[Dramaland Catnip] Bromances and girlfriends
by Guest Beanie
Oh My Venus
Like other Beanies, I too wasn’t initially sure what my drama catnip was. But I did some not-too-serious soul searching and realized that I’m a sucker for shows that feature a friendship of a group of guys. My main criteria for any drama is that it be romantically driven (I find it hard to watch shows that have no romantic thread), but if that show also has a good bromance, then I will put up with any degree of train-wreckage (looking at you, Hwarang). (You, too, Boys Before Flowers.)
Some shows—like Descended From the Sun, Chicago Typewriter, and Jealousy Incarnate—have an incredible bromance between the two main guys, and I love that. But my real catnip is an ensemble: a band of guys whose friendship brings an extra shot of chemistry to the show.
You’re Beautiful is probably my best example. Jang Geun-seok and Park Shin-hye did an excellent job delivering the romance, but for me, the extra came from the scenes with the three boys of ANJELL: Tae-kyung, Shin-woo, and Jeremy. I was cracking up throughout the grocery store scene where they remember and re-enact their various cheesy commercials, and again at the photo shoot with the colored fruits—-such a perfect display of their characters. And who can forget all their attempts to explain/excuse each other to Mi-nyeo? Gold.
Oh My Venus is another favorite. The whole show was enjoyable and fun; what it lacked in a complicated plot, it more and than made up in chemistry and character. The chemistry between the leads was excellent. But once the boys, Sung Hoon and Henry, came on the scene—-ah, that’s what I’m here for. The chemistry between the three guys was on point, from heroine Joo-eun’s first meeting with the three of them, to the two friends strong-arming So Ji-sub into celebrating Kang Joo-eun Day—these guys did not disappoint.
It’s pretty much the same with Drinking Solo. I liked the romantic leads—they were fun—but really it was Key, Gong Myung, and Kim Dong-young who kept me interested in this show. I admit to going back to watching some of the scenes with these guys and skipping right over the rest. This group of guys was particularly rewarding to watch because it was so realistically done. There’s a theatrical tinge to the bromances in You’re Beautiful and Oh My Venus, and it’s worth it. But I found a certain satisfaction in watching three guys who could be people I knew.
The bromance factor is, I think, probably also the reason why I started (and then didn’t finish) Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo. I really enjoyed the first half or so of that show; I didn’t realize, though, that what was propelling my interest was the scenes with the princes together. Once their relationships started deteriorating, I lost interest quickly and never finished the show. I choose to remember them in the good old days.
Boys Before Flowers
This list wouldn’t be complete without a mention of Boys Before Flowers and F4, the ultimate bromance. Boys Before Flowers was one of the first K-dramas I ever saw, right after Faith. So, it’s possible that maybe my standards were not as high as they could have been. In hindsight though, even if I knew then what I know now, I’d still get suckered right into Boys Before Flowers. The hype was real. I wasn’t in it for Lee Min-ho or any of the other F4 members individually. I was in it for all of them.
And then there’s Hwarang—the trainwreck that I loved. Or wanted to. The trainwreck-that-confused-me-but-I-stuck-by-its-side-because-of-the-guys. I know this show got all kinds of bad reviews, but I watched it eagerly. From the get-go, I had high hopes for a show about five guys with various secrets, thrown together in long wigs. The bromance between Dog-Bird (Park Seo-joon) and Sammaekjong (Park Hyun-sik) was fun, but my real hopes were pinned on the whole group. I loved the scenes where the guys were forced together—in the fight at the bar, on the soccer field, in the dorm room, and then (my favorite) sneaking out at night, only to be confronted with guards. Overall the show didn’t deliver everything I had hoped for, but that band of poet-warrior youth brothers brought me back every week.
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After having a think about the dramas I have watched to date, I found what my unhealthy obsession was, none other than awesome bromances and girlfriends. A drama can be overall terrible or mediocre, but if it has a significant amount of time spent with two or more people who are awesome friends to each other, I’m willing to stick around just for them.
A perfect example of this is in Heirs (though I cringe even mentioning this name). I absolutely loved the friendship between two supporting characters, Young-do and Myung-soo, played by Kim Woo-bin and Park Hyung-shik. Before all the romantic angst happened, Myung-soo was Young-do’s only friend. He understands Young-do and is therefore next to him supporting his misunderstood douchebag self.
Of course, I can’t mention bromance and not mention the epic guilt-ridden love between Nam-soon and Heung-soo in School 2013. Today, it remains one of my favorite high school dramas, and it could have been just about these two. The amount of love they felt for each other was palpable in every scene where they were together, manifesting itself as anger, betrayal, and guilt that they felt more acutely because of how much they cared about each other. The show did an awesome job of helping the audience understand the depth of their emotions too, with the stark contrast in how happy and playful they were in the flashbacks compared to how antagonistic they were in the present. Nam-soon’s attempts to get close to Heung-soo again after years of running away and them finding their way back to each other as buddies just about ripped my heart apart, sewed it back together, and then made it melt into goo.
What is it with awesome bromances also being laden with angst? I found myself rooting for the Goblin-Reaper pair in Goblin more than the OTP. Their daily bickering (and fighting with floating utensils) made my day, and I could watch that all day. I don’t think there was a single conversation between them that wasn’t entertaining or meaningful. When the past catches up to them, it makes the tragedy of the moment land that much harder.
Dear My Friends
Moving on to some epic girlfriend relationships, one group of friends that has left the biggest impression on me are the beautiful ajummas of Dear My Friends. The longevity of a friendship doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a great friendship, but when you have been together through thick and thin and have experienced so much together, it’s difficult to find relationships that aren’t as strong as steel. These women were the main source of support and love for each other, especially Jung-ah (Na Mun-hee) and Hee-ja (Kim Hye-ja). There really were no secrets between them; I loved how they still got into petty arguments like teens, and loved even more when they tried to protect the other by confessing to a hit-and-run that never happened.
What can be more relatable than young girlfriends going through the awkwardness of being a young adult and suffering growing pains together? The ladies of Answer Me 1997 and Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-ju brought those feelings to life right in front of my eyes, to the time when we feel like our friends are all we have, the only ones who understand us. The time when the smallest thing feels like the word is ending, and we’re too scared to tell anyone, and it’s those friends who show up to pull us through. At the same time, it’s also the time when we want agreement and loyalty from those friends instead of conversation, and these girls show us those very moments, whether it’s squeeing over a kiss or making up after an argument with cut hair or ugly crying.
Fight My Way
Another one of my favorites are Ae-ra and Seol-hee from the currently airing Fight My Way. They act just as attentive, and insane around each other as I do with my friends and make me feel so happy inside it’s ridiculous. Seol-hee teaching Ae-ra her hair flip was one of the best scenes in the show as I simultaneously awwed at the two exchanging tips and cringed at how awkward it would be when Ae-ra used it (and then she did!).
There are so many lovely friendships in dramaland, like the badass besties of The Perfect Wife and Fantastic, or the stoic-but-always-bantering soldiers of Descended From the Sun, I could go on and on. I guess what really pulls me into these scenarios is the connection these characters share regardless of what they might express on the outside. Being there for someone through all their significant moments, be they happy or sad; offering advice, an ear, a shoulder, or all of the above for me creates the best of moments.
It doesn’t have to be your One True Love who is able to offer you those things, and strong friendships prove just that. Friends share that special bond where they can call each other ugly one second and get angry at someone for stating the same thing the next. Friends can stand up for each other, exchange banter all day, and so much more, and it’s always a treat to watch.
Answer Me 1997
- [Dramaland Catnip] Sibling love and fauxcest
- [Dramaland Catnip] Beta males and the alpha ladies who love them
- [Dramaland Catnip] The bad boys of dramaland
- [Dramaland Catnip] Prickly marshmallows and tsundere heroes
- [Dramaland Catnip] Reverse harems
- [Dramaland Catnip] Noona romances
- [Dramaland Catnip] Secret identities and alter egos
- [Dramaland Catnip] Disastrous first meetings
- [Dramaland Catnip] Cohabitation shenanigans
- [Dramaland Catnip] Enemies turned lovers
- [Dramaland Catnip] Crossdressing and gender-bending romances
- [Dramaland Catnip] Opponents turned allies
- [Dramaland Catnip] Marriage before dating
- [Dramaland Catnip] Swooning for dramatic height differences
- [Dramaland Catnip] Ragtag bands of misfits
- [Dramaland Catnip] Finding satisfaction in sad love stories
- [Dramaland Catnip] The magic of bad drama magic
- [Dramaland Catnip] The stinging embarrassment of thinking someone likes you… when they don’t
- [Dramaland Catnip] When the hero falls first
- [Dramaland Catnip] The angst and thrills of dramaland’s reunited lovers
- What’s your dramaland catnip? Tell us your stories!
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