First Impressions: Cheongdamdong Alice
As much as I adore Moon Geun-young, Cheongdamdong Alice was not a drama I was looking forward to with any sort of excitement. The plot sounded predictable and there was nothing else except dear Geun-young to coax me into watching the drama. After watching the first two episodes, I have to say that I am rather unimpressed but since I had no expectations, I am not disappointed either.
The drama starts off its story with blatant social commentary on the materialism that runs rampant in contemporary Korean society. Moon Geun-young plays Han Se-kyung, an aspiring designer who, due to poor family fortune, does not have the “qualifications” necessary to get hired as one. But it is not just about the lack of study abroad experience. As her superior tells her, Se-kyung can’t be taken seriously as a designer because she can’t afford to wear the type of clothes she aspires to design. Sucks, doesn’t it? How can you dream of something better for yourself, work hard toward that dream, and not give up when no one is ever going to give you the chance because of the very things you sacrificed for that dream? Doomed, Se-kyung feels, as well as her boyfriend So In-chan (Nam-goong Min), to remain at the bottom rung of society, dreams trampled and tossed away.
L’effort est ma force – Effort makes who you are. My friend and I had a discussion about this some time ago, about how my mother always use to say to me that I have to work hard and with effort, I will get what I want. My friend, who is from Korea, told me that that this type of philosophy was instilled into the citizens of South Korea during the rapid modernization era to encourage sacrifice and mobilize a willing labor force. Perhaps we can argue that this sort of philosophy worked well since South Korea is now one of the largest economies in the world. But does this philosophy continue to work in a post-industrial society in the stages of late capitalism? So far, the drama’s answer has been no. As Se-kyung’s father said, it’s a lie we tell ourselves because otherwise, how do we continue living?
It is the trauma brought on by this knowledge and breaking up with her poor boyfriend that motivates Se-kyung to change her philosophy in life, or rather reconsider what effort really means. Se-kyung believed “effort” consisted of cultivating her designing skills, not honing her feminine wiles to woo a rich man. This drama actually poses an interesting question- is the ability to design any different from the ability to win over a man? I want to know what conclusion this drama will come too. What do you guys think?
What is most frustrating about this drama is how all the materialism seems to be focused around women. One of the things I hate most about discussions about materialism in Korea is how it is always portrayed as a problem of women and all women; men are not materialistic, ready to abandon all for love, while women easily toss it aside for the comforts of a wealthy life. Of course it is too early to judge this drama to conclude that the discussion about materialism won’t be more critical and detailed later on so I will keep mind open for this drama to get better on that topic. But I won’t keep my hopes high; so many dramas start off promising and end up solely focusing on the romance, desperate for ratings.
At this point, I want Se-kyung to end up with her “Chan” again after she goes through the Cheongdamdong escapade. Park Shi-hoo’s character is certainly interesting and sort of a hoot but Se-kyung and In-chan seem to really love each other and they’ve been through so much. I’m curious to see how the writer will get viewers on board with the Se-kyung/Cha Seung-joo love-line. Or are you guys already on it?
I don’t like the direction in this drama too much, unfortunately. It’s very in-your-face, without giving the viewer some room to breathe. It’s directed to be provocative but with dialogue that is already punch-y, I think the director should have tried to balance out the mood of the drama more with a more gentle touch.
In conclusion, this is a first impression and nothing I have watched so far completely deters me so I am going to watch more and wait for Park Shi-hoo to charm my pants off. Apparently he does this in ever drama but since I have never watched a drama with him in it, I’ve still got my pants on. Will I will be immune to his magic or will I become just another girl on his long list of victims?
P.S. Did anybody notice the little homage to Moon Geun-young’s “Autumn in My Heart” during the flashback to the art room scene? The background music playing during that scene was basically AIMH’s theme music. I giggled myself silly when I heard it. Angst, high school, and art. So perfectly melodramatic.