she has her own space, this still isn’t her story.
Now, You Qing and Da Ren don’t set out to deliberately hurt Maggie, but they do. And on Da Ren’s part it’s particularly bad because he knows how he feels about both these women. He knows he loves You Qing. He knows he isn’t in love with Maggie. His sister tells him he shouldn’t be wasting someone’s time by toddling along and humoring them while he’s got someone else on his mind all the time. Maggie isn’t a romantic like Da Ren: she doesn’t need some sweeping, all consuming love. She just wants someone who’ll treat her well, who she can work on being happy with. And if Da Ren weren’t all about You Qing maybe he could be that for her, but because he is so invested in someone else’s happiness and well-being he ends up not giving the person he’s dating the attention and care and consideration that position warrants. Maggie gives the above speech to You Qing, but I think Da Ren could really benefit from it too, since he’s the one who knowingly made a project of trying ‘not to love You Qing.’
This re-watch has prompted me to pay close attention to You Qing’s clothes (I have a whole theory about her polka-dotted dresses), and I just want to note that in this scene she’s wearing the same red jacket in which she met Nic, who didn’t set out to with the sole goal of hurting her, but of using her to get to something he wanted. You Qing and Maggie may not be too different after all.