Flower Boy Next Door Episodes 1-4 Reflection

Flower Boy Next Door Title

Remember Me as a Time of Day – Explosions in the Sky [audio http://www.theperfectfive.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Explosions-In-The-Sky-Remember-Me-as-A-Time-of-Day.mp3]

Drama Overview

When I look over the hopes I had for what this show would be and compare them to what this show has so far been, I get so happy. I allowed myself to imagine the possibilities, allowed myself to hope for the best, but I tempered myself. I knew what I wanted, but I also knew what I was more likely to get, and I decided that I’d be happy with the latter. I was determined to like this show. I expected Yoon Shi Yoon being impossibly cute and Park Shin Hye being as charming as she’s always been, but instead of just cute fluff with a somewhat coherent story to tie it all together, maybe even some manufactured poignancy to endear the characters to us a little more, I find myself watching these two fabulously layered characters who are communicating and interacting with each other and with their world in these complex and fascinating ways that have me mulling over them with an intensity I haven’t felt since the early days of Nice Guy.

Yeah. I went there.

At 45 minutes, Flower Boy Next Door is a quick, easy watch, with distinctive characters and an engaging plot. It reminds me of jdoramas, with the same quirky sensibilities and focus on community. (Actually, this doesn’t surprise me at all, because it’s usually in jdoramas that you find the peppy, outgoing male characters, like Nakatsu Shuichi from Hana Kimi. And one of the most popular kdramas in Japan is You’re Beautiful –Park Shin Hye’s previous Hong Sisters drama–which had the bright and bubbly Jeremy. the only other one I can remember is Song Joong Ki’s character from Sungkyunkwan Scandal.) And for all it’s liveliness and bouncy music, it’s actually a rather quiet drama, especially when we’re with Dok Mi. One moment that really struck me was when she was gazing out at the sea, and there was no narration. We weren’t invited into her thoughts. The direction most resembles Flower Boy Ramen Shop, as they have the same director, with split screens, close ups of the actors’ animated facial expressions, and effects that would seem like mere gimmicks if they weren’t incorporated into the narrative of the story.

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For example, in episode 4 Dok Mi wakes up in her crush’s apartment: everything is bathed in a glowing light, hazy with the expectations with which she’s invested this space that she’s been daydreaming about for months. It’s like a fairytale dream, and she’s looking around–dazed, amazed, in awe–and just as she looks out of the window she’s been peering into for so long, making up a world for Tae Joon and secretly mimicking his routine, just as she starts to see her apartment and safe space form another view (the view that Enrique has seen it from), Enrique says, “Oh, you’re finally awake!” and all that shine wears off.  So her emergence from her dream and shift in self-perception coincide with Enrique’s voice, as if he’s breaking into her reverie. It’s like in that one sequence we find an analogy for the course of the show. It’s an example of the show using cinematic rhetoric to tell the story, but the characters themselves also use analogies and metaphors when speaking with each other. It’s generous enough a show that you can choose how you watch it– either as light fare or as something more. As I’d hoped, Dok Mi’s reclusion isn’t reduced to a simple eccentricity. Her pain and her fears are a real part of the story, and they are addressed and explored. there hasn’t been very much in the way of imagination versus reality, but there is a delightful contrast in the ways that almost all the characters perceive one another and the realities of their personalities.

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The thing is, now that the show has given me this much, I want even more. I want the drama to be about learning to care for yourself in non-harmful ways and learning to provide the care that those around you need. I want it to be about the play between dependence and interdependence, and how to balance those two with individuality and community. I want to see a continuation of the ways in which Dok Mi and Enrique negotiate with one another, considering how different they are.  I want to see a real friendship being built between them, to see them building a healthy relationship, one that is supportive and nurturing and reciprocal, that rubs off on Dok Mi’s neighbors so that they can come together in a kind of non-traditional family that protects and comforts it members. One of the highlights of the previous Flower Boy series is the camaraderie between the characters, and I would love to see more parallels being drawn: between Enrique and Watanabe, who are both foreigners; between Enrique and Dok Mi; and even between the three ladies. Speaking of, when looking at the posters for all three of these Flower Boy series, there are three women and fifteen men. Just. Wow. I’ve heard many a complaint about Park Soo Jin and her blandness in past dramas, but so far she’s been hilarious, which makes me feel bad, because she’s Dok Mi’s past tormentor. I can’t wait to learn more about their past. And, of course, I want some real kissing. I’ve seen what Yoon Shi Yoon and tvN can do, and I can never go back to the wide-eyed frigidity of so many drama kisses.

By the way, I just have to say that my new name for Yoon Shi Yoon is Yoon Shi Swoooooooon, accompanied by appropriate sighing, giggling, gazing, and, of course, swooning. My case is serious, guys. I am genuinely considering watching Baker King Kim Tak Gu. Ah, the things a fangirl will do…

On Go Dok Mi, Our Lovely Heroine

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Which position is the only unique position in any singular soccer team? Correct answer. The goal keeper. You’d think that it’d be good since they’re the only ones using their hands, right? But actually, it’s not a good thing. They’re always in a state of nervousness that someone may shoot a goal and they have to protect the goal all by themselves. So it’s lonely… and mostly difficult. You’re the goalkeeper. I know that it’s a very difficult position. Stay strong. Cheers!

Go Dok Mi’s an introvert and a loner. Even without the trauma that’s driven her to lock herself in her apartment, I feel she would be more comfortable in her own solitude than in the company of others. She’s someone who thrives in her own thoughts and imagination, who needs tranquility to be in communication with herself. She’s always engaged in a process of self reflection, examining her her world and her place in it. She’s shown to us in broad stokes–her baggy clothing, her shaggy hair, her aversion to other people, her physical reactions to when she’s overcome by taxing situations–but also in small details–her eye rolls, her private smile. She’d rather spend her money on bookcases and a good computer than on water and electricity bills, she has pictures taped up next to a bed she rarely uses, she’s much more comfortable communicating through body language than she is through verbal language. She has a strong sense of self and she invites compassion because she has her own issues but she’s still perceptive and empathetic to others; she isn’t so mired in her own problems that she can’t feel for others. It’s something she has in common with Enrique, that she is able to identify her own situation in others.

She’s so easy to identify with, and it’s no wonder that the response to her has been so positive. When was the last time in kdramaland we had a heroine who viewers (mostly women) could relate to so closely and so immediately?  Usually it’s the men in kdramas who are wounded, who have pain that helps to shape their view of the world. The men are allowed to explore these aspects of humanity, allowed to experience the scars that life can give to a person. It’s not that women in kdramas don’t suffer, it’s that they aren’t allowed to respond to that suffering in any way that would indicate that they have an ego, that they think and feel for themselves and aren’t totally selfless, that they give themselves as much space to be flawed and broken that they give to the men in their lives. They have to be happy. They have to be optimistic. Or their pain is fetishized and it’s made to be something that augments their beauty. They can’t have Issued and be Fucked Up. I’ve read discussions in which people try to explain why fandoms are so much more attracted to men characters and their manpain, why they are drawn to characters like Loki, a psychotic mass murderer, and humanize him, and those conversation have said that it’s because fandoms are attracted to characters who are allowed to be the most human. And that’s what we get with Dok Mi. She’s human.

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I love that we’re shown how lonely Dok Mi is, that we see how difficult certain situations are for her. But what I love even more is that although she has an extreme case of social anxiety, she isn’t totally incapacitated by it. For all of her fear and vulnerability, even weakness, she remains incredibly independent. She exerts control over her life: she’s resourceful; she lives by herself; she’s set up her own rules about how she wants to live her life and she adheres to them; she sets her own boundaries and she takes the steps to ensure that everyone around her respects those boundaries; she decides who she interacts with and how. In this world that has done so much to damage her, she’s managed to build a life for herself, carve a safe space for herself. That takes guts and nerves and an incredible amount of planning and energy. Her vulnerabilities aren’t romanticized. When Enrique is kicking on her door she is truly scared, and she has to crouch down and cover her ears to try to protect herself. When she meets her past tormentor, she faints because having to face her is so overwhelming. And yet, she isn’t helpless. In fact, she’s someone who others seek help form: Jin Rak and Dong hoon ask her for help with their bills, Enrique asks her to help face the situation with Seo Young and his hyung, and even Do Hwi, who seems oblivious to Dok Mi’s feelings towards her, calls her to ask for information. As much as she ever needs others, others (most explicitly Enrique), need her. even more important, she doesn’t see herself as helpless; when Jin Rak needs money to keep from getting kicked out of her apartment, she offers help without being asked. It’s like Enrique says: she’s the goalkeeper who is under a lot of pressure to keep the ball from entering the net and allowing the opposing team to score–but she’s also performing a job that’s essential to the game. His analogy perfectly encapsulates these dualities in Dok Mi. My darling girl, I love her so much. And what’s so great about the quote above is that it doesn’t just give us otp goodness about how well Enrique already knows Dok Mi, it shows that he recognizes the hard work that she does in making her life.

Park Shin Hye plays Dok Mi so elegantly. Quiet and subdued, but opinionated and strict, a trait that comes out whenever Enrique is misbehaving, like when she glared at him when he compared their meeting to “perverted erotica,”  and when he wants to drink soju. It was a great move to cast her, because she’s so expressive in her face and in her movements, and you need an actor with those skills, I think, when you’re dealing with with a show like this that has this gentle duality of bright colors and upbeat music, but also a lot of quiet moments and real sadness.

On Enrique Geum, Precious Baby

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Love is not an assigned seat on a plane. Just because I bought a ticket first, I can’t just say ‘that is my seat.’

Enrique is this intoxicating mix of cute and conscientiousness, of gentle wisdom and cheerfulness, of insight and childlike sincerity, like an overly familiar, rambunctious labrador puppy who every now and then stops and pierces you with a gaze that is so intelligent that you’re certain it’s a person. Only Enrique is a person. He’s an unabashed extrovert, totally fine with letting people know that he wants to be with them, and it’s like he feeds off of being around other people. Like Dok Mi needs peace and quiet to understand herself, Enrique needs company and direct interaction to understand himself. Smiles come so easily for him, as if they are the most natural thing in the world, and whether you’re a close friend or a stranger, even one who is giving off definite antagonist vibes, he’s more than willing to greet you with a smile and a hug. He’s hero I’ve never seen before, as his sort are usually relegated to second lead status while the heroine chooses to be the salve for a tortured lead.

There is so much about him to love. I love that he asks Dok Mi for help. I love that he understands that what he feels doesn’t entitle him to something, as shown by the quote above. He doesn’t expect Seo Young to love him back just because of how he feels for her, nor does he want to punish her for liking his hyung instead of him, and he’s actively working to get over her. I love that he apologizes to Dok Mi for “overreacting” and kicking on her door. He’s not thoughtless, as his sunny disposition might suggest. He actually considers his actions and tries to find the best, least harmful way to proceed in whatever he’s doing. I love that he put on those ajumma pants without a trace of embarrassment or surliness. The show didn’t make a mockery out of his wearing them, and it had no reflection on who he was as a person or as a man. I love that he is a happy person. Many have pointed out that he uses hyperactivity and bubbly optimism to mask any pain he might be experiencing, and I generally agree, but I don’t want to overstate how much of his sunny personality is a facade. There is so much to say about how different he and Dok Mi are and the differences they have to approaching and seeing and interacting with the world and the different dangers they feel they need to protect themselves from, but they do have similarities, in that they are both pretty independent are both working to heal themselves. Because while Dok Mi can hide out in her apartment, writing down her thoughts and keeping her sardonic comments to herself, Enrique can’t because that’s just not how he functions. It’s not that he just has a mask on to hide his hurt and that his cheeriness is a front. He is genuinely a cheerful person. He’s managing his pain through this natural disposition of his, through his tendency to look on the brighter side of things. That’s what’s going on when he says that what he thought before about love being broken is wrong, that it just means you can move on and find another person to love. His cheerfulness is as much a tool to navigate the world as Dok Mi’s reclusion.

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On Oh Jin Rak, Grumpy McGrumperson

I think we need to contextualize the conversation about Jin Rak. The dialogue surrounding him is also addressing Joo Byung Hee from Shut Up Flower Boy Band, and especially Choi Kang Hyuk from Flower Boy Ramen Shop. Both these characters were kind of second leads in the previous series, both had problematic relationships with the ladies in them, and both inspired a devotion in viewers that made them want the heroine to end up with them (for lack of a better phrase) than with the male lead. Second Lead Syndrome, as they say. When people talk about the problems in how Jin Rak is treating Dok Mi they are identifying real issues in their relationship, but they are also talking about Kang Hyuk and Byung Hee, and so the vitriol towards Jin Rak can sometimes seem harsh. I think it’s interesting that this is a commonality between all three shows, that they each have our heroines having to deal with relationships with men who do harmful things to them.

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But let’s talk about Jin Rak. He has a crush on Dok Mi, one he’s been nursing for a few years. He’s created a version of Dok Mi in his head, one that doesn’t really exist. He can’t believe that she could ever peep on anyone because to him she’s this bastion of purity, someone who’s kind and simply too delicate to deal with the world. Who he thinks Dok Mi is is completely at odds with how dok Mi perceives herself. And that’s a problem. But I think it’s good to point out that this is something Dok Mi herself has done, with Tae Joon. They both idealize the objects of their affection. The difference between them is that Dok Mi doesn’t lay any claim to Tae Joon. She doesn’t want the reality of a relationship with him at all. Actually, I don’t think she even wants to interact with Tae  Joon. She prefers him as he is–the guy she spies on from the safety of her apartment. But Jin Rak does wants a real relationship with Dok Mi, and this is the real problem. He’s in love with someone who doesn’t really exist, and he’s getting angry that she is seemingly becoming involved with a man who isn’t him. He’s exerting a kind of ownership over Dok Mi, imaginary as it might be, that is simply unacceptable. He’s also making a comic out of his imagining of her life without her consent, and he’s using her likeness for it, too.

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I like Jin Rak as an individual. He’s so grumpy and prickly, and I always laugh at his interactions with Dong Hoon and Do Hwi. Kim Ji Hoon is so good in this role. I don’t know if it’s because it’s a more comedic role or if it’s because he’s grown more comfortable after having done his military service, but he is so much better than he has been in his past projects. What i appreciate the most about Jin Rak is how his character is this wonderful portrayal of the Epectation vs Reality meme. His looks and his physique give him all the makings of a leading man, but he’s just a surly, chaste, failed manhwa artist. barely making rent, sticking his foot in his assistant’s face. It makes his interactions with Do Hwi all the more satisfying, because he as a character overturns all these expectations, but when he’s with her he is completely, almost rudely, blunt and honest, while Do Hwi is trying to stick to the expectations she thinks are required of the kind of girl he (and anyone else) would like.

OTP: You’re the goalkeeper

What is your truth? Answer honestly. Whenever someone asked her that, she kept her mouth shut. When unwrapped from its wrapping paper of lies, the truth is not a sweet candy or a chocolate that appears with a flourish. In the way that skin is needed to protect blood and flesh, she needed lies to cover her truth. More than being honest and exposing her scars, that woman found it safer to lie with a brilliant smile.

Mimicking, “telepathy,” reciprocation, parallels. There is so much going on between these two. They understand each other on an almost spiritual level, but that doesn’t mean that everything is smooth sailing.The thing that gets me about them is that it’s not miscommunication that brings on the angst. It’s clear communication: they are honest with each other, and Dok Mi is never more honest than when she tells him to get lost. She tells him the truth. This self professed liar, who habitually uses lying as a tool of protection, using truth to protect herself.

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When people of such extreme leanings as Dok Mi and Enrique meet, there’s going to be some conflict. My biggest fear with Enrique is that he has a tendency to be really pushy with Dok Mi, and heedlessly makes her do things she doesn’t want to. It’s an interesting contrast to how thoughtful he can be. There’s a balancing act going on in his interactions with Dok Mi. He’s always touching her and invading her personal space, and Dok Mi reacts differently to each intrusion. At times, like when he put his arm out when he stopped the car abruptly, she’s clearly uncomfortable, but other times, like when he touched her forehead or held onto her arm to ask for help, she seemed fine. And when she was about to faint she felt comfortable in asking him for help. Most of the time she’s annoyed by him, but every now and then we can see traces of her being charmed by him. And we can already see the changes Enrique is bringing about in her. In episode 3 she looks across and sees Tae Joon comforting Seo Young, and for a moment she isn’t concerned about the fact that her crush is doing something that is in direct conflict with how she’s imagined him, she’s worried about Enrique and how he’s faring in the cold without his coat. This protective instinct isn’t something that’s unique to her reaction to Enrique–she’s someone who cares for those around her, as shown by how she gives Jin Rak money when he’s in a bind–but being around him brings it out of her more. It’s like he’s helping to emphasize this aspect of her, giving her more occasion to display it. They are both people who are aware of their own situations and can recognize it in others.

The biggest disturbances Dok Mi has experienced, when she has a physical break down, are when she meets Do Hwi again and when Enrique is kicking wildly at her door. Do Hwi is oblivious to the damage she’s caused, but Enrique apologizes. For all his pushiness and overfamiliarity, he isn’t someone who won’t take no for an answer. The show makes it explicit that he is someone who will respect others’ boundaries, even when they seem arbitrary to him and he doesn’t understand the reason for them, hence his telling Seo Young that she shouldn’t apologize for not reciprocating his feelings for her and then taking the initiative to let go of his love for her instead of wallowing in his rejection. He realizes he’s responsible for his own emotions. (In fact, I think this makes him very similar to Dok Mi. She wanted to keep her unrequited crush a secret–for privacy, for her own preference for imagination to reality–but also because she likes keeping her feelings to herself. Enrique is an extrovert, yes, maybe even an exhibitionist, but he also keeps a lot of his feelings to himself.)

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Enrique: Go Dok Mi why did you leave a warm building to go sit out in the cold, shivering on the park bench all by yourself? Rather than run into people, you prefer to freeze to death? Are you that afraid of people?If you’re afraid of people, why don’t you try getting closer to the world first? I bet if you did, you’ll find you can stand being around people. Until I go back to Spain I’m going to take you around and show you the whole world.
Dok Mi: I have a favor to ask.

Enrique: Sure.Tell me whatever it is. I’ll grant you all your favors.

Dok Mi: When we get back to Seoul… can you not acknowledge me anymore? Even if we run into each other by chance, can you just walk on by without acknowledging me?

Enrique: Don’t you think that you’re being too cruel when you already know the situation I’m in? And we both already know so much about each other.

Dok Mi: Because you know so much about me it makes me uncomfortable. That’s why I don’t like it.

Enrique: Do you find that to be even possible? How can we not acknowledge each other when we already know each other? Isn’t that cowardly?

Dok Mi: Don’t talk like you know me when you’ve only known me for a few days. You don’t know who I am. Although I’m sure there won’t be any chances of running into each other but even if we do, just ignore me.

Enrique: To be able to say such a harsh thing so easily like that, you say it so casually. Do I also have to feel uncomfortable since you now know a lot about me too?

Okay, deal. But instead of saying that we don’t acknowledge each other let’s just say that we’ve never met before, okay?

Dok Mi: Okay.

I love this conversation. Park Shin Hye and Yoon Shi Swoon are so good at what they do, and with the light on their faces and the darkness surrounding them, like some kind of Thomas Eakins, and the way their faces fall as they realize what the other is saying is just so affecting, and they are both so earnest. And, of course, this exchange shows how complex their relationship is. It begins with Enrique asking Dok Mi whay she does the things she does, why she is the way she is. He doesn’t assume he knows, he asks her. That is so important, especially with someone as reticent as Dok Mi, who would rather you have your own ideas of her in your head, so long as you leave her alone. He then gives her a suggestion of what she could do to get rid of her fear. For him it’s not about her reclusion, it’s about her fear. He’s not trying to change who she is, but is identifying something that is hurtful to her. I like this translation more than the one that has Enrique “dragging” Dok Mi around because it’s more of an offer of what he can do to help her mange her fear than a threat, which I’m sure is what it sounds like to Dok Mi.

When Dok Mi asks him for a favor, he says he’ll do anything she asks of him. And he does! He goes to sleep in the car. He’s hurt by what she asks of him, he doesn’t totally understand why she’s asking it of him, what she asks is at total odds with his own understanding of the world, especially after he’s just offered to help her, but he respects what she asks of him. He agrees to her conditions. Enrique hasn’t really thought about his intrusion into Dok Mi’s life and doesn’t think of it as something that would devastate her. He doesn’t think of himself or his actions as destructive, especially since he actively tries to be a good person. He doesn’t understand the depth of her aversion to human interaction. He doesn’t do things lightly; he thinks them through and does them with a purpose, and those purposes, so far as we’ve seen, have never been to wreck another’s life. These two have such fundamentally different understandings of the world and its dangers that he would never think that he is doing something harmful to her. This doesn’t excuse his aggressive actions, of course (intent doesn’t mitigate outcome), but once she tells him to go away he goes away.

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But for Dok Mi it’s a whole other story. She has been living a secluded life, one she’s enacted in response to trauma that she’s experienced, trauma that’s making a comeback in her life in the shape of Do Hwi. Enrique and all his effervescence and drunken cuteness are upheavals in her life, they’re disruptions to a carefully constructed world that’s meant to protect her, meant to give her some space to flourish. For her he’s not just giving her suggestions of how to conquer her fear, he’s coming into a situation he doesn’t know very much about and speaking as if he knows something. The thing is, she has been managing her fear. Shrinking away from society, keeping her crush to herself, cautiously weighing when to go out to buy food and when to have it delivered, each day measuring how much interaction she’ll be able to handle, that is her management. And this guy who has foisted himself on her, who already knows so much about her (leaving her feeling exposed), who seems to communicate with her on a cognitive level (which just means she’s even more exposed to him), is suddenly giving her advice on what she should do, her, who’s been dealing with this on her own for so long! For Dok Mi it’s a question of resetting the boundaries she feels comfortable with, the ones she’s painstakingly erected for her own survival. What she says is harsh, and Enrique’s just getting up abruptly and walking away from her–giving her exactly what she wants and in the stark manner in which she asked for it–is harsh, but that’ what’s so wonderful about it. There’s a truth in this one scene, something about how people hurt one another while just trying to fend for themselves, hurt one another without even meaning to, something about hurt being a very basic human experience, that we rarely see in kdramas or tv in general. Usually in dramas pain is something that can be avoided, something tragic (If only he knew she wasn’t really his sister! If only she had turned around right then! If only their parents agreed to their relationship!), but in these few minutes we’re shown that there is no way of avoiding pain, that even with one of the most cheerful and kindest of characters it’s still a possibility–no, a necessity.

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In her relationship with Enrique Dok Mi has taken a number of measures to keep him at bay–running away from him, lying to him, and, finally, telling him point blank to stay out of her life. All of these are survival tools. But at the end of this conversation in episode 4 when Enrique abruptly leaves, turning the tables on her, he makes her realize that she’s not the only one who gets to determine the condition of their relationship. Dok Mi wants to stop their relationship where it is, but Enrique goes one step further. He says it should be like they’d never met each other at all. Dok Mi is a person who lives more in her thoughts than in anything else, than in “the real world,” and a big part of living the way she does is in revisiting the memories she has. Memories of how she first “met” Tae Joon, memories of being bullied; she takes them and makes a life out of them. That’s why she wanted the privacy of an unrequited love, because she could enjoy it without any interruption from anyone, she could take it and shape it as she saw fit without the other person there to mess it up. And even though Enrique generally agrees to what she’s asked, he’s also said that she should act like they never knew each other—like she doesn’t have any memories of him. There’s an irony here, while she’s trying to hold this person at arm’s length he ends up crossing into places he may not even be aware exist. And after Enrique has made the terms of their relationship even more severe than she’s asked she starts to think: Is this how I want to survive? Is there another way? I think this points to how it’s not really Enrique who is bringing her out into the world and saving her, as a lot of the discussion for the narrative arch of the show seems to suggest, it’s her who is once again determining how she wants to live her life.

But there’s more.

Enrique has had this thing he’s been doing with Dok Mi, where he mimics her. In the third episode when she tells Tae Joon that her name is “Go Dok – Go Dok – Go Dok Mi,” (Lonely – Lonely – Go Dok Mi), Enrique repeats it after her. In the fourth episode when they are eating at the “countryside grocery store,” (which Enrique is excited about because he’s something of a foreigner; actually this makes me think of how Enrique is always in this liminal space—he’s Korean but he’s not, he’s kind of famous but kind of not, he’s persuasive, maybe even aggressive, but he’s also accommodating. And this in turn makes me think of Dok Mi’s dualities—she’s quiet but opinionated, shy and yielding but firm in the boundaries she’s set around herself, so burdened by her own issues but can easily understand others, a recluse who pulls away from society yet cares about the well being of her neighbors) he watches Dok Mi eating the sweet potato and the kimchi and he follows her: she’s using chopsticks properly while he’s got a potato speared on one, and when she takes some kimchi and puts it on the potato he does the same. He’s taking social cues from her because she–the recluse–is better at navigating Seoul than he is. Notice that she’s the one who has to point out to him that the person they were speaking to was a woman. He continues this mimicking in this conversation. When she tells him that his knowing so much about her makes her uncomfortable, he wonders himself  if he should feel as she does. He’s continuing to see her as someone who can provide guidance, but he’s also showing us that he cares about her desires because he’s considering his own feelings from her point of view.

All this is why I hate the kiss at the end of episode 4. It’s so awful, because it’s a cheap trick used to make these two  start interacting again, instead of finding another way to make that happen, a way that would address all that’s happened in this conversation they’ve just had. It undermines what they’ve been through. And I want a real kiss, dammit! I’m talking Queen In Hyun’s Man Director’s Cut kissing!

And finally, if you guys read anything on these two, read this: Myers-Briggs dichotomies in Flower Boy Next Door. Go, now, go!

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Shout out to Dramafever for the fabulous translations and the HD screencaps, and all the lovely fangirls (and boys) with such fascinating commentary who make watching this show even better.


About ladida

lasagna enthusiast ♡✿


  1. Maris

    Wow! Great reflections. Enjoyed reading it. These are the reasons why I am enjoying this drama so much. :)

  2. oozzeee

    ,hehe at the mention of the DF boys..their podcast is indeed a hoot…

  3. Mgen

    I had no plans to watch this drama until I read your reflection. I appreciate the tumblr link. I’m always looking for media with well written, human female MCs . I’ve only recently started hearing terms like “boundaries” sprouted around in regards to human and fictional relationships. I consume a lot of media, in various forms, so it’s great having go to terms to articulate why certain relationships and behaviors are problematic. Would you recommend the rest of the Flower Boy series?

    • ladida


      Hmmm…I don’t know. I’ve never finished either of the other two Flower Boy series, though I’m planning on marathoning SUFBB sometime soon. Best bet is to peruse the available recaps and see if either of them are up your alley. If you end up watching either of them, tell me what you thought!

  4. Thoughtful discussion of FBND is like manna from the heavens. I love the post :)

    Dok Mi’s relationship with Tae Joon reminds me of early Angela Chase from My So-Called Life:

    Angela : I’m not saying…see there’s thinking about him, right?
    which is what I do. All the time. Like this…
    Rickie : Obsession.
    Rayanne : Right. So?
    Angela : So, it keeps me going or something. Like I need it just to
    get through the day. It…It’s just …
    Rickie : It’s an obsession.
    Angela : Right. And, and if you make it real, it’s it’s not the same. It’s
    not, it’s not yours anymore. I don’t know, maybe I’d rather
    have the fantasy than even him.
    Rickie : I completely understand this.
    Rayanne : I totally and completely disagree. You want Jordan Catalano in
    actuality because…there is no because. You just want him.
    Only you’re programmed to never admit it.
    Rickie : That does have the ring of truth.

    In both cases, I could not possible love the characters more.

    • ladida

      MY SO-CALLED LIFFFFFFEEEEE. One of my favorite shows ever, I watch it over and over again, and it just gets better with age. You know, now that you bring it up, it is really like a kdrama, isn’t it? It’s only one season, and it’s voice and atmosphere are so strong and present, it’s like this perfectly encapsulated moment in time we can always go back and revisit.

      • ::Sigh:: The fact that it was cut down in the prime of life makes My So-Called Life all the sweeter in retrospect. The weird thing is that when I first watched it, I was Angela’s age and identified with her incredibly intensely. But now that I’m older, I realize there were whole other storylines that I didn’t even notice: the ones about the grownups. And now that I’m a grownup, I find myself identifying with them as much as I did with Angela. It’s like one of those novelty paintings with the eyes that seem to follow you around the room, only with life ;)

        P.S.: The gifs brightened my morning considerably!

  5. Hello! This is Kay from Radio Palava – thank you for linking to my post, and I’m glad you found it useful! The additional analysis you’ve done here is so insightful and makes me love this show even more. :)

    I’m glad you’ve addressed the issue of Jin Rak, which I didn’t really do because I wasn’t sure how I felt about him. However, as you’ve pointed out, the issue of his paternalistic idealization of Dok Mi became even more apparent in Eps 5-6. There was a moment in one of the episodes where we could see his computer screen and his drawing of Dok Mi – she looked completely pathetic! And when he talked to Dong Hoon in Ep 4 about his ideal type being “a woman who knows how to yield first, a woman who knows how to say ‘I’m sorry’ first” (Dong Hoon’s reaction, “What is all that nonsense?” was the appropriate response, in my opinion), it became apparent that he really has no idea who Dok Mi is or what she’s about, and he really doesn’t care. Then at the end of Ep 6 when he called out Enrique with “We need to have a talk,” it was as if he really felt he needed to speak for her when she had been pretty clear about what she wanted throughout the entire encounter. Jin Rak is determined to “protect” the vision of Dok Mi he has created, without any thought to her agency and without asking questions about what kind of relationships might actually be to her benefit.

    In contrast, I think Enrique has gotten better throughout the show at helping Dok Mi get beyond her comfort zone, and doing so through offering a choice. Although some have argued that his entry into her apartment in Ep 6 was extremely invasive, he did ask her where she wanted to work, and she was the one who chose to let him in. His act of accepting Do Hwi’s unwanted gifts was also done in the interest of preserving a choice for Dok Mi: without giving in to Do Hwi’s wheedling, Dok Mi might preserve the bridge between them and later choose to renew their relationship. By acting as an intermediary on Dok Mi’s behalf, Enrique helped preserve Do Hwi’s social face in the situation and thereby salvaged the possibility for friendship later on, without forcing Dok Mi to commit to anything.

    I also appreciated your analysis of Enrique’s cheerfulness not as a front but as the way he deals with the world. I don’t see him as childish at all – in fact, I think his coping mechanisms/resiliency are extremely well-developed, as you’ve pointed out. He can navigate any social encounter to his advantage and to the advantage of others (as noted above); he has a clear sense of purpose and is goal-oriented (both career-wise and in developing his relationship with Dok Mi); he relies on himself and has an internal locus of control and recognizes agency in others; and he’s a creative problem-solver (placating the kid on the plane; presenting various excuses to get Dok Mi to open her door to him; getting gas money from strangers). These characteristics (social competence, sense of purpose, autonomy, and problem-solving) are actually discussed in the literature on resiliency as “protective factors” that people who bounce back from tough situations all have in common. For that reason, Enrique is an excellent tutor for Dok Mi as she develops her own protective factors to fully bounce back from Do Hwi’s betrayal.

    tl;dr: Enrique is a boss and this drama is amazing. Thank you for sharing this in-depth analysis, and I look forward to reading more of your thoughts as the show continues! :)

  6. Pingback: Others’ Thoughts on Flower Boy Next Door | Cherry Cordial

  7. laura

    Truly appreciate you thoughtful, insightful writing. My watching of this well done drama has been enhanced by your blog. Incidentally, I also loved Queen In Hyun’s Man and hope more people discover its excellence. THANKS FOR SHARING!


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