Episode 2: Emotional Work & Gender
I’m struck with how Da Ren is the emotional support for his family. He is the one who is the main communicator, speaking to his younger sister for his mother and vice versa, mending rifts within the family, resolving family conflict. I have a feeling he’s had this role since his father’s death five years ago, and maybe even had it when his father was alive. And his role as emotional support/translator is something he’s brought into his public work life: in his manager position at the airport he is constantly serving other people’s emotional needs, making other people feel better. He does emotion work both at home and at work—and in his relationship with You Qing.
It makes me think of how In Time With You was originally conceived as the Taiwanese version of Coffee Prince. Coffee Prince has all these gender reversals (on the part of Eun chan), and she gender-bends for most of the show. They are all re-reversed at the end of the show, with Eun Chan revealing she’s a woman and Han Geul piggybacking her and her returning from Italy all dolled up, but it never the less makes me think of the gender reversal in ITWY. Da Ren is the one with the traditionally women’s work, while (as Malta has pointed out to me) You Qing is the one who’s prickly and can be stand-offish, the standard kdrama hero traits. But she’s never a jerk,never wholly offensive and just plain wrong, the way kdrama heros usually start out. She’s judgmental and quick to dismiss people who annoy her or people she’s felt have betrayed her, but she is also a communicator, just like Da Ren. She also smoothes out problems. She resolves issues by listening to others. And she is our narrator, the one whose voice we hear throughout each episode. You Qing isn’t misunderstood so much as she’s hard to understand.
Another thing I noticed, You Qing’s father is pretty normative when it comes to gender, with his talk of how men feel the need to be heroes, which is why a (heterosexual) relationship in which the woman is older and makes more money could never work out. But in this episode, Maggie asks Da Ren if he needs her to rescue him, again giving him attributes associated with women. So can we describe Da Ren as effeminate, or does that word only describe men who act in immediately recognizably feminine ways? In gestures and dress like the way one sits or holds a cup and the cut of the pants one wears as opposed to these more deliberate, acts of communication? What does it mean that this man who has women’s characteristics and does women’s work “gets the girl” while the very masculine, overtly virile and sexual man doesn’t? And it’s so strange that both Da Ren and You Qing are people who have such a strong command of language and presence, though in entirely different ways, and are so good at talking to one another, and yet they trip over their romantic feelings for each other over and over again. It’s also one of the best parts of watching this show, seeing how they interact and the progress they make towards a romantic coupling.
And, of course, while You Qing is trying to figure out a way to approach Nic, Maggie has already very openly and persistently pursued Da Ren, despite his obvious discomfort, which I suppose can be read as cute shyness. It would be interesting to compare the moments You Qing is made to feel uncomfortable due to romantic advances (with Nic,, with Li Wei) with when Da Ren is, and see the whys and differences. (How much do I love that Nic is introduced to us as this guy that You Qing has the hots for, and it isn’t til later that we find out that he’s gay? No hints dropped about his sexuality at, no moments when we can say, “Oh, it’s so obvious!” And his mannerisms don’t change after we find out? Love it, even though the whole using-women-for-professional-gain thing is gross and creepy.)
Episode 3: Mirrors
I think the mirrors in this episode are stand-ins for You Qing and Li Da Ren: Da Ren told You Qing that only he has seen her best side and he told her how amazing she really is, so he was reflecting the best of her back to her, the way a mirror does. These two act as mirrors for each other, sometimes showing the other the best of who they are, like with what Da Ren told You Qing in this episode, and sometimes showing them the worst, like when they give each other advice, or when Da Ren told You Qing that he hated it when she was dating Li Wei, and sometimes simply showing the fear they have, like in the play from the second episode. Sometimes mirrors show things you don’t want to see, like when in episode 2 You Qing is imagining all of the men she knows and how they rate as potential lovers, and when she finally thinks of Da Ren, lying on her bed and smiling at her, she immediately sits up and turns her back to (her imagining of) him. At this point she cannot face him as a romantic partner, not even in her imagination. Again, the fear. It also reminds me of the two lions Da Ren gave to You Qing. Why did he give her two instead of one? I think it’s because they are both square maned lions, and that they are a pair that comes together, either in friendship or in romance.
Another thing to notice that follows the theme of “twos” or “pairs/couples” in this drama: the sheet and pillow set that Maggie has shows a boy on one pillow talking to a girl on the other pillow connected by a piece of string; at the end of each episode’s theme song we get Da Ren and You Qing speaking to each other, using a string and a can, just like on Maggie’s pillows. It’s these little details that pile up and give this drama so much depth and such and atmosphere of being alive that I love. And it’s able to be realistic and whimsical at the same time.
I also adore the last scene in this episode. I love how the director shows us how they begin talking in the early evening and just spend hours and hours talking to each other without any awkward silences. And they don’t just goof around, either, they really have a conversation. It makes me think of the title, In Time With You: they spend so much time together, but they are so easy and comfortable with one another that it feels like no time at all. They don’t have to work at it. If they become a romantic couple, then it would be this official thing, this thing that they would most likely feel pressure to work at, pressure to make work. They (especially Da Ren) probably feel that once they start seeing each other romantically, then they’ll be more aware of their relationship to one another, and it will become this thing that they want to have, as opposed to something that simply exists organically like their already established friendship, and like episode 2 warned us, once you have possession of something you want, you start losing it. The thing is, their friendship is easy and comfortable, but they do work on it, every day. That becomes more obvious in episode 5.