If you know me, you know I love Korean Dramas. I stumbled upon Boys Over Flowers on Hulu one night in 2010. I clicked on the show because I thought the person in the thumbnail was my friend Mark (turns out it was Kim Joon). I really fell into the Korean Drama thing, hard. How hard? I once lost 10lbs in a month because I would spend all my free time marathoning dramas in my room, rarely leaving to eat. I called in sick to work for the first time at a job to finish a drama. Ironically, these are often touted as badges of honor among hardcore K-Drama fans. I don’t know what it was about them, a window into another culture, the plots that were soooo different than the American and British shows I normally watched, the episodic nature of the genre, or the HOT AF men who weren’t afraid to cry? It was all of it. At one point I had a spreadsheet of all the Korean, Taiwanese, or Japanese dramas (non-anime) I had watched, there were over 200 titles.
I regret nothing.
One of the genres of Korean (Taiwanese and Japanese) dramas is the Love/Hate Relationship. Where one (usually both) members of the meet cute loathe each other for a reasonable(ish) reason but through the fates are forced together. A SUB-GENRE of the Love/Hate Relationship is the Contract Relationship. This is where the two love birds are only together in a [secret to others] fake manner for a mutually beneficial reason. As an example, here is the plot summary for TvN’s 2014 Marriage Not Dating:
“Yeon Woo Jin (A Divorce Lawyer in Love, When a Man Loves) and Min Han Groo (Can We Get Married?) star in a romantic comedy that proves even the biggest lies cannot stop real love from finding its way. Kong Ki Tae (Yeon Woo Jin) has the perfect life. He is a handsome and successful plastic surgeon whose inconsiderate nature and preference for solitude means he has no interest in settling down any time soon. His family, however, wants his life to become a bit more wholesome and pressurizes him to get married.
Refusing to go along with his family’s wishes to get married, Kong Ki Tae brings home a fake girlfriend that his parents would never approve of.”
The conceit of the genre is that you go in knowing they hate each other (because they don’t know each other) but that they will end up together. The Contract Relationship dramas are my favorite. I think it is because I relate to the need for defined boundaries that will only come down once you trust someone.
That is not what this post is about, so let’s pivot.
“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before”, based on the novel by the same name by Jenny Han, is kind of K-Drama meta. At least to me, it is about the type of girl who would watch K-Dramas (here romance novels) about a girl with one-sided crushes who ends up in a – guess what? – CONTRACT RELATIONSHIP. I’ve watched this movie 2.5 times already. The first time, all I could focus on was Lana Condor’s performance as Lara Jean Song Covey. Which is a breath of fresh air. MORE ROM-COM LEADS WHO ARE THIS LEVEL HEADED PLEASE. Also yay Jenny Han for writing this heroine. The second time was an accident. A tweet from author and co-host of the Thirst-Aid Kit podcast, Nichole Perkins made me realize that I didn’t watch the whole movie:
My fav moment: LJ, Kitty, and Peter are on the couch. watching a movie. Kitty says something smart so Peter starts a pillow fight and *moves the bowl of popcorn to the floor to avoid a mess.* WE STAN A CONSIDERATE BAE. #ToAllTheBoysIveLovedBefore
— Nichole ✨✨✨ (@tnwhiskeywoman) August 18, 2018
And because I am feeling generous:
So I went back and watched it and ok aside from the fact that Peter took a long ass time to get over his [trifling] ex, he was so considerate to the boundaries that Lara Jean put up. Excuse me I had to fan myself a couple times upon the second re-watch. Yes, I am celebrating the part in the rom-com where the man’s primary romantic gesture was listening. SWOON.
This movie isn’t perfect, there are still things that harangue my non-16 year old nerves, but it is refreshing:
- This romance novel /movie that focuses on a young woman realizing what romance means to her and when/how/what she is willing to accept/give
- Does not cater to the male gaze.
- Sex wasn’t the trophy
- The heroine is not asked to change in anyway – just to see what’s in front of her
- Responsible parenting from a single dad
- I also enjoyed the musical cues for this movie. From zippy pop trills to swelling classical music, the music enhanced the quiet moments and highlighted the emotions of the character.
I really wished a heroine and a story like this existed when I was 16, maybe I would not be dead inside today, and my version of the story wouldn’t be “How I Got Arrested for Violating Hate Mail Statutes” (Probably not, I was always fat, we don’t get rom-coms – we get shit like Insatiable). It’s about time “She’s All That” got displaced in the pop culture archives.
Oh yeah – the half-time is because I had it playing the background as I wrote this.