“Jae Hee is not an object that you can give or take. When did I ever ask you for him?” – Cha Bong Sun to Park Hwa Young
On Bong Sun and Jae Hee
I used to identify Jae Hee’s lying to Bong Sun as a major problem in their relationship, but now I’ll refine that: the issue isn’t really that he’s outright lying to her, it’s that he’s keeping vital parts of himself and his life away from her, things that can be and are used by others to manipulate him and those around him. Bong Sun, meanwhile, isn’t only honest in that she tells the truth (to the point of being blunt); she is forthcoming, she’s generous with the people she trusts. She offers information about herself without being asked about it. Just like her penchant for cooking for Jae Hee and sharing a meal with him, she’s inclined to give of herself, share her views of the world, and most importantly for these two, (since they both have been so deceived by others in their lives and have trust issues), she tells him exactly what she wants and expects for their relationship.
It’s true that Jae Hee is the one who usually pursues Bong Sun, but she responds to his pursuit with an openness that I think puts her in a more vulnerable position than him. She verbalized how she felt before he ever did, and when he decided to break up without any wrongdoing on her part, she asked him to stay. Notice how in episode 8 Bong Sun is the one who is making the effort to make an emotional connection. She asks him questions, finds things they have in common, figures out what Jae Hee’s childhood must have been like by expounding from her own experiences. This is what Jae Hee doesn’t do. He loves her, he comforts her, but he doesn’t give of himself to her. He may be the more playful and sociable of the two, but he’s actually even more guarded than she is.
This is what Bong Sun recognizes when, in episode 10, tells Jae Hee that they have nothing in common. She doesn’t mean that they are completely dissimilar. She says that from her perspective he went from owning a street corner in a metaphorical sense to actually owning an entire building—an entire company, in fact! She means that the connections she worked hard to make have no meaning, that the significance she was investing their relationship with is suddenly so much nothing, because he refuses to allow her to know him. If he refuses to let her know who he really is, then she cannot make the emotional leaps she does to imagine what his life had been like the entire time before they’d met. He doesn’t just make her doubt him, he makes her doubt herself. Bong Sun’s imagination is something that is essential to her character, and without full knowledge of Jae Hee, then she cannot properly use it in her consideration of their relationship. For example, in this episode, when she is telling him what she wants in their future, how she wants peace and comfort and support, she is imagining it, just like she imagined Pink Chicken singing to her. Her desires and imagination are intertwined. She can’t imagine how wonderful life with Jae Hee can be if she doubts who he really is.
Another thing I’d like to point out is how easily Bong Sun accepts that Jae Hee and Hwa Young live together. And then he betrays the trust he just gained back again. And he asks for her trust again. Meanwhile, when he found out that Bong Sun is seeing Dr. Park, he didn’t approach her about it or ask her, he asked Dr. Park, who may very well be an escaped convict masquerading as a doctor, as in some Woody Allen-directed, Jack Nicholson-starring farce, he’s so bad at what he does. He has great insights, but he breaks so many rules. I did not find his advice to Jae Hee to never leave Bong Sun alone very helpful or romantic in any sense. If Bong Sun tells Jae Hee to leave her alone, he should respect that. And Dr. Park should refrain from discussing her personal matters with others.
Anatomy of a Scene
I may love this scene more than anything from episode 8 because there is reciprocation here, something the interactions in episode 8 lack. This is the first time Jae Hee makes a concrete promise to Bong Sun, a promise that’s more than a vague “I’ll take care of you,” a promise that is actually in response to something she asks of him. She tells him that she will not allow his public position to affect her life negatively, and he promises to do his best, and they both share that they are scared. They both tell the other that they are in this together.
In the previous scene she hugged him, and here, he embraces her. The scene begins with them sitting next to each other, comfortably, which is something that Bong Sun prizes, and after addressing his obligations to Hwa Young and Ah In—and his own conscience—Bong Sun stands up, faces him, and tells him exactly what she wants. I also love heroines who can recognize how they feel and then have the courage to be honest about it, hence my love of Kim Sam Soon and Kim Nana. (And Kim Do Woo’s third heroine, Byung Hee, has a character arch that is partly about recognizing her own emotions and coming to face with them.) Bong Sun is able to set boundaries without alienating Jae Hee and he accepts them. He listens to her, something that she didn’t get from her parents, something that even her therapist doesn’t do very well.
Honestly, I think MBC should have extened this show. It could easily be 22 episodes. I love when writers choose communication over misunderstanding, and standing by one another’s side over sacrificing yourself for the other without their knowledge. It’s just so much ore satisfying as a viewer, and when a writer does those things, it shows a confidence in the characters that she’s created, and confidence in their relationship that many kdramas do not grant us. This one has it, even with all the cliched uncertainties thrown their way.
On Hwa Young and Jae Hee
I don’t find Hwa Young as interesting as the leads of the show, but I blame that on the narrative and not on the actual character. The narrative presents her psychological issues, teases us with them, but doesn’t actually address them. Her husband was killed in her presence, while she was young and pregnant, by a friend, a friend whom she now has romantic feelings for. She’s in love with the person who killed her husband. And that is not being explored. This is why I think MBC should have extended the show. There is more story here than a 16 episode run can contain, let alone 15 episodes. Even Dr. Park’s psyche is given more study than Hwa Young’s.
In this episode our heroine asks herself, “Jae Hee, Jae Hee. What am I going to do with you?” She answers with patience and by forgiving him and choosing to be with him. Bong Sun is always choosing him, and Jae Hee loves her, but so far he’s always been choosing Hwa Young. That’s what he’s done every time he’s ignored an opportunity to tell Bong Sun about his life. This is something that should not be forgotten amongst all these machinations of Hwa Young’s: Jae Hee chooses to be by her side. They have a very close, very co-dependent relationship, both as business partners and as…what are they? Friends? No…they’re people who are inexorably and hellishly tied to one another. They may have been friends at one time, but now Hwa Young is an obligation for Jae Hee, and he’s this forbidden fruit for her. Look at the conversation they have in their meeting. It weaves seamlessly from official business matters—hiring Dr. Park for the emotional stress that comes with selling luxury goods (ahahaha)—to Jae Hee telling Hwa Young he’s moving out. He sets borders to their relationships: sleeping at the leather factory, not telling Hwa Young where he is all the time, locking his doors and now mving out, but he muddles those same borders all the time. Now, this triangle does’t have to be a Bong Sun vs Hwa Young situation, but Hwa Young is making it so. I feel like she’s the kind of person who cannot live in subjectivities, in halves, in grey areas. It’s all or nothing, her or Bong Sun, or, more ominously, Jae Hee and her, or Jae Hee cannot be allowed to exist. It’s not simply that she wants Jae Hee for herself, it’s that she feels she is entitled to him, that the mere thought of him thinking he can be in love with someone other than her is an affront to her and a betrayal to the commitment he’s made to her. She says she loves Jae Hee, but I don’t think she actually likes him. I think that she’s grown accustomed to having him be an emotional support for her. No doubt watching him run around playing father to her child hasn’t helped her in healing fro her husband’s death. She is possessive of Jae Hee, yes, but he also made himself a crutch fo her.
Her not liking him is apparent in her actions: she doesn’t want good things to happen to Jae Hee, she simply wants him to bend to her will. There is a fight for power going on between the two, which comes out most forcefully when she publicly outed his identity and forced him into being the representative of the company, and a little more subtly in this episode when Jae Hee makes Dr. Park an employee without her approval. This thirst for power Hwa Young has defines her relationships. Look at how she treats Dal; look at how she speaks to Dr. Park; look at how she tails Jae Hee and resents him for not telling her everything about his life. I can understand this need for control she has: the death of her husband was so arbitrary, it’s only natural her her to want to be able to exert control over her environment. If we follow the extended metaphor she made about her dress we realize that a dress is to be worn, that is its purpose. She wanted to preserve it. Similarly, she doesn’t want Jae Hee to live, she wants to preserve him: to have him as the image o f the company. I feel certain that if he remained the face of Perche and stopped designing bags or providing input, Hwa Young would be perfectly at ease. Which is why she doesn’t understand Jae Hee at all. She thinks she does and she prides herself in this false knowledge, but she doesn’t because she observes him the way she did that dress, as a static object, not as someone who lives and breathes and feels and changes and has desires that need to be fulfilled.
On Cha Bong Sun
“I’m only accepting Seo Jae Hee. It doesn’t mean I can accept everything you own.”
– Cha Bong Sun to Seo Jae Hee
I love this girl. She is so strong and resilient and self assured. She’s a girl who knows who she is. She’s supposedly emotionally distant, but every time Jae Hee hurts her—and he does—she accepts him again, welcomes him back, just like Kim Do Woo’s other heroines. That takes strength, it takes faith, and it takes a willingness to be hurt again. And then we see her confronting Hwa Young over and over again. The best way to appreciate how awesome this is is to compare her reaction to Hwa Young to Dal’s. While Dal is snotty and passive aggressive, even obtuse in her understanding of Hwa Young, Bong Sun is, as always, straightforward. She doesn’t take any shit. She knows from the beginning that Hwa Young doesn’t like her, and despite Jae Hee’s assurances, she trusts her own intuition. She believes in her own ability to perceive her world correctly, just as she trusts in her own ability to live on her own and take care of herself. These are traits Dal doesn’t have. Bong Sun trusts herself, even when she doesn’t trust anyone else, even when she doesn’t like herself. Hwa Young tries to pull the same ish with Bong Sun that she does with Dal, tries to control her and demean her, but Bong Sun quickly deprives her of her illusions of power. Try as she might, Hwa Young cannot manipulate our heroine. She refuses to be used.
On Seo Jae Hee
What struck me about Jae Hee in this episode was when he said he wanted to be like Hwa Young’s husband. First of all he calls him Ah In’s dad and not Hwa Young’s husband, which is significant because it shows that he’s more emtionally invested Ah In than in Hwa Young, making her seem like more of a burden or obligation he must keep. Second, he says that he so wanted to be like him. He killed the person he wanted to be like, the person he admired and wanted to emulate.There’s gotta be something Oedipal in there, right? So, he is the reason this guy is dead, and the death is so random, so meaningless, so ordinary as to be almost banal; no hit and run, no screeching tires, just not being able to see in your mirrors properly. It’s one of those things thathappens, like spilling a drop of coffee on you white shirt, that you’re just like, why?? What the fuck is the point of this happening? And when raised to ontological levels it becomes all the more confounding. It’s not even a mistake, it’s just something that happened. Why couldn’t he see in the mirrors? But also, why was his hyung standing behind a huge-ass truck?
On Narrative Direction
Episode 11 begins and ends with more of Jae Hee’s secrets being revealed, and as I mentioned before, this has become a formula for the show. The only problem I have with this is that it’s become apparent, meaning that a lot of the drama in this show is derived from Jae Hee’s keeping secrets from Bong Sun. I don’t mind this very much, though, because Kim Do Woo doesn’t make it about the secrets but rather about how her characters deal with the revelations.
What I want is for there to be more of a focus on family. Particularly, I am interested in the contrast between Bong Sun and Jae Hee, how she has a family that is alive, but it’s incredibly fractured, leaving her alienated, and how Jae Hee’s parents are dead and he is essentially abandoned by the rest of his family, but he creates this family with Hwa Young and Ah In and the ajusshi. One drives people away because of her wounds while the other seeks people out. I mean, this could be read as a narrative about how Jae Hee jumps ship from living this life with Hwa Young, one he accepts and is ultimately unfulfilled by, to creating this life with Bong Sun. I think Jae Hee could learn from Bong Sun that sometimes you have to cut people off, and that family is not only obligation, but who brings you comfort and who brings comfort to you. (I feel he brings Hwa Young more torture than comfort.) And Bong Sun could learn from him that family doesn’t have to be a mother, father, and sister, that it can be anyone you want.
I’m looking forward to the last three episodes of Me Too, Flower. I trust Kim Do Woo as a writer, I trust the actors, and I have faith in the characters, even Hwa Young (in that I see her as more than simply a manufactured antagonist, not in that I believe she’ll see the wrong in her ways). This show, for me, is more about the characters and their interactions than it is about the plot. I love the conversations they have with one another, the reactions they have in their respective environments, and I anticipate how they will confront and resolve the obstacles they face.