[Dramaland Catnip] Disastrous first meetings
Fated to Love You
What couple isn’t asked, “How did you first meet?” In the world of Kdramas, the answer to that question is written many ways and the moment receives lots of attention. I’m embarrassed to admit that the one trope that draws me into a drama is the disastrous first meeting. The pull I feel when a couple’s first face to face is far from idyllic is akin to rubber necking at an accident scene — I don’t want to look, but I can’t help myself.
This type of first meeting can be as simple as the falling flower pot in Beautiful Gong Shim or as elaborate as the balletic near collision in Fated to Love You. All that’s needed is a meeting where our leads start off on the wrong foot, sometimes even hoping that they never encounter each other again. I can’t wait to see what happens when they reconnect, no longer complete strangers.
This trope must have widespread appeal because it’s used often. What the disastrous first meeting accomplishes is that two strangers share a memorable experience that bypasses normal social barriers. It leads to a familiarity that wasn’t there before, and launches the main couple into the narrative. Our hero and heroine may not know one another’s names, but someone is left with an unforgettable impression.
High School King of Savvy
One of my favorite disastrous first encounters is from High School King of Savvy, where events snowball after two strangers cross paths on a bus. During the ride, high school student, Min-seok, can’t help but witness a woman drunk dialing her crush to apologize for an ill-received confession. It’s cringeworthy as he overhears Soo-young leave several rambling messages until her phone dies. She borrows Min-seok’s phone to complete her call, then he’s forced to chase after her to retrieve it.
When Soo-young passes out on the sidewalk, Min-seok has to see to her safety, and by the time they part, it seems impossible that he could ever have romantic feelings for a woman who’s such a mess. This introduction to the lead couple highlights what complete opposites they are: Min-seok is in high school, Soo-young is a much older noona — he’s the cool kid, she’s socially inept — he’s an athlete while she’s a klutz. There’s nowhere to go but up from this initial, hilarious fiasco, and it sets the tone for the rest of the drama.
Oh My Venus
What the first meeting in Oh My Venus has in common with High School King of Savvy is that it takes place in close quarters. This time, it’s a medical emergency on a plane that brings the couple together as doctor and patient. The heroine, Joo-eun, awakens and realizes how much this doctor learned about her while she was unconscious.
Aghast to hear that he was forced to cut off her top, including a girdle, Joo-eun struggles to maintain her dignity. Of course, the stranger who now knows her secrets, Young-ho, is very handsome and by this point, amused. It’s all but certain that if Joo-eun ever encounters Young-ho again, she’ll want to turn around and walk the other way. He serves as a living reminder of the disastrous plane trip. It’s pretty memorable for the viewer as well, heh.
Beautiful Gong Shim
Beautiful Gong Shim introduces the future couple when a selca causes a flower pot to fall from a rooftop ledge. Dan-tae kicks it away just in time and then proceeds to harass the girl, Gong-shim, responsible for the mishap. When he knocks on the door of the rooftop apartment, she realizes that he’s there in answer to her rental ad. He makes a terrible first impression when he comments on her hair, an obvious wig, and then lets himself inside, forcing Gong-shim to hide the bras left out on the drying rack.
Once this meet and greet is over, Gong Shim is ready to drop Dan-tae from the rooftop ledge. It doesn’t get any better than this. I’m in catnip heaven as this couple eyes one another suspiciously and I may watch that scene again a time or two (or three).
Father Is Strange
Of the many couples in Father Is Strange, one definitely starts off on the wrong foot. A newly hired intern grabs the person closest to her, idol turned actor, Joong-hee, to use as a human shield when her high school bully walks by. The man is startled, and then irate, when his designer t-shirt is torn so badly that his chest is exposed in front of the intern, Mi-young.
She makes matters worse when she tries cover him with her hands and the skinship guarantees that Joong-hee will never forget Mi-young. Their shaky start all but cements that these two are meant for one another. This irresistible first meeting has a lot to do with why I was drawn to this drama.
Some disastrous first meetings are a feast for the eyes, the beauty of the scene belies the catastrophe waiting around the corner. Fated to Love You introduces the main couple in a beautifully choreographed near collision set into motion by spilled, bouncing balls. The hero and heroine grab onto each other as they spin around, as if they’re dancing. I’m captivated as Gun and Mi-young fly into the air in slow motion, only to return to earth with loud thuds.
Fated to Love You
After Gun’s newly purchased engagement ring rolls away, Mi-young helps him retrieve it. Well, she does most of the retrieving because Gun is afraid of dogs and the ring ends up in a Rottweiler’s pen. Neither one seems to notice her bottom hovering dangerously close to Gun’s face as he lifts Mi-young over the pen’s barricade. After more mishaps, she produces the ring, safe on her index finger. Instead of thanks, Gun scolds her that it’s bad luck to wear someone else’s engagement ring. This introduction is like super catnip and the runaway ring suggests that the impending engagement will never happen. How can I walk away after such a beautifully conceived disaster? I can’t.
Another unfortunate, but beautiful, first meeting comes courtesy of That Sassy Girl, set on a picturesque bridge under a full moon. The scene is breathtaking as a scholar runs to save a beautiful girl from falling off the bridge. When he’s rewarded with a belch from the inebriated maiden, I’m on full alert. Things go from bad to worse when the girl eventually vomits on the scholar. But wait, that girl turns out to be a princess. This meeting is hardly the stuff of fairy tales because after such an unpleasant face to face, what man would want to get close enough to pursue a happily ever after?
Then there’s a variation, where disaster looms over the couple like a dark cloud from the first second, which is the case in Scent of a Woman. Mousy office worker Yeon-jae treats herself to a makeover and an exotic vacation where she runs into the handsome, yet joyless, director of her former company. A case of mistaken identity forces them to sight-see together and as the trip concludes, they are clearly smitten with each other.
Scent of a Woman
What makes this meeting even remotely disastrous? The viewer knows the reason for the impromptu vacation — Yeon-jae’s terminal diagnosis that leaves her only six months to live. This first meeting promises personal tragedy of epic proportions because no matter what obstacles Yeon-jae and Ji-wook overcome, the one that can’t be conquered is her impending death. I know that this couple hasn’t escaped unscathed, instead each episode inches them closer and closer to that moment of truth, when Yeon-jae’s condition is sure to be discovered, or worse, she dies. This is a disastrous first meeting all right, it’s just that the couple doesn’t know it yet. Sigh.
The problem with this trope is that after the initial meeting, my interest isn’t necessarily sustained, and I eventually part ways with some dramas. That was the case with My Sassy Girl. As much as that first meeting was my catnip, I decided that this drama wasn’t for me, but I will always remember that first face to face, and who knows, I may give it another try down the road.
Life and love are messy, and a disastrous first meeting mirrors that reality as it introduces new dramas and characters. I love the tension that’s created when two strangers embark on the path to romance after a far from ideal encounter. My hope is that a disastrous beginning leads to a beautiful and unforgettable love story.
My Sassy Girl
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- [Dramaland Catnip] Finding satisfaction in sad love stories
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- [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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