[Spoilers up to episode 8!]
The dream sequences and fake-outs on Me Too, Flower can be frustrating: as a viewer they offer something that you want to see and then it’s immediately taken away. I enjoy them, though, because they’re also frustrating for the characters. They aren’t just these story-telling devices that are used to toy with us as viewers, but actually serve to elaborate on the characterization of our heroine and hero. For example, in episode 4, when Bong Sun daydreams that Pink Chicken, her idol crush, sings “You are So Beautiful” to her and hands her roses, it serves to illustrate how lonely she is, and how much she wants romantic love in her life. It shows us a softer, more longing side to her, the side that is represented in her internal monologues. It also ties back to the scene in the first episode when Pink Chicken first materialized from her poster and onto her bed: she threw her leg and arm over him and he was wiggling away, so even in her dreams the person she wants doesn’t want her. The other dream sequence that comes to mind is in episode 7 when she imagines Jae Hee talking to her on his bike in his characteristic teasing tones. Again, we’re shown Bong Sun’s loneliness, how she can imagine what it is that she wants, how she can imagine a different life for herself, which serves to make her reality of isolation all the more unbearable.
Even more interesting is the fact that the dream sequences showcase Bong Sun’s imagination and creativity. Jae Hee’s creativity is an integral part of the show, seeing as designing handbags is how he makes his fortune, but daydreaming is one of the ways we get to see Bong Sun’s imagination at work. Through them we see how whimsical and how much of a sappy romantic she is. The other way we come in contact with it is in her speech, which is something she and Jae Hee have in common: they both have this acerbic, flippant wit to them, and they love to verbally spar with people. In fact, the initial way these two interact and bond is through bickering. One of my favorite scenes comes in episode 3 when Jae Hee is comforting Bong Sun over drinks and she drunkenly asks, “Why is it so easy for people to say ‘I love you?’” and Jae Hee answers that it’s because it doesn’t cost anything (and then they giggle and laugh adorably—and drunkenly). On one level they’re talking about money, (they say that people should be charged 50 cents for saying it and a dollar for hearing it) but on another level they’re talking about how shallow and callous people can be, how weightless words can become when they’re used for manipulation in relationships. Both our leads are romantics, with Bong Sun and her daydreams of roses, and Jae Hee and his talk of world travel and walking through idyllic countrysides. Words are especially important to Bong Sun, who is so earnest and honest, and never lies, and always confronts and examines herself, and is the first to confess her feelings to Jae Hee. He kisses her first (a forced one, ick) but she verbalizes her attraction to him first, which puts her in a much more vulnerable position. It isn’t so easy for her to say those words, but when she feels them she says them. And Jae Hee is well acquainted with the possible emptiness of words, considering his double life: he sees how people speak to him when he’s rich versus how they speak to him when he’s poor.
Jae Hee’s fake-outs also serve to add to his characterization. They show how much of a coward he is: he’s always running away. For example, in this episode (6) he and Bong Sun are talking at an outdoor food stand and it’s clear that he’s affected by her words, by how caring she is, and how willing she is to show that care for him. He has a moment of sincerity, telling her that he wants to run away with her, (which is problematic because he’s prioritizing his desires and needs over hers—after all, Bong Sun has a stable job at which she’s trying to get a promotion, and she owns a home, so what need does she have to escape to Europe?) and he immediately ruins it by snorting and passing it off as a joke—a joke at her expense, no less. And of course there is the scene in episode 3 when Bong Sun nails him, when she pinpoints exactly who he is and tells him, “You’re dark. You have a shadow. It’s there no matter how hard you try to hide it. You’re tainted.” Jae Hee’s reaction is to lash out, to retort harshly about how he hates girls who hate themselves and cry into their phones at night, and goes on to tell her that she’s “like a particle of dust on the street, and empty can travelling down a river, a plant with no one to care for it.” He’s emotionally dishonest, fighting his way from any kind of vulnerability, which brings us back to the question, “Why is it so easy for people to say, ‘I love you’?” It isn’t easy for Jae Hee, either, and he hides behind it. So ironically, the person who should be coughing up 50 cents is Jae Hee, for being a liar and a hypocrite.
This is a trait of his that I especially dislike, this thing he does where he gives something of himself, then takes it back, and expects something in return. This is one problem I have with the kiss that occurs in this episode (forced! again! WHY?). He kisses her, yes, but he uses it as a tool to distract her and to get her to trust him. He tells her to believe him, staring all soulfully and pleadingly into her eyes, but he doesn’t actually give her any reason to. In fact, he’s given her plenty of reasonsnot to! He kisses her in an act of defense to get her to not bring him to the police station so that he can further protect his hidden rich boy identity. And there is such a contrast between the first and second part of the kiss: in the first part he grabs her and forces one on her while she struggles against him and then he pulls away and says, “It really wasn’t me,” and in the second part of the kiss she kisses him and he’s a bit surprised, but it’s completely mutual and consensual and there are no hidden motives behind it. It’s really two entirely different kisses. He uses his kiss a a device for control, and she just kisses him because she likes him (and HELLO, have you seen Yoon Shi Yoon’s face??? Boy could give Song Joong Ki a run for his money.)
Now, I’m not denying that he really does like her and is attracted to her—I can see that he cares for her in the way that he comforted her when he overheard (eavesdropped, more like) her saying that she disliked herself, and in how much he wants her to see him as a good, moral person (always explaining why he has a criminal record), and in the way that he shares more of himself with her than with any other character, even as he’s lying to her. But I don’t think the fact that he’s in love wit her excuses any and all of his actions towards her—it’s not ok that he’s lying to her when they both decide to be in a relationship. It’s not ok that he keeps grabbing her and hauling her all over the place. It’s not ok that he’s so mercurial in his sharing of his feelings for her, all lovely and cute and (infuriatingly) charming one second, and all get-the-hell-away-from-me the next. The fact that our heroine is clinically depressed and already so fragile makes those things all the more injurious, and what I really want for this character is for him to become honest, for him to be able to find a way to live his life freely (because I understand that freedom is something very important to him) without deceiving people.
It’s interesting that that’s what I want for him, when what I want for Bong Sun is to repair her relationships with her mother, becuase while Jae Hee’s parents are dead, he has a family in Ah in and Hwang You, while Bong Sun, whose parents are both very much alive, doesn’t really have a family. I know what it’s like to feel resentful towards your mother, and I’m right there with Bong Sun whenever she’s scornful and accusatory towards her mom. Bong Sun’s been hurting for a long time, and she’s been hurting alone, and with a controlling, belittling father to make it worse. But I feel for her mother, too. I love how she isn’t just “a bad mother” but a woman who had to make a choice between being suffocated to death by an indifferent and abusive husband or freedom at the expense of her daughter. I don’t subscribe to the idea that she chose life so she could “cook for [her] now.” She chose life so she could live for herself, but I don’t think that’s something to be condemned. It’s something to be celebrated, just not necessarily by Bong Sun. I want her to be able to come to accept it, and for her and her mother to come to an understanding.
And now, the things I loved about this episode: I love how Bong Sun just goes ahead and cares about Jae Hee, unreservedly, and shows him that she cares about him, and how touched he is by that, and how oblivious she is to his being touched by that. It’s the same thing as her not believing her Myers Briggs test results saying that she’s caring. She is caring, she is loving and she does show it to people, but the world has been lying to her and she believes the world. Strangely, for all his lying, Jae Hee is one of the only people, (along with her therapist) who is able to show Bong Sun this truth, that she’s full of things to offer to others.