[Revisiting Dramas] Answer Me 1988: It hurts so bad it’s good
by Guest Beanie
I got excited with this month’s theme, as luckily enough for me, I had just finished rewatching Answer Me 1988 with the intention of killing time while waiting for School 2017 to air. But since it was a rewatch, I never expected to get all the feels again, and with greater weight than the first time. Knowing that I was in for hour-and-a-half-long episodes, my plan was to watch two to three episodes a day, but ended up binge-watching the whole series in three days.
In between episodes, I was seeking comfort for my aching heart, hoping that someone might just be feeling the same by rereading the recaps here at Dramabeans. As Deok-sun said, “The year was 1988, a time when it was chilly, but our hearts were fiery, a time when we didn’t have much, but people’s hearts were warm.”
Answer Me 1988 already had a special spot in my heart and watching it again definitely sealed that spot and made sure it would be permanent. Was it different the second time around? BIG FAT YES.
I didn’t realize that it was a sadistic move at first, but by the end of the first episode I knew what I was getting myself into with the lovelines, but I was so into it that I couldn’t just let it go. And so, I got to witness everything and feel everything all over again, while knowing who Deok-sun would eventually end up with.
Not that I don’t agree with who the husband was, because I do; it’s just that the emotional force was stronger somehow, knowing how it would end. And so it crushed me and made me bleed more for the one who blamed the traffic lights for not getting the girl, only to realize that it was his own hesitation that had held him back. I mean, it shouldn’t be that painful the second time around, right? Boy, was I wrong.
On the other hand, what changed for me when I saw the series again was that I was able to better understand Bora’s character and where all of her actions were coming from. At first, I didn’t like her for her dominant personality and sharp attitude towards her siblings and even her parents.
However, this time around, I had a better grasp of who she was, and was able to sympathize with her as someone who’s just not really good at expressing her emotions, smart as she may be; but she spoke with her actions. Her interactions with her father—who’s basically another version of her in a man’s body—hit me more this time as well. They spoke so little when they were together but their intentions were so palpable—they clearly loved each other so much, but they were too stubborn to ever be gushy about it and just admit it to each other.
What remained the same on my rewatch was my love for the strong familial bonds in the neighborhood, blood-related or not. I loved how all of the relationships woven together were each unique, but all felt real and relatable. I love how the Ssangmun-dong gang valued and respected their friendship so much that it came first before love, to the point that everyone was acting selflessly. It was so heartbreaking and so good that this kept friends from rushing to make a romantic move, knowing that someone else would be affected.
But if I were to choose a favorite among all the relationships portrayed, it would have to be the three ajummas, who were the definition of the kind of unabashed friendship that I would like to have someday. They constantly helped each other out without ever feeling the need to be repaid, simply out of affection towards each other—be it by joining competitions and ending up getting drunk to wash away the nervousness, or sneaking extra money into their constant food sharing when one is in need but reluctant to ask. Who wouldn’t want neighboring friends who are willing to move and follow you to your next neighborhood, just to have someone to play Go Stop or grow old with?
I was born a little later than 1988, but you don’t have to have lived during that time to appreciate and love this series. It’s a shout-out to our innocent and clumsy, youthful selves who made mistakes and learned to live by them, by embracing all the flaws and imperfections to become a better version of ourselves.
The simplicity of how people used to live back then and the efforts made make me want to be in that time as well. Given the continuous advancement of telecommunication, their handwritten letters and waiting by the landline for a call in the middle of the night felt all the more endearing and romantic. If I were to watch the series for a third time even after ten years, my heart would surely feel all the feelings again, and I might even love it more than I do right now. I just have so much love for this show. Oh, did I forget to mention that singing Cheetah Ra Mi-ran dancing to the egg vendor’s tape is the best?
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- Answer Me 1988: Episode 1