[Dramaland Catnip] Surprise, you’re a daddy!
by Guest Beanie
You know that newbie phase of drama watching when you’re gobbling up content like you’re in a cake factory and the building is on fire? That was when I first stumbled on Wonderful Life with Kim Jae-won and Eugene. I’d only been watching Korean dramas for a few months at that point and I wasn’t exactly a discerning fan. I’d already seen Can You Hear My Heart, and since Kim Jae-won was pretty cute in it (what can I say, I’m shallow like that), I wanted to see more of what he had to offer. I settled in for the promised contract-marriage hijinks and waited to be entertained.
The attraction was instantaneous. My heart wouldn’t stop fluttering. I grew sweaty and anxious and couldn’t tear my eyes away from the computer screen. But my cold sweats weren’t because of the bickering OTP or late-in-the-game jealousy. I’d accidently discovered my number one drama catnip: the “Surprise, you’re a daddy!” trope. Watching how the main character went from being an immature kid forced into fatherhood to a man who would do anything for his daughter filled me with a heart-melting feeling I’ve never been able to re-create.
I now flock to any show where there is a hint of baby-daddy drama, trying to achieve that initial high. I’m not interested in the old birth secret switcheroo, where some poor schmoe finds out he’s the heir to a massive tomato paste fortune. The ones that get me, no matter how whiffy the writing or acting, are dramas where a father is reunited with a child he never knew he had, usually growing up and getting the girl in the process.
Probably the best use of the surprise child trope is the drama Two Weeks. Lee Jun-ki stars as Tae-san, a low-level gangster and ex-con living without direction or happiness. Over the span of a few days, he learns he has an eight-year-old daughter, that his first love is about to marry someone else, and, oh, that his beautiful little girl has a terminal illness and he’s the only person who can save her life. Did I mention he also ends up on the run from people who want him dead? Talk about some big stakes.
In typical Jun-ki fashion, he spends sixteen episodes kicking ass and looking gorgeous. Every trial Tae-san goes through is just one more step in his journey to save his child and grow as a man. The scene when Tae-san and his daughter, Soo-jin, are finally reunited is one of my top ten K-drama moments. The acting is pure, raw emotion, and it almost feels like you’re a voyeur peeking in on the most private of moments. I tear up at every rewatch, even though I always know it’s coming. Because in the end, Soo-jin isn’t the only one who’s saved. Tae-san’s love for his daughter helps him remember what it means to be part of the world again. Through fighting for his own life to save hers, he no longer has to live under the thumb of his evil boss and fear for those he loves. Instead of just surviving, Tae-san is finally living. And what could be a better gift than that?
Sometimes it takes a while for a secret father-child relationship to be revealed. In A Gentleman’s Dignity, the hidden paternity trope is stretched out for much of the drama, causing misunderstandings, miscommunications, and missed chances for our main cast of characters. We are introduced to Colin early on, and while our initial glimpse of his arrival in Korea shows that he is connected to our middle-aged foursome in some way, it isn’t until past the halfway point that our gentlemen even know about his existence, let alone the fact one of them is his father.
I never felt fully invested in the main characters lovelines in A Gentleman’s Dignity. Colin’s journey however, was exactly the kind of thing to keep me coming back to the show week after week. And while the answer to his question turned out to be somewhat predictable, I loved how the fallout reinforced the growth our characters had achieved up to that point. When Do-jin (Jang Dong-gun) stepped up to his role as a parent, even though it meant he might lose the woman of his dreams, their father-son journey was perfectly realized. For a drama about men in their forties finally growing up and accepting responsibility, the inclusion of my catnip was the perfect way to encapsulate the ups and downs of being an adult.
A Gentleman’s Dignity
Dramaland loves to reinvent and reuse, so it wasn’t much of a shocker when the surprise child trope recently got paired with the time slip trend. What makes a fish-out-of-water plot more exciting? Giving our poor clueless hero an adult child he never knew he had! In Tunnel, Detective Park Gwang-ho (Choi Jin-hyuk) is sent to the future to help solve a thirty-year-old cold case that has gone hot again. Unlike our previous fathers, Gwang-ho is already a mature guy: He’s responsible, hardworking, and loves his wife. It’s not like he needs a kick in the pants to grow up.
Yet his time in 2017 turns his life upside down, causing his relationship with his daughter to start on some pretty bad footing. But as Gwang-ho learns more about Jae-yi, he begins to see what an amazing person she is. When the final piece is revealed—that she is his daughter who suffered through a painful childhood as an orphan—the truth helps Gwang-ho realize that not everything in the world is black and white. I absolutely loved watching the gruff Gwang-ho trying to parent the blossoming Jae-yi. Their relationship humanized both characters, and brought another dimension to the dark and twisty plot.
Recently, The Best Hit teased us with another time slip/secret child thread that is driving me crazy. It’s my current drama crack, and I can’t wait for Friday nights. How strange to be 23 years old and to meet your father/son who’s the same age. It’s like a twisted Back to the Future scenario, where our hero has absolutely no interest in making sure he gets the girl in the past. I’m beyond excited to see where the story takes me. Besides sitting in front of my computer every weekend, endlessly refreshing streaming sites, waiting for subs. What can I say? I’m an addict.
The Best Hit
- [Dramaland Catnip] Supernatural powers and mind-reading abilities
- [Dramaland Catnip] Strong platonic friendships
- [Dramaland Catnip] When the hero eats his words or is forced to grovel
- [Dramaland Catnip] Stories featuring ordinary people
- [Dramaland Catnip] Friends turned enemies… turned friends again
- [Dramaland Catnip] Childhood loves and backstories
- [Dramaland Catnip] Bromances and girlfriends
- [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!
Tags: Theme of the Month